Pupils lost as corruption lingers;Briefing;International

9th April 1999 at 01:00
INDONESIA

Corrupt civil servants are still hampering attempts to provide an education for Indonesia's most disadvantaged children.

The pupil drop-out figure has doubled from three million to six million a year as a result of the country's economic crisis. But the efforts to save "a lost generation" are being bedevilled by corruption, education minister Yuwono Sudarsono has admitted in an interview with The TES.

Indonesia once had an impressive record for getting children into school, even if much of the teaching was of low quality. But many parents can no longer afford the small fees charged by all schools.

Overseas lenders are providing $480 million (pound;300m) over five years to sponsor thousands of pupils and top up school budgets. However, widespread dishonesty in the civil service will have to be confronted if the funding is to reach its proper destination.

The World Bank, accused of playing down the problem under the former government of President Suharto, has insisted on the money being paid directly into local post offices. Children picked for scholarships are given savings books to access the money.

Nevertheless, some of the cash is still disappearing. "We allow about 10 to 15 per cent (of the money) for what accountants would call errors and omissions," said Mr Sudarsono, a career academic who was drafted into the government two months before economic crisis and student protests pushed Suharto out of power last May.

He believes that is an acceptable proportion, given the current turbulence in the country and the urgent need to stem pupil drop-out. "Overall, we've been about 70 per cent successful in terms of reaching target groups and delivering on time," he said.

It is not only the country's educational funding system that is in need of reform, however. The version of modern Indonesian history that has been taught in schools is now being revised following the fall of Suharto and the turn of public opinion against the politically powerful armed forces.

Twelve historians have been picked to revise the curriculum. They are to put more emphasis on events outside Java, whose domination of Indonesia is deeply unpopular on other islands, and less on the role of the army in ending Dutch rule in 1945.

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