Subject: JP: Timor still applies RI education system

Jakarta Post

April 1, 2002 Monday

East Timor still applies RI education system

Yemris Fointuna

East Timor still applies the Indonesian education system although it has been separated from the country since 1999 and will become an independent country in May.

Except in its kindergartens, all schools there have maintained the Indonesian curricula which was designed by the Indonesian Ministry of National Education.

They also use the Indonesian language as the medium of instruction and other languages -- English, Tetum and Portugal -- are accepted as the formal languages for communication.

Students of elementary, junior and senior high schools in Baucau, Viqueque, Lautem, Manatutu, Ermera and Dili continue to wear school uniforms similar to those of Indonesia's.

Elementary school students were seen using white and red uniforms, students of junior high schools wear white and dark blue, while those of the senior high schools wear white and gray. What makes them different are that the East Timorese students do not use the Indonesian education symbols.

Emanuel Ricardo, the principal of the Catholic junior high school Conis Santana confirmed that East Timor's schools still applied the Indonesian curricula and used the Indonesian school uniforms.

"The difference is that we have made the Indonesian language the medium of instruction. But for other purposes we use Tetum, Portugal and English languages. We also maintain the uniforms we used to use when we were part of Indonesia," he told The Jakarta Post in Railako last Thursday.

Asked about the future education of East Timor, Emanuel said that the new country lacked funds to develop its education system.

"Some 80 percent of schools here have opened their classes. But they are facing many problems, including financial problems and a shortage of professional teachers and facilities," he said.

"We have 398 students and only 12 teachers. But some of them are elementary school teachers and only senior high school graduates. We're very concerned about the situation we are facing. But what's important now is that the learning process continues. Maybe, education will be given attention when we have a new government in May," he said.

A number of students told The Jakarta Post that they were confused with the education system currently applied in East Timor.

"We only rely on what is taught by our teachers during classes. There are no textbooks for sale. We're also required to pay a tuition of US$1 per month," said Fernando, who was accompanied by his classmates Amaral and Thomas Araujo, who are all the students of Santana Railaku, a Catholic junior high school.

Data from the press office of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet) in Dili shows that East Timor has 700 elementary schools, 100 junior and senior high schools, 40 kindergartens, and 10 vocational schools, with a total student population of 240,000 and 6,000 teachers.

The temporary administrative head in Ermera district, Victor dos Santos, said that to develop education in East Timor, from October 2001, Untaet had conducted an education survey, training programs and sponsored many of the teachers to finish their university education.

He hopes that all government agencies in East Timor will prioritize education. "I do hope that all parties will give a hand in developing education here," he said.

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