By Asma Nadia
“Will Bunda (Mommy) still love me if I don’t pass my exam?” My eldest child’s question before her National Exam (NE) made me stunned. That time, she was still on her 6th grade. And how hard I tried to convince her about this unconditional love, still the question raised again when Salsa wanted to enter high school.
The same concern also popped out of our second child. What has made NE become so influential until our children felt hesitate and afraid of losing parents love? Maybe although to some people, NE was just another program and statistic charts, but to children, NE could mean life, price and identity as well as the future.
Government’s intention to enhance education quality must be fully supported. But if that was interpreted by a three-day exam to determine student’s fate, ignoring their years of hard work, then it was completely unfair. Not only just one or two students who were ill but still pushed themselves to take exam and got bad marks eventually.
Or, two Sidoarjo’s high school students case, rape victims who were pregnant and forbade to take NE. Although there are some city governments tried to facilitate married or pregnant students for package exam in order to keep their rights to earn education due to their school absence, but this policy only applied in a few cities.
NE is an important indicator for education, I will not deny this. But, NE cannot be the solely determinant for students’ future. The authority which then was given to the school to take part on deciding students’ graduation became such a fresh breeze although in practice still need honesty and integrity so the school authority would not take infidel ways just to race for high graduated rate.
Beyond that, we have to admit gracefully, that there are notes written in red ink here and there on the NE execution waiting to be enhanced. About score transparencies, for example. How can the students be sure if their scores were not switched? What if the bad marks they received were not caused by their incorrect answers but because of computer error when scanning students’ worksheets?
Recorded, physics Olympic winner who did not pass NE and lost the chance to study in one of foreign university ready to accept him. In such case, did the student have a right to appeal to check on the original answer sheets? Another red ink with bold letters sat on the perfection of the questions.
Until this year, NE worksheets by naked eye were still not free of errors. Government would usually say that error questions will be disqualified and would not affected to the score. But have they ever thought about the students who had thought hard, fiddled about the answer, wasted their times, drained their minds and energies, lost self confident, took a long time to one error question and didn’t have answer?
Year by year case made us think, what does it take to make these three-day-exam worksheets free of errors? Not to mention the technical implementation. From mixed up worksheet envelopes, damaged computerized answer sheets to unclear printed worksheets, still happened in several areas.
Wahyu Ningsih’s case, a student in Jambi who died after taking fungal poison, was another bitter note. The late 19 year old girl became the only one who did not pass because she failed on Bahasa Indonesia which ironically she was the highest rank in the school for this subject. Tragic.
Maybe embarrassed, maybe afraid of being mad at by their parents, although I believe every parents would fight to the last battle as the shelter of hesitation and fear as well as many life pressures for their children. Just like what wise mother and father who always provide rooms for their children and reinforce expectations when other doors and windows were closely shut.
It is time for all parents, educators and related stakeholders to evaluate without having to wait for more victims to fall. NE requisitions must be followed with immaculate materials, technical and appropriate criteria. Because, a test with a force as powerful as NE, where our children’s fate and life laid on it, must not left any single flaw.