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CRITICS OF NATIONAL EXAMINATION POLICY IN INDONESIA

By

Irfan Rusmar

211076913

EXE 733 Assessing Learning

1. Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 1
2. A Brief History about National Testing in Indonesia ........................................................... 2
3. The Purposes and the Important Features of National Examination .................................. 3
a. The Purposes of National Examination......................................................................... 3
b. The Important Features of Current National Examination ........................................... 3
4. Negative Impacts of National Examination......................................................................... 4
a. Teachers “Teach to the Test” ....................................................................................... 4
b. Willing to Engage in Cheating ....................................................................................... 5
c. Only Measures the Cognitive Aspects of Students ....................................................... 6
d. Feeling Stressed and Under pressured ......................................................................... 6
5. Suggestions for UN Policy ................................................................................................... 7
6. Conclusion .......................................................................................................................... 8

References ................................................................................................................................ 9

Appendix 1................................................................................................................................ 12

Appendix 2................................................................................................................................ 13

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CRITICS OF NATIONAL EXAMINATION POLICY IN INDONESIA

1. Introduction

Nowadays, the main issue of tests and examinations in Indonesia is to understand the effect of testing
on students and the learning process, in the face of unavoidable movement toward a national
examination policy for national standardized testing. The discussion of this policy also has been an
intriguing topic among the public since the beginning of the 2003/2004 academic year. It has become a
national debate which seems to be impasse because there is no common ground.

1 Those who resist it give their opinion that the policy is considered an important decision for students’
life future. This is in line with Tilaar (2011) explanations, which state that, national examination (UN),
based on the law No.20/2003 on National Examination System (Sisdiknas), determine that students’
final evaluation is depending on teachers and schools decisions. This means that the UN is merely a
complement to help teachers and schools, not to judge students to raise the quality of education. They
also believe that UN has brought about many considerably negative effects on teachers, students,
parents, schools administrators and curriculum.

On the other hand, the government states that UN is essential as a benchmark to evaluate the teaching
and learning process based on the national standard. Moreover, the government also uses the results as
feedback to formulate other programs for the advancement of the national education.

Have looked at this seemingly appalling for national debate, it is urgent and necessary to offer some
suggestions to find out a solution for a more adequate format of the national examination. This paper
will review a brief history of the national standardized testing in Indonesia and discusses some of the
important aspects of national examination. It argues the negative impact of the national examination
and offers some ideas that might be useful for a better format of the UN.

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2. A Brief History of National Testing in Indonesia

Historically, at the elementary and secondary levels, the national testing in Indonesia has undergone
several changes and improvement since it began in the period 1965 – 1971 (Kemdiknas, 2010). It was
named Ujian Negara (State exam), where the practice was performed for almost all subjects for students
at the end of the academic school year. The implementation included each level school in Indonesia,
namely elementary, lower secondary and higher secondary level (Syahril, 2007; Afrianto, n.d). For the
next seven years (1972 – 1979), Kemdiknas (2010) states that, a non-standardized testing 2 was
implemented, and called Ujian Sekolah (School Examination). In this test, every school was given the
authority to design and hold the final exam.

However, in 1980, the government went back to a centralized system, with the aims to
improve and organize the quality of education as well as obtaining the values that have a sense of
equality and can be compared between schools. This examination was called The Evaluasi Belajar Tahap
Akhir National, commonly shortened as Ebtanas, where the development of questions centered on the
central government. In addition, the Ebtanas also was the longest period of national testing. It survived
for almost twenty-one years in the national education system (1980 – 2000).

Starting from the year 2003, the new form of standardized national examination called Ujian Akhir
Nasional (National Final Examination), or well known with the acronym UAN, has been introduced by the
Indonesian ministry of education. Only three subjects were tested, namely Indonesian language, English
and Mathematics. Since this year, students’ graduation was determined by the value of individual
subjects tested in the national final examination.

