Senin, 05 Maret 2012

Compulsory research publications for all students faces a long road


Foto studen Papuan

Opinion, Hafid Abbas, TheJakartaPost
The director general of higher education at the Education and Culture Ministry, Djoko Santoso, on Jan. 27 issued a letter to all rectors or heads of higher education institutions, which stated that from August this year, all undergraduate and postgraduate students had to publish their papers in academic journals as a prerequisite for graduation. 

Undergraduates must publish their papers in an academic journal, while master and doctoral students must publish in an accredited national academic journal and international journal in order to graduate.

In his letter, Djoko states that the reason for adopting the policy was simply based on the reality that Indonesia was left far behind on the number of scientific paper publications when compared with several other neighboring countries. 

According to the ministry, the number of research papers published from universities in Indonesia was just a seventh of the total publications of Malaysia. 

This is extremely ironic as Indonesia has more than 3,600 higher education institutions while Malaysia has just 20 public universities and 33 private universities and university-colleges (Malaysia Ministry of Higher Education, 2007). 

To me, no one can deny the importance of the policy, but first the ministry has to be realistic in addressing the basic parameters of higher education institutions. 

These are some examples: About 6,000 unaccredited or illegal study programs (Kompas, Feb. 17, 2010), about 50–60 percent of all lecturers are unqualified (undergraduate degree), only 6–7 percent out of some 17,000–18,000 study programs have got excellent accreditation and are dually managed by the Education and Culture Ministry and the Religious Affairs Ministry. 

These parameters will somehow contribute to a conducive academic environment that will support the productivity of higher education institutions in scientific publications.

According to Law No. 14/2005 on Teachers and Lecturers, all lecturers who teach at university level have to possess at least a master’s degree, while for elementary and secondary education, teachers must hold at least an undergraduate degree. 

If the law has to be implemented, 50–60 percent of 233,000 lecturers across all public and private higher education institutions (Education and Culture Ministry, 2010) have to be transferred or reassigned to elementary and secondary schools.

To implement the policy by obliging all students to graduate without addressing lecturers’ qualifications could create a tragedy and mass social unrest among some 5 million students across the country.

Second, the ministry has to be flexible in implementing its policy. It is important to adopt a step by step approach. There will be low resistance if policy implementation starts from doctoral students to postgraduate level, then finally to graduate/undergraduate level.

In the first one to two years, for example, the policy has to be fully implemented for all doctoral students, then followed by postgraduate and graduate/undergraduate levels respectively. Concurrent to this policy, there will likely be no resistance if the ministry strictly obligates all lecturers, researchers and professors to publish their academic papers in relevant national and international scientific journals. 

The publication could be a prime condition for their career and an incentive for promotion. By doing so, a strong academic tradition at each university and higher education institution could be fostered.

Third, the ministry has to adopt comprehensive reform in managing all higher education institutions, especially in dealing with curriculum development and teaching and learning methodologies, which support the creation of a culture of writing. 

Research methodology, statistics, philosophy of science and scientific writing could be generic subjects that are greatly demanded by all students at all levels and in all areas of studies. These subjects are merely the instruments of knowledge in which students can use them to learn how to learn.

Learning to learn as one of UNESCO pillars could lead students to a joy of discovery in exploring their world. As John F Kennedy said: “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, if fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and the greater strength of the nation.”

Other modality to create a culture of writing is to integrate writing exercises as inherent parts of all subjects at all levels, from undergraduate to doctoral levels and all disciplines. No single subject may be isolated from such exercises. Students have to have enough experience in writing scientific papers through individual and group assignments.

Individual or group reports have to be presented and debated in the spirit of a democracy in the classroom or at any relevant fora. Matva Collins once said, “Once children learn how to learn, nothing is going to narrow their mind. The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another.”

Finally, the ministry has to promote academic freedom, university autonomy and various centers of excellence at all higher education institutions across the country. Mining, for example, is not relevant for the focus of excellence at the University of Indonesia (UI), since Depok, where UI is located, has no single mining resources in the area. But mining could be the prime subject in Cendrawasih University, Papua, since the Indonesian part of the island is home to rich mining resources of the country.

Similarly, the center of maritime excellence is not relevant to be located in IPB, Bogor, but in Sam Ratulangi University, Manado, or in Pattimura University, Ambon, since both areas have the largest sea gardens not only in Indonesia but probably in the world.

The existing trend of centers of excellence is now disorientated. For example, State Islamic Universities that in the past were only mandated on Islamic religious education, are now offering medical, engineering, and other social science studies.

Since no one has universal capability and no education institution is strong in all subjects, this disorientation could deteriorate the entire productivity of higher education institutions in scientific publications.

It is therefore urgent to reorient all higher education institutions by making internal and external matching exercises to find out each institution’s academic excellence, which then may trigger scientific publications based on this excellence.

Overall, this policy is a revolutionary movement in education but its implementation has to be made gradually. As an old Chinese proverb said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I think a few steps have already been made, and this policy is at the point of 
no return.

The writer, a former director general of human rights at the Law and Human Rights Ministry, and a former UNESCO consultant in the Asia-Pacific region, is a professor at Jakarta State University.

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