The education system in Indonesia is divided into four levels:
- Grade 1-6 which marks the primary level
- Grades 7-9, this is the junior secondary level
- The senior secondary level starts from grade 10-12
- The higher education level
State education institutions dominate the basic education levels, that is the primary and the junior secondary school levels. The private sector then accounts for a small percentage of the basic level schools and accounts for about 90% of the higher education institutions HIEs.
The state system is non-sectarian, but most of the schools are religious mostly from the Islamic religion and are considered to be of high quality. By contrast, the private schools are primarily religious oriented schools associated in particular with two Islamic organizations:
- a) Muhammadiyah
- b) Nahdlatul Ulama
Religion is a source of conflict in Indonesia. These being despite the government adherence to religious freedom. It is mandatory for all nationals to have a belief in God but the form of belief is not specified. Most citizens in Indonesia are Muslims with others being members of other religious faiths treated with complete equality. The six available religions are:
The Department of Religious Affairs officially recognizes all the six faiths and contributes financially to their success. Despite efforts by the government to desensitize religion in Indonesia, there is religious discrimination in the education system.
There is discrimination against religious minority students. Example a student named Andreas Rohman at a local public school was discontinued from grade 11 because he refused to read the Quran and performing the prayer which is mandatory in an Islamic class. Andreas is an adherent of Hayu Ningrat faith a Javanese tradition that is not among the official permitted religions in Indonesia.
Statics indicate there are approximately 245 native religions with over 500,000 followers. The adherents are victims of discrimination activities ranging from the issuing of national documents like the birth certificates, Identification cards and access to religious education.
The diversity of the religious disciplines in Indonesia affects the government efforts in applying the appropriate program for religious education. The government aims to offer spiritual value to students by advocating the state schools to include religious lessons. However, for the students going to the state schools and are from a different religion, for example, a Buddhist attending a Muslim school is forced to take Buddhist classes from another teacher outside the school.
The condition is not tolerable and makes religious education less effective. Such practices have led to professionals that are morally depraved and very corrupt because they missed their religious classes. The lack of morals has also led to an increase in violence and social unrest among the youth.
Students Do Not Care
Religious education is a compulsory subject in every state school. It is more like the main subject and is accorded more importance than other subjects like Chemistry, Mathematics, and History, and the government introduced a curriculum that advocates more time for Religious studies. The move aimed at creating a balance between the skills, and attitude of the students. The religion is taught according to the student's faith, and it is mandatory for the students to take a 30-minute break to recite prayers and read holy books before the start of a lesson. The students are closely monitored on their attendance for prayer meetings, and a particular grade on the subject will determine your progression to the next grade level.
The practice is however overrated as the students do not pay attention to the teachings. Religious Education is like any other subject, and the students read to pass their exams. The inclusion of religious education has contributed very little if any on the character building of the students.
Materialism and Secularism
There is increased materialism in the Indonesian society and the whole world. The religious education teaches on values that are significantly undermined by the evolving pluralistic society. In changing economic, political and technological aspects of this life, the religious leaders are faced with the challenge of approaching their teaching from new angles.
As I conclude, I think religious education should be a private matter, and the children and parents should be given the freedom to decide on the subject. The government should not teach the students in religious dogma. The various religions have different teachings and beliefs about what is wrong and right, dictating the students’ understanding has led to a religious divide in the job industry.
Moreover, religion only emphasizes obedience to God rather than teach scientific facts and technical skills necessary for critical thinking which are very important in the current century. Maybe when the government and the parents accept that being non-religious is an acceptable possibility, the children will be more discipline, kind and compassionate towards others regardless of their lack of religious education.