Catholic schools in Indonesia are among thousands of private schools that will suffer due to a recent government move to pull all public teachers seconded to private institutions back to fill a chronic teacher shortage in state schools.
Many state teachers were seconded and paid by the government to help boost private education over the course of decades.
However, the government now wants these teachers back.
"It is to fill shortages in state education, as it would be a cheaper and more practical option than having to train many new teachers who would lack experience," according to Widaryati Hestiarsih, human resources chief at the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry.
There are an estimated 100,000 state teachers teaching in private schools.
Church officials and educators said the move is unacceptable because the state has a responsibility to help private schools.
"I don’t understand why state teachers who have worked for decades in private schools are being recalled," Bishop Martinus Dogma Situmorang of Padang, chairman of Indonesian bishops' education commission said.
"The government should subsidize [private schools] financially and morally such as by providing teachers,” Bishop Situmorang told ucanews.com on March 15.
Bishop Situmorang called for parents and private schools to unite and file for a judicial review of the move as it goes against educational principles that seek to improve and provide better education in both public and private schools.
"Dichotomy between public and private schools should end," he said.
If the policy aims to fill a shortage of teachers in public schools, new teachers should be recruited, he added.
He asked dioceses to approach local governments and discuss the implications of the policy and to find ways to help private schools, including Catholic ones survive and improve the quality of their education.
Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, called the government move a "lethal policy" that threatens the very existence of private schools.
Father Mbula said private schools have a right to get aid from the government in order to educate people based on their vision and mission as well as the spirituality of their founders.
He said Consultative Council of Private Education would appeal to the Constitution Court this year.
The withdrawal of state teachers would be a big problem for private schools in Papua, East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, Sulawesi, and Kalimantan, where many state teachers were employed, he said.
Petrus Haro, the parent of a student in Mbay, East Nusa Tenggara said the policy would have an adverse effect on parents and pupils attending private schools.
"The policy will burden us as parents," he said.
Some students in private schools, he said, were from poor families. Withdrawing the teachers will also affect school fees, which could result in many children being able to attend school.
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