Throughout Indonesia, parental engagement with schools has mostly been through their involvement in their children’s education. This parental involvement increased during distance learning brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, as parents needed to supervise their children’s studies, monitor their academic progress, ensure the completion of assignments, and maintain communication with teachers. However, parental involvement in school management and the decision making process has remained low, despite the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (MOECRT) mandating the formation of School Committees to support school management, as well as increase transparency and accountability.
The majority of parents are satisfied with the face-to-face learning policy, citing that it provides a more conducive learning environment than distance learning. They are also satisfied with the provision of choice within the policy, as parents had the final say in allowing their children to return to school or continue their online education from home.
Those who are not satisfied with face-to-face learning have expressed that the policy remains inappropriate given the rising Covid-19 cases as a result of the Omicron wave. This was also linked to parents’ concerns over increased risk of transmission to the rest of the household as well as the school’s capacity to adhere to the safety protocols.
MOECRT needs to expand opportunities for parents to engage in school management through the reinforcement of School Committees. School Committees can be reintroduced to school leaders as part of the post-pandemic recovery, as its members can provide additional support to ensure a safe and effective implementation of face-to-face learning, especially in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
In states of emergencies, schools need to be granted greater autonomy to respond appropriately based on their level of resources and capacity. With this policy, therefore, schools would not be as affected by ever-changing policies from the MOECRT, which would be inevitable during crises. Greater autonomy can empower school leaders over their school management and decision-making processes, for example in facilitating smoother transitions between distance learning and face-to-face learning.
The barriers to distance learning must continually be addressed, even as the pandemic ends. MOECRT, along with other key ministries such as the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Communication and Informatics must pay attention and boost public-private partnerships with telecommunication and hardware providers, as well as increase appropriately targeted digital literacy programs to bridge the digital divide. These measures are critical to ensure that students have a good support system in the event where distance learning must be reintroduced.