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How can Indonesian students improve their PISA scores?

The COVID-19 pandemic worsens the education in Indonesia. Learning loss, coined by the World Bank, is 33 percent in their 2020 report. As for Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) score, the score has not shown a meaningful progress to picture the national education quality. Indonesia improved its education access after massive school construction in the 1980s. Only in the last decade has basic education become universal in Indonesia. Apart from education access and quality, Indonesia also suffers from disparity problems. Previously, education access between Java and outside Java had been contrasted, and a similar disparity was also observed in the education access between the richest and poorest populations. However, such disparity in access was closed in 2015. Despite success in access, quality disparity still occurs. The Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry calculated the pandemic impact was equal to losing 6 months in literacy and 5 months in numeracy. Such significant learning loss can jeopardize the levelling, teaching, and assessment system throughout Indonesia. Understanding the nature of the learning loss problem, the Education Ministry introduced three strategic policy packages—the National Assessment, a simplified curriculum, and a reformed evaluation system. The National Assessment was established to replace the National Examination. It incentivized stakeholders to game the test and provided an inaccurate result of education mapping. Without accurate data, the Indonesian government cannot make a better policy. Thus, the Education Ministry designed the National Assessment as an alternative—a low-stake assessment designed to evaluate the school instead of individual students. x The National Assessment was designed to give a more accurate picture of the learning environment, progress, and outcome at the school level. The dimension measured were not only literacy and numeracy that mimicked the PISA but also classroom conduciveness, teachers’ perception of learning, principal’s instructional leadership, and many more. The test is intended to understand the black box of education. When the Indonesian government would like to improve access, which is a logistical problem, they could simply duplicate. Improving quality is totally different story. For around 20 years of Indonesia’s participation in PISA, the quality has not increased much—if it increased at all. It is key to understand the black box of learning captured by the National Assessment. The introduction of “Merdeka” (Freedom) curriculum is to focus less on the topic and more on students’ in-depth learning. To understand the depth, there three cognitive domains in numeracy—knowing, applying, and reasoning. The previous curriculum put more emphasis on first part. Consequently, the materials are packed with a vast number of terms and jargon that teachers end up asking their students to memorize. Such practice failed to provide students opportunities to relate the topic they learned in the classroom with its daily application—let alone on how they can creatively apply their understanding. The new curriculum put less emphasis on the topic but more on how deeply a student can learn. Their learning involves them also understanding the environmental impact on human and their behavior. By doing so, the curriculum induces a better scaffolding of students’ learning trajectories and ensures their learning is relevant to the life they live. The National Assessment result is used to create a reflective report for schools to know their performance regarding each dimension. Using this information, schools better understand their problems and help them prioritize learning quality above other less relevant aspects. This is a reformed evaluation system. There are also instruments to help schools translate their understanding of the problem into an action plan. These three policy packages comprise are to improve Indonesian education quality—consequently mirrored in improving PISA scores. The 2022 PISA test had been rolled out. Regardless of the result, it is only fair to say more time is needed to assess whether the policy reform was successful. By knowing better how learning occur at the classroom level, the black box of learning is opened and have more clues to navigate Indonesian education policy in a more fruitful direction. *** Goldy Dharmawan is a policy and research analyst for the secretary-general of the Education, Culture, Research, and Technology Ministry. Lukman Solihin is a policy analyst in the Center for Standards and Education Policy of the Education, Culture, Research, and Technology Ministry. The article is republished under a Creative Commons license.

Source: the jakarta post