Contributor: Maroof Ahmed | Editor: Supriyono
On June 19, 2023, the Faculty of Education (FoE) at Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII) welcomed an esteemed guest lecturer, Dr. Nisa Felicia Faridz, Executive Director of Pusat Studi Pendidikan dan Kebijakan (PSPK), to provide critical insights on the Roles of NGOs in Education Policy Implementation.
PSPK is a non-profit, independent foundation, rooted in fortifying policy mechanisms to foster an education system that prioritizes children's interests. The foundation, as a strategic partner for the government, has consistently worked collaboratively with various government agencies and ministries, playing a transformative role in shaping the country's education landscape.
The foundation's pivotal projects have included a review of teacher competencies, the development of a roadmap for improving early childhood education, a thorough analysis of student competency assessments, and regional assistance to bolster early childhood education quality. Dr. Faridz also highlighted PSPK's significant role in advocating for educational policy changes at both regional and national levels, underlining the significant strides made in literacy and numeracy assessment studies.
Reflecting on the PSPK's previous work, Dr. Faridz outlined five key recommendations for education policy: Assessment System Transformation, Development of Teachers' Competencies, Early Childhood Education Quality, Relevant Higher Education and Vocational Training, and Equality in Educational Opportunities.
The collaboration between PSPK and the Ministry of Education and Culture resulted in significant policy transformations under the "Merdeka Belajar" series, including national exam abolitions, teacher and school transformation programs, and learning recovery through a flexible curriculum. Also, it contributed to the change in public school enrollment policy aimed to increase the access of disadvantaged students to quality education.
However, Dr. Faridz candidly addressed the challenges associated with such broad policy changes, especially in a country like Indonesia, characterized by a diverse population spread across thousands of islands. "The country's decentralized education system, with over 44 million students across 219,000 schools, entails a herculean task to implement policy changes effectively," she said.
The shift from a merit-based system to a more equitable "Zonasi" or zone-based system in public school enrollment, introduced in 2018, marked a major transformation in Indonesian education policy. "Though the new policy faced initial backlash, it underscored a critical issue - the need to expand the capacity of public schools to accommodate all students," she emphasized.
In response to challenges in implementing the new policy, PSPK played a crucial role in advocating for more equitable access to education at both the national and district levels. They also actively participated in local policy formulation to ensure a nuanced understanding of diversity and have successfully assisted the DKI Jakarta region in improving access to public education since 2020.
In this regard, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the necessity of such transformation. With national standardized tests canceled, PSPK facilitated a zone-based system that significantly increased opportunities for disadvantaged children to access public schools.
Dr. Faridz also addressed several difficulties faced in advocating for these changes, including the varied interpretations of what is considered "fair" access to public schools by different leaders, managing public responses, and the lack of precise data on school capacity and graduate numbers.
The NGO's proactive role in implementing educational policies reflects the country's size, diversity, and the varying capacities of human resources at local and national levels. "In such an environment, the work of NGOs like PSPK is vital to supplement the institutional resources, leverage diverse perspectives, and ensure that policies are implemented effectively," she emphasized.
The lecture served as an eye-opening dialogue on the critical role of NGOs like PSPK in influencing education policies. Her insights, drawn from PSPK's practical experiences in Indonesia, underscored the importance of NGOs in transforming the education landscape, instigating policy change, and ensuring that the benefits of these changes reach the most disadvantaged communities. Ultimately, the PSPK's work in advocating for more equitable education highlights the significant power of NGOs in shaping a country's education system.