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Elwin Tobing

A Self-destructive Play or a Winning One

Common Enemies and Heroes Among Us

Promoting Dialog with a New Paradigm

Searching for Good Politicians (2)

Information is not power



A fake republic


03/07/2005. A few days ago I read in the Internet an article published in the Indonesian newspaper about education. It was written by an author with four degree titles: Drs. His name, S.H., S.Pd, M.M. Wait a minute. How comes he has so many degrees? For those who have no idea about them, here is the relevant information. Drs is a degree title equivalent to B.Sc., S.H. is bachelor degree in law, S.Pd is bachelor degree in education and M.M. is graduate degree title in management, which is more or less equivalent to M.B.A.

I was skeptical of the individual’s honesty. Did he really ever study law, education, and whatever major of study that he took to earn his “Drs” title. Or did he study law in his undergraduate but then apply “Drs.” title to it? And if he has a SP.d. degree that means the person went to undergraduate program in education at IKIP (Institute of Teacher Training And Education) somewhere in Indonesia. Unless the person can really prove that he went to formal trainings for his degree titles, I assume that the individual did not really study, or only took informal training, to earn at least one of them. And if that’s true, that is a tragedy since the individual is a teacher.

Education in Indonesia is about getting a diploma. Practically Indonesia is a diploma society. Many Indonesians buy degrees because titles are still held in high esteem. They value degree title or diploma far more superior to knowledge itself. People, especially who will only utilize their “diplomas” to advance their career, will do anything to obtain advanced degree titles including buying the fake ones. Sadly, among this group are people of stature such as government officials and other citizens in positions of power.

The famous example is the former vice president, Hamzah Haz. The VP has openly acknowledged in published interviews that he paid for his “doctorate” title from the American World University in 1998 for only $2,000. And as reported in Strait Times in 2002, a top bureaucrat at a Jakarta municipal agency admitted that he bought a fake doctorate for around US$1,200 in 1996 to advance his career. The bureaucrat also admitted that he had been promoted twice already since he bought the fake title. The Times also reported the rise in the number of 'instant lawyers' in Indonesia who spend no time in classrooms and yet practice law after passing only one test.

The Vice President’s scandal has triggered the debate over fake diplomas in the early 2000 and the country’s parliaments finally passed an education bill in 2003 which includes the provisions prohibiting the sale of fake academic degrees. Under the bill, issuing fake diplomas will be a crime that carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a Rp 500 million (US$55,000) fine. This is inline with the International Chamber of Commerce which states that “a person falsely claiming to have a qualification and securing a job because of that lie, is committing a crime”.

Only a few months after the bill was enacted, scandals over fake diplomas were mushrooming. And this time, ironically, the scandals were committed by legislative candidates. According to the data released by the Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) in 2004, there were at least 405 candidates for legislative members implicated in false diploma cases across Indonesia. They come mostly from East Java, where 53 cases have arisen, followed by North Sumatra with 33 and Central Java with 21. Three elected members  of the new council of North Sumatra—one from the National Mandate Party (PAN) and two others from the Golkar Party—could not be sworn in, as it had been proven that they used fake school diplomas to qualify for the election.

The problem is not only fake diplomas, but also quasi-fake diplomas. These are diplomas earned through diploma mills. Since the recent years of legalization and proliferation of private education, Indonesia has experienced an unwanted burgeoning of diