National Examination? Tame It, Don’t Erase It

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.

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