In 2005, the new Ministry of Education decided to conduct a similar pattern of national testing, which
has introduced in 2003 – 2004. Nevertheless, the test used a new name, which is popular until this year
that called Ujian Nasional (National Examination) or well known as UN. This test also adopted the same
format on the subject tested, testing three subjects, Indonesian language, English and Mathematics. 3

Since the year, 2008 until 2010, Nashir.tk (2010) states that, the subjects tested have dramatically
changed, from three different subjects to be six different subjects. However, this test received much
criticism from many educational experts and the public. Therefore, based on this criticism for the
previous UN, the new format of UN was introduced in 2011, where the students’ graduation is not only
dependent on the score from six different subjects, but also from the process of learning during the

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academic year. The proportion is 60% from UN and 40% from the process of learning, or “the formula
for combined the value = (0.6 x UN) + (0.4 x the average score during the process of learning)”
(Anonymous, 2011). 4

3. The Purposes and the Important Features of National Examination

As a standardized test, the national examination (UN) has several features and purposes that important
to improve the quality of examination. All of the purposes and features explained in the Decree from the
Ministry of National Education (Permendiknas).

a. The Purpose of National Examination

According to clause 2 the Decree of No. 34/2007 from the Ministry of Education, the main goal of
the national examination (UN), is to measure and assess the students’ knowledge and competence
in a subject by using a national standard. Subsequently, in clause 3 of the same Decree the goal is
even more specifically enlightened into 4 specific purposes. First as a consideration of mapping the
quality of education; second, as a method to determine whether students are suitable or not to
continue their study into the next education level; third, as a basis to decide whether students can
pass of the process of learning and fourth, as a basis to help particular educational practitioners and
school, in order to improve the quality of education (Depdiknas, 2007).

b. The Important Features of Current National Examination

The important characteristic of UN is the minimum threshold predetermined by the Ministry of


National Education. The Ministry of Education employs a minimum threshold for students as a
requirement, in order to pass the national examination. Interestingly, the minimum threshold has
steadily increased year by year, from 3.01 in 2003 to 5.50 in 2010, from the total score 10
(Depdiknas, 2010, clause 6(3)). The score is represented by measuring the percentage of the total
right answers. This means that, students pass if they can achieve 50.5% the total of right answers
from the total of questions, in the year 2010.

According to Depdiknas (2007, clause 5), if students fail to achieve the minimum standard of the
national examination, they need to re-sit the exam to achieve that minimum threshold. This means
that failure to achieve the minimum standard in UN will automatically effect their graduation from

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school. Looking at the features and purposes of the Indonesian national examination (UN), it is clear
that this examination can be categorized as the High-Stakes testing.

 High-Stakes Tests Defined

According to Amrein & Berliner (2002), High-Stakes testing is defined as the tests used to make a
vital educational decision about students, school, teachers and education practitioners. In
addition, these researchers also argue that High-Stakes tests usually create negative and
unintended effects, which disproportionally impact students from low socioeconomic
background, such as students in rural areas. This means that it is difficult to make a comparison
between students from the cities and the rural areas. 5

Therefore, most Indonesian educational experts argue that the national examination (UN) is difficult to
be used to generalize students’ ability based on a national standard (Khaerudin, 2008).

4. Negative Impacts of National Examination (UN)

Since first introduced in 2003, the national examination (UN) has become a denial among experts,
parents and students themselves. Various arguments are presented by them, to disagree with the
national examination policy that have introduced by the government. They believed that UN has more
negative impacts than positive on the national quality of education. This is in line with Khairudin’s (2008)
explanation, which states that the UN impacted negatively on the quality of educational processes and
outcomes, based on theoretical and empirical study. The UN has led teachers to teach not meaningful
(teaching to the test), willing to engage in cheating, measure students’ cognitive ability only and feeling
stressed and under pressure.

a. Teachers “Teach to the test”

According to Lazear (2004), it is clear that, the High-Stakes national standardized test has led
teachers to focus their teaching on the test. This means that most of the teaching activities focus on
the test taking strategies, in order to prepare students to be able to answer all of the questions
properly. This tradition might make the teachers tend to be less creative and less innovative in
designing their lesson. The teachers only perceived as the people, who teach the skills to answer the
multiple-choice test questions 6.

