DIKNAS Just Got Cut in Two

The fact has been little commented on in the local media, but the Jokowi administration has just divided the old DIKNAS department in two. In place of the old DIKNAS (Education Department), there are now two new entities. The first is Dikti, which is about higher education; its full title is Direktorat Pendidikan Tinggi (Directorate of Higher Education). The second entity deals with primary school and middle/high school and goes by the catchy name of Dikdasmen. The ‘das’ refers to Sekolah Dasar (Primary school) and the ‘men’ refers to Pendidikan Menengah, which means ‘middle school’ or high school. Basically, it is the Directorate of Primary and Middle School.

Now, the old DIKNAS was notorious with English teachers in Jakarta for their uncompromising attitude towards private language schools. They introduced a law which required all teachers for language schools to have a Degree in ‘English’, Applied Lingusitics, or a Masters in TESOL. This disqualified 95% of candidates for jobs at language schools and prompted a lot of anxiety in the whole TEFL industry. TBI (The British Institute), for example, resorted to hiring unqualified teachers illegally on business consultant visas and making them sign special ‘hush hush’ contracts which asked them to keep their true job ‘top secret’. It is now widely accepted that these regulations have made recruitment very problematic for a number of schools, and many commentators have reported a steep decline in the number of KITASes (work visas) being issued for Native Speaker teachers. Therefore, any big changes relating to DIKNAS should be of interest to observers of the Indonesian TEFL scene. Yet these latest changes made by Jokowi have so far attracted little notice.

The DIKNAS Split: The Reaction

Of course government departments need to be careful not to antagonize their bosses. No one would expect that DIKNAS would stand up and loudly condemn the decision to split them in two; it just wouldn’t be prudent. However, nor should we imagine that a powerful government department would be happy that its territory and influence have been reduced. In recent years DIKNAS has made every effort to tighten its control over private language schools, international schools and the category of school formerly known as National Plus. Their efforts have all been directed towards expanding their power and control, not reducing it. Therefore, it would be a surprise if they were happy about these changes. But the criticism hasn’t come from DIKNAS themselves. It has emerged in the form of an angry rebuke from Herman Khaeron, a spokesman for the Demokrat Party, who were in power until a few weeks ago.

On the 24th of Novemeber, Mr. Khaeron angrily accused Jokowi of “abandoning the principles of good governance.” In particular, he criticized that decision to separate DIKNAS into two parts: Dikti and Dikdasmen. He wondered why the DPR (Congress/Parliament) hadn’t been consulted in advance of the changes. This angry denunication appeared in several media outlets, and shows that at least some parties were very upset by the changes. It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to presume that DIKNAS had spoken to the Demokrats and made their feelings known.

Clipping DIKNAS’s Wings?

Finally, it is worth mentioning the whispers and rumours which have gone along with the decision. While Jokowi has made no formal statement about the decision, it has been suggested that really this decision was about clipping the wings of the over-mighty DIKNAS- a department which had earned a reputation for corruption and graft in recent years. There have been frequent accusations that DIKNAS plays favorites with language schools and treats certain schools better than others. For instance, they have turned a blind eye to the rampant scamming at Rumah Bahasa, a school which has never been raided, despite not even being registered as a company. The suspicion has long been that the taking of bribes has played a big part in this selective enforcement of regulations. If the splitting of DIKNAS is indeed a response to a history of corruption, then perhaps this is a sign that graft will be less tolerated in the future. On the other hand, a ‘wait and see’ approach is always advisable where the Indonesian bureaucracy is concerned. This is still ‘early days’.

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