Decentralized Centralism: School Based Management Policies and Practices at State Secondary Schools in Mataram, Lombok, Indonesia
The collapse of Suharto’s regime in 1998 brought significant change to Indonesia's public sector. Education at primary and secondary levels, since 1 January 2001, was administered at district level rather than in the previously centralised and bureaucratic manner. At the school level, ideas about school autonomy emerged and became popular. In particular the term ‘School Based Management’ (SBM) was seen as a panacea, and as a result the central government issued a regulation to implement the practice of SBM. This study analyses the dynamics of the SBM policy as it was being interpreted and implemented at the secondary school level in Indonesia. It examines SBM in the municipality of Mataram, Lombok, Indonesia. The study was approached in two ways: through document analysis of the Ministry of National Education decree number 044/U/2002 which legalized SBM; and by soliciting and interpreting the perspectives and practices of stakeholders at district and school levels through questionnaires, interviews, school site studies and document analyses. Altogether 83 respondents completed the questionnaires and 24 participated in interviews. Site studies were made to two schools. These approaches produced rich data on issues relating to SBM policy, devolved authority and community involvement. The study found that the SBM policy as stated in the decree lacked clarity. The decree was hastily introduced and emphasised structural changes at district and school levels without clarifying its underlying rationales or implementation guidelines. The decree did not choose a particular model of SBM. Instead, it imposed a uniform model regardless of school level, size, location, type of community or even the public and private nature of schools. The decree was not followed with any regulations established at the district level regarding SBM. Consequently, institutional capacity at the district level was not developed. Therefore previous paradigm and practices of management continued to remain. Information provided about SBM at the school level was not designed to give much detail. It was left to principals to inform school level stakeholders but the extent to which this happened depended on the principals’ discretion and level of knowledge about SBM. The devolved authority was not clear in the decree. What was suggested in the decree as authority that can be exercised by schools in SBM, was a practice that was already established. Without appropriate regulations at the district level, secondary schools were neither supported nor given flexibility. Mostly, schools practices had not changed with the introduction of the SBM. The decree did not differentiate between community involvements at the district from the school level. This made it possible for old practices to continue. Hence, Education Council and the School Committees’ members were hand-picked and shoulder-tapped, based on bureaucrat preferences. Further, at school level, the committees’ roles were mainly to legitimize principals’ policies, particularly relating to school fees and budget. In short, a ‘new centralism’ was seen to be practised by the district government. At the school level the principal’s role become much more significant. School Based Management, while fulfilling the regulatory requirements, remains superficial in its impact and has failed to fulfil its original intention of improving the quality of Indonesian education. The study proposes a number of recommendations for SBM at the Indonesian secondary school level. First, the changing nature of regional autonomy in Indonesia makes stipulating a new regulation for SBM at district level sensible. The local regulation should use clear statements, acknowledge diversity, differentiate between governance and management, and recognize community involvement. Second, improving institutional capacity at district and school levels is also necessary and urgent. Enhancing stakeholders’ understanding about SBM issues can take various forms. Third, establishing formula funding that is stipulated in the district budget will make previous practices by the school committee unnecessary. Finally, on-going support to schools in terms of SBM, from district and national government is needed and should be programmed to make the policy work and succeed. The study ends with suggestion for further research.