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This situation is also evident in the Indonesian classroom context, where unconsciously, the learning
process has changed from focusing on the lesson into familiarizing the students with the format of
the test, discussing the strategies to answering the questions (tricks and tips) and discussing the
question as well as conducting several mock tests for students. The teachers tend to make their
lesson close with the content of the UN test. This situation of the learning process is not essential to
improve students’ understanding about the concepts of the lesson, because the students only learn
to remember test information, not to master a concept of the lesson. This is in line with Volante’s
explanation, who states that, “Practice testing is inappropriate if students are being trained how to
answer particular test items." (Volante, 2004: 2)

In short, this kind process of learning is obviously not meaningful for students. The reason is that
what have learned by students is mechanistic; not mastering the essential concepts of the lesson,
whereas meaningful learning refers to the concept that learned is fully understood by individually
rather than memorize it without a full understanding.

b. Willing to Engage in Cheating

Cheating might be a common trend that occurs among students in all over the world. According to
Cooper (2006 cited in Gunawan, 2007), in examinations, cheating is copying the answers from one
to another student, helping each other in terms of answering the questions, or using a piece of
paper that already consists of answer for the exam.

In the Indonesian national examination context, cheating has become “well-organized cheating”
that involved teachers, students and the local government, in order to provide a better mark for
students. It is extremely terrible when a group of professionals such as teachers and other
educational related officers planned such a dirty plan for their students, because indirectly, this
refers to how low quality of Indonesian national examination is.

In the following year 2007/2008, Kompas (2008) explained that sixteen teachers were arrested by
Densus 88 (special force antiterrorist police) because they were engaged in cheating by correcting
students’ answer sheets after the examination finished and distributions the answer via SMS, and
via a piece of paper(cited in Afrianto, n.d).

It logically assumes that these cases reflect to the unfairness of the passing grade policy that issued
by the Indonesian government. The minimum threshold offered by the government is too high for

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students. Therefore, most of the teachers consider it is significantly hard for students to achieve the
minimum score in order to pass the exam; they tend to allow cheating during the exam.

However, cheating is still as a huge crime that might influence Indonesian students’ unwillingness to
study. Cheating also might eliminate the basic skills of study, discipline and honesty from students,
and this can have a negative influence on the quality of Indonesian national education.

c. Only Measures the Cognitive Aspects of Students

Khaerudin (2008) states that the Indonesian national examination that commonly using multiple-
choice questions is believed only can measure the cognitive aspect of the students. The reason is
that most of the questions given to students tend to encourage the students learn by memorizing,
without understanding the lesson fully. (See Appendix 1) 7

Moreover, the questions also commonly lead students to find the answers directly, without
considering any process in order to find solutions. This is clear that the abilities, such as responding,
valuing, organizing and characterizing, unconsciously disappear from the students. In other words,
students only focus on the memorizing aspects, such as knowledge to translate the theories and
terminologies and knowledge of ways that dealing with the specifics conventions, trends and
sequences.

Therefore, by referring to the cognitive aspect definition in Bloom’s Taxonomy (Wikipedia, 2011),
which states that skills in the cognitive aspects only revolve around knowledge, comprehension, and
critical thinking of a particular topic, I believe that the multiple-choice questions that used in the
national examination only measures the cognitive domain of the students. (See Appendix 1) 7

d. Feeling Stressed and under pressured

Obviously, with the minimum standard of the national examination that extremely high for students
to be achieved, can lead the teachers and students to feel stressed and under pressured, in
conducting several activities prior to the test day. This stress also has been triggered by
announcement from school principals and parents in order to help students to pass the exam.

It will apparently terrible for teaching and learning process if the teachers feel under pressured.
Teachers can not enjoy their profession, and this can affect the creativity and the professionalism of
a teacher. If this situation occurs, it will affect to the quality of national education.

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In terms of students, Rasyid (2007 cited in Afrianto, n.d) states that in the academic year 2007/2008,
there was a junior high school student in Java killed herself after she discovered that she did not
pass the national examination. He furthers the explanations that the girl did so because she was
depressed of the high consequences of the UN.

With respect to all points above, I believe that the high consequences of the UN might bring a not
enjoyable situation in the national education system in Indonesia. Therefore, in my opinion, the
government should look deeper into the system again, and make a comparison with other countries that
have a higher quality of education that Indonesia.

5. Suggestions for UN Policy

Having looked at those serious negative impacts of the national examination for teachers, students and
the quality of national education, I think it is necessary for us now to suggest several bright ideas with
the aims to make UN more acceptable and flexible for students and teachers.

My suggestions will be focused specifically on the changes of minimum threshold that happened every
year academic and the format of questions given to students. Moreover, the comparison between the
Indonesian format and Singapore also will be the main point, in order to find a better solution for the
implementation of Indonesian national examination.

