Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On increasing the budget for education

I second the opinions from Daoed Joesoef, Ichan Loulembah, and Ross McLeod. Somehow I am not too enthusiastic when I heard that the government will allocate 20% of the budget for education sector, as mandated by the constitution. Of course I am happy to have an increased budget for education. But achieving an x% of the budget for education should be a result of a careful policy calculation, and a clear plan on how to spend it, rather than just meeting the constitutional mandate.

Here are some important points:
  1. [The president's speech] was based on the assumption that lack of budget was the main issue and the main reason for the impotency of our education sector ... But such assumption was wrong ... And now the Ministry of Education was allocated a very significant proportion of the budget without a clear action plan (Daoed Joesoef).
  2. Other sectors are also in a need for budget; 20% is too big to be allocated for a single sector. The Ministry's current capacity to absorb and spend the budget efficiently may not be adequate. Also, 20% of the budget is very 'tempting' for many interests (Ichsan Loulembah).
  3. Lastly, "perhaps the Constitution is not the appropriate place to set out aspects of government economic policy in fine detail. It should be left to elected governments to determine the extent to which they involve themselves (and taxpayers) in promoting education, and the nature of such involvement. This should not be a matter of law, but of responding to the wishes of the electorate" (Ross McLeod).
I once wrote that although budget is important, the devil is in detail (of allocation). Should we spend more on teacher salaries, or on buildings and equipment? Should more be spent on primary and secondary education, or on tertiary education?

There have been some indication that one of the Minstry of Education's priority is to increase the number of vocational tertiary schools. The ratio of SMK (vocational high school) to SMA (general high school) is targeted to be 70:30 in the next five years, from currently 30:70. This is not the best idea, I should argue (some colleagues are working on this issue, but I am yet to be able to quote and share the results).

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