Saturday, May 19, 2007

Civic education bill 'counterproductive'

Friday, May 18, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Experts have criticized a bill on civic education saying it will be counterproductive as it focuses more on the state's interests than those of the people.

Speaking at a seminar on the bill, Azyumardi Azra, director of the postgraduate school at the Jakarta State Islamic University, said the bill overemphasized the obligation to defend the state.

"This emphasis will trigger opposition from the people as it raises collective memory concerning the previous state indoctrination on the ideology of Pancasila," Azyumardi told participants of the seminar held at Borobudur Hotel on Wednesday.

"Articles in the bill clearly overemphasize the spirit of defending the state. If it becomes a law, it will receive strong resistance from the people. Do we really need to repeat the same old mistake of indoctrination and a militaristic approach to civic education?" Azyumardi asked.

He said that although civic education was very important in pluralistic countries, the bill needed to be reformulated to avoid such opposition.

"A good result will not come out of a false approach," he said.

Indria Samego, a political expert from the Indonesian Science Institute, said the bill was counterproductive as it aimed for the state to rearrange and monopolize the standard and content of civic education.

He also branded the proposed establishment of a national council for civic education as "structural demolition".

Indria called for a paradigm shift from state-centered to society-centered civic education, with the state to focus on its main functions of providing peace, security, prosperity and law enforcement.

"We do not need civic education like what we had during the New Order regime, but rather a system that respects pluralism, transparency, accountability, effective governance and law enforcement," he said.

"Civic education is ideological and more than just a curriculum monopolized by the state through formal education. It is an effort to give contextual and actual values to nationalism. This is not the time for the state to be so dominant. It is a time to provide more opportunities for non-state powers such as political parties to be more responsible in civic education," he said.

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said in his opening remarks that while a formal civic education was important, more important were concrete efforts to improve the social and economic welfare of the people.

"We hope that when the people are better off economically, every ideological slogan will have more meaning," Juwono told reporters at the seminar.

The Defense Ministry has been deliberating the bill since 2004. An initial draft of the bill was formulated in 2005, with the bill being drafted in 2006.

The seminar, attended by more that 150 experts and practitioners from various backgrounds, was organized to seek input into improving the final draft of the bill which will be submitted to an inter-ministerial committee in 2008. (02)

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