In terms of the minimum threshold, the government should determine a minimum threshold for the
next 5 or 6 years academic. This means that it might be appropriate to change the minimum threshold in
a long-term program. The reason is that the development of students will appear more clearly, and the
government might use it as a consideration to decide how the minimum threshold can be increased for
the next time. Hence, students or teachers might not feel stress and under pressure when they face the
national examination.

Furthermore, the use of multiple-choice questions that encourage students to be more exploring their
cognitive ability should be minimized. The government should think of a format of question that can
engage students to explore their psychomotor and affective ability, such as responding, characterizing,
organizing and constructing their own ideas in solving any mathematics problem.

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In my opinion, Indonesia needs to learn from the practice of Singapore national examination. The reason
is that Singapore also uses a standardized test as the final assessment for students, with the purpose to
maintain the standard of the national education and for benchmarking. However, the greater focus of
the examination is placed on the role of formative assessment, where the items of assessment are
situated in authentic contexts that can prepare students to handle the complexities of the real-world
problems in their future life (Hodge, n.d) (See Appendix). This means that the Singaporean students are
involved more actively in psychomotor, affective and cognitive ability in solving the questions.
Therefore, even if the teachers teach their students to the tests, I believe it will not eliminating the
psychomotor, affective and cognitive ability of students.

With respect to all points above, in my opinion the national examination policy in Indonesia should be
reviewed, and compared with the Singaporean national examination policy, with the aims to improve
the quality of national education.

c. Conclusion

As a controversial national policy of examination, the government need to aware and recognize the
suggestions and opinions from other parties about the national examination. The government cannot
always defend their statement, which states that the UN is an appropriate examination for the final
assessment to students. They must be aware that the UN has brought significant negative impacts that
influence the quality of national education. Therefore, in this paper I have proposed such a preliminary
ideas which could be useful as an alternative to review the national examination policy in Indonesia.

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References

Afrianto. (n.d). Reformulation Of National Examination Policy In Indonesia. Retrieved on 3rd February
2011 in http://adsindonesia.or.id/alumni/ASAC2008Papers/Afrianto-paper.pdf
Amrien, A.L and Berliner, D.C. (2002). An Analysis of Some Unintended and Negative Consequences of
High-Stakes Testing. The Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice. [Electronic
Version]. Retrieved on 5th February 2011 in
http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/early_research/pdf/H-S%20Analysis%20final.pdf
Anonymous. (2011). Inilah Rumus Kelulusan antara Nilai UN dan Nilai Sekolah. [Online]. Retrieved on 8 th
February 2011 in http://dit-plp.go.id/index.php/berita/104-inilah-rumus-kelulusan-antara-nilai-
un-dan-nilai-sekolah
Depdiknas. (2010). Peraturan Menteri Pendidikan Nasional. No. 45/ 2010. [Online]. Retrieved on 5 th
February 2011 in http://www.kemdiknas.go.id/media/364404/permendiknas%20no%2045.pdf

Gunawan, D. (2007). National Examination Scandal in Indonesia and the Ethical Solving Problem.
[Electronic Version]. Retrieved on 1st February 2011 in
http://diskusipendidikan.wordpress.com/2007/06/13/national-examination-scandal-in-
indonesia-and-the-ethical-solving-problem/

Hodge, W. (n.d). Basic Education Curriculum Revisited: A Look at the Current Content and Reform
(Ministry of Education Singapore). [Electronic Version]. Retrieved on 7th February 2011 in
http://www.vnseameo.org/downloads/malay/Singapore.doc

Har, Y. B. (n.d). Challenging Mathematics in Primary School National Examination in Singapore. [Online].
Retrieved on 11 February 2011 in http://www.amt.canberra.edu.au/icmis16psinyeap.pdf

Jones, K. & Little, C. (2007). Context for pure mathematics: An analysis of A-Level Mathematics Papers.
[Online]. Retrieved on 11 February 2011 in
http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/46692/1/Little_Jones_BSRLM_Proceedings_27-1_2007.pdf

Kementrian National Indonesia. (2010). Sejarah Ujian National. [Online]. Retrieved on 3 rd February 2011
in http://www.kemdiknas.go.id/orang-tua/ujian-nasional/sejarah-ujian-nasional.aspx

