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By Irfan Nugroho
All Indonesian students have been for a long time haunted by a phrase
Ujian Nasional-UN (National Examination) because their ‘three-year
study’ will only be determined by the ‘three-day exams’ called UN.
Indonesian students could only succeed in higher education levels only
after they passed the UN with score for each subject higher than 4,0 (in
2005 and 2006); 4,5 (2007); 5,0 (2008); and 5,5 (in 2009). This also
reflects that when they got less than 5,5 in only one subject, they must
re-run their study starting from the last grade. In 2010, Indonesia’s
Ministry of Education set a policy on ‘easing-off’ the UN as saying that
those who fail to obtain score less than average 5,5 could take
remidial test.

While the UN has shifted from ‘sudden-death’ exam to ‘silver-goal’ exam,
miss-perception on the UN has still been existing amongst Indonesian
students and teachers. As a teacher at a junior high school in Central
Java’s Klaten district, I am witnessing by myself that the policy did
not make any significant change on the way my students accomplish
education. School as a place to educate people has now been a mere place
get score higher than average 5,5. All possible ways, no matter bad or
good, will be done to ‘win’ this game. While some people urge the
government to ‘erase’ the UN; but to me personally, ‘taming’ the UN is
far more urgent than ‘erase’ it at once, even though the negative
impacts of the UN is far bigger than its positive sides.

UN and the Nature of Schooling

It is unfortunate that such a miss-preception on the UN is still
existing amongst some Indonesian students and teachers. Schooling is
actually a means of educating people so that they behave better than
those non-educated people, but the existence of the UN then leads to
common understanding amongst education practitioners that schooling is
now merely a means of ‘getting score higher than average 5,5.’

A teacher mate of me said in an occassion, “I just imagined that English
language won’t tested in the UN, and thus I would take my students to
have their English be used in real life such as having conversation with
tourists in Prambanan and Borobudur temples.” English language subject
in school is taught in order to get the students be able to communicate.
However, English language subject in school is apparently aimed at
getting students be able to ‘choose’ one true answer from four options
available for each question in the UN.

Injustice 

A month just before the UN, the school where I am working at issued a
policy on replacing non-UN (term for subjects that are not tested in the
UN) subjects with four subjects (science, math, English, and Bahasa
Indonesia) tested in the UN. Such a phenomenon made some teachers of
non-UN subjects got jealous as saying that there usually be ‘injustice’
when the UN is approaching.

Indeed, the UN has ‘indirect’ power to set common understanding that the
above four subjects are much more important than any other subject
matter. Some schools put higher emphasis on giving more alloted time for
those subjects to be given to students with hope that the students have
enough ‘provision’ to face the exam. At this point, injustice is
apparent. Worse, religious subject – which to me personally is the most
urgent subject – should be replaced with one of the four subjects, and
therefore students have less chance to study religion, in which from
studying religious teaching it is expected that students would be able
to prevent themselves from committing in jouvenile delinquency, or any
other kind of crime.

Idolatry  

Upon condition that students have been in lack of religious knowledge,
some students turns to worship ‘sacred’ statues or rocks regarded like
God (idolatry). In some occassions, I found some students went to sacred
places, addressed prayer to mere statues or rock so that those things
would help them in facing the UN. Some students do now put their hope to
mere rocks or statues, which are actually not able to give them any
benefit. Worse, some even went to ‘Shamans’ and committed in black
magic.

As a Muslim, I found my self in deep sadness to see those students,
which are mostly acknowledged as Muslims, believe in such idols rather
than worship the only God. They put themselves on the edge of the Hell
by committing in such idolatry. In Islam, such a practice of worshipping
idols is strictly forbidden actually just what the below verse says,
“There is no god but Me, so worship Me (alone),” (Al-Anbiya [21]: 25).

Cheating

Students have no other choices for getting score higher than average 5,5
in the UN, except for studying hard, praying to God, and some other
‘evil’ ways like committing in black magic (idolatry)  and cheating. Old
date problem in the UN is ‘well-organized cheating’ involving students,
teachers, head-teachers, and local governments. Such a cheating habit
remains unsolved as the absence of legal punishment from the government
to students caught at hand for cheating during the examination.

In North Sumatra, 17 teachers, including the principal, at a high school
in Deli Serdang district were named as suspects after local police
caught them in the act of correcting their students’ answer sheets. In
Central Java’s Surakarta city, an independent watchdog team found answer
keys to English and chemistry tests in four cell phones belonging to
students. In Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, a number of teachers allegedly
helped their students on the exams by sending answers to students’ cell
phones by SMS.

Tame It, Don’t Erase It
Ujian Nasional (UN) has been proven to have negative impacts, such as
luring discriminative treatment to non-UN subjects; and driving students
to ‘instant’ ways of passing the UN. There is an urgency of ‘taming’
the UN, but no need to cease it for two reasons. The UN plays
significant role in determining one school’s prestige; and secondly, it
can also be a means of ‘standardizing’ the quality of education amongst
schools in this country.

Taming the UN here means that the government should make campaigns that
the UN is not the only thing used to measure students’ achievement after
three years studying. This also means that the government should now
consider including all subjects into the UN in effort to prevent
jealousy amongst teachers of non-UN and UN-tested subjects. Hence, there
are not only four subjects within, but all subjects so that ‘justice’
for each subject is apparent. When all done well, I do believe there
will be no students commit in idolatry nor black magic either
remembering that such kinds of belief system are regarded backwardness.