Education for All: What Hope? _ from

Simon Marcus Gower , Contributor , Jakarta | Thu, 01/22/2009 4:36 PM | Supplement Just over 60 years ago, (Dec. 10, 1948), the United Nations produced a noble document — the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 26 of the Declaration addresses education. Indonesia in 1945, made a constitutional commitment to education. Both documents contain commitments to education for all. Article 31 of the Constitution notes that education is the right of every citizen. That every citizen is obligated to enroll in primary education and the government should pay for this education, and that government must plan/provide a national education; allocating at least 20 percent of the state budget to education. Article 26 of the Declaration states similar goals: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.” It is interesting to note what the United Nations’ Assembly went on to ask of its member states. The assembly wanted each member state to publicize the text. It sought that the Declaration be disseminated and learned “principally in schools and other educational institutions”. Sixty years ago, then, the aim was for the Declaration to be learned, understood and acted upon/achieved. So too the intention of the Constitution was to realize goals; but 60 plus years on can it be said that these goals have been realized? Certainly many more people have access to education than in the mid- to late 1940s, but in Indonesia is every citizen receiving their right to education? Both the Declaration and the Constitution speak of what kind of education should be provided. The Constitution outlines empowerment — education that empowers people in faith, intelligence and goodwill. The aim is clear enough — people that can, via education, do and achieve but understand their role in society. The Declaration prescribes that education should target the “full development of the human personality and the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Both documents are promoting a “well-rounded”, “full” education. This connotes a quality education — education of depth and breadth. A third clause of Article 26 the Declaration proposes: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Again noble but again we must wonder how close to provision the world is some 60 years on. Indonesia has made vast improvements in 60 plus years of potential application of the Constitution. Before independence few had access to highly elite education far from the social aims and gains envisaged in the Constitution and Declaration. But education for all, access to quality/full education (early years to high school) and parents choosing the education they want for their children: these things seem remote. Just look at Jakarta to see how children are not getting the education they have “constitutional” and “declared” rights to. So many children live on the streets, trying to scratch out a living begging, singing/playing music or selling newspapers. Too often it is possible to see children who have not completed basic education and have been forced, far too early, into work. Children acting as bus conductors or impromptu traffic controllers are not doing these things by choice but out of financial necessity and lack of opportunity to stay in school. Indonesia has seen growth in quality schools but relatively these are a minority. Widespread access to quality schools, (and access here means financial access), is not there and this means an educational divide may grow. The gap between haves and have-nots seems to grow and, in uncertain economic times, the extremes of those that can afford quality education and those that cannot are only likely to be accentuated. Sixty plus years on from the Declaration of Human Rights and establishment of the Constitution, Indonesia is in another year of presidential elections. All of the candidates should commit to education for all and, when in office, this should be one of the most severe measurements of success or failure. The American author Ralph Ellison noted: “Education is all a matter of building bridges”. The next president should be a “bridge builder” and his/her term in office should be judged on how well it has built bridges for all Indonesians to have access to a full, quality education.


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