Khaerudin. (2008). Ujian Nasional dan Kualitas Pendidikan Kita. [Electronic Version]. Retrieved on 5th
February 2011 in http://www.ilmupendidikan.net/2008/04/21/ujian-nasional-dan-kualitas-
pendidikan-kita.php

Lazear, E.P. (2004). Speeding, Tax Fraud and Teaching to the Test. [Online]. The research that supported
by CRESST. Retrieved on 9th February 2011 in
http://elsa.berkeley.edu/users/webfac/auerbach/e231_f04/lazear.pdf

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Nashir.tk. (2010). Ujian Nasional dan Sejarahnya. [Online]. Retrieved on 5th February 2011 in
http://nashir.tk/ujian-nasional-dan-sejarahnya.html

Volante, L. (2004). Teaching to the Test: What Every Educator and Policy-maker Should Know. Canadian
Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Issue #35, September 25, 2004. [Online].
Retreived on 9th February 2011 in http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ848235.pdf
Wikipedia website. (2011). Boom’s Taxonomy. *Online+. Retrieved on 10th February 2011 in
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom's_Taxonomy

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Appendix 1

UN-SMP-07-02
My mother bought 40 kg of sugar. Sugar will be sold retail with plastic wrapped each of which

weighs kg. Many plastic bags containing sugar that is produced is ...

A. 10 plastic bags
B. 80 plastic bags
C. 120 plastic bags
D. 160 plastic bags

UN-SMP-07-03

A. 4

B.

C.

D.

As can be seen, those multiple questions are commonly focus on leading students to find the final
answer, but without pay more attention on the process to obtain the results. This can lead students to
do cheating more easily. The reason is that students easy to look at their friends answer sheet and the
copy the letter A, B, C or D to their own answer sheets. They do not have to write any solution and many
words to explain their solution. In order they have got the correct final answer, and then they will get
the perfect marking from the examiners.

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Appendix 2

The Sample of Singapore National Testing Questions

Item 1
A toy-maker has a rectangular block of wood 30 cm by 14 cm by 10 cm. He wants to cut as many 3-cm
cubes as possible. How many such cubes can he cut?

14 cm
30 cm

10 cm
(SEAB, 2005, p.25)

Item 2
Peter, James and Ruth had some stamps. James and Ruth together had 3 times as many stamps as
Peter. The ratio of the number of stamps James had to the number of stamps Ruth had was 3 : 7.
Peter and Ruth had 310 stamps altogether. How many stamps did Peter have?

(SEAB, 2005, p.46)


The role of Problem Solving Questions
Tom and Gary ran in a race.

When Gary had completed the run in 20 minutes, Tom had only run of the distance.

Tom’s average speed for the race was 75 m/min less than Gary’s.
(a) Find the distance of the race.
(b) What was Tom’s speed in m/min?
(SEAB, 2005, p. 40)
(Cited in Har (n.d). Challenging Mathematics in Primary School National Examination in Singapore)
Item 3

Mr. King has a total of 19 geese, chickens and ducks on his farm. He has 3 more chickens than geese.
He has 2 fewer ducks than geese. How many ducks does he have? (Clark, n.d, p.4)

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Another example of Mathematics authentic and realistic problem solving question

(Cited in Jones & Little (2007), p.50)

The advantages of using the Problem Solving questions in National examination

According to Singapore Ministry of Education (CPPD,2006; Clark, n.d), mathematical problem solving is
the central of mathematics learning. It involves any applications and acquisition of mathematics in a
wide range of situations, including real world and open ended problems. Moreover, the mathematical
problem solving also engage students to consider that they must have several perspectives in solving the
mathematics problem, rather than just calculating and concentrate to the final answers.

In terms of fairness, I believe that the problem solving questions has more fairness than multiple-choice
questions in the Indonesian national examination. The reason is that, to solve a mathematical problem
solving, every student requires to use the modeling processes, including specify the problems,
formulating them, solve the problem, interpret the solution into real situation, compare the solution
with reality and communicate the solution. As can be seen, a process is more important than the final
answer. This is the one reason why every student is difficult to do cheating during the process of

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examination. Therefore, fairness of examination is maintained to support a student who is entitled to
the great result at the end of the exam. There is no longer unfairness decision like commonly happened
in the Indonesian context, where students are not eligible, could get a better result than students who
were more knowledgeable than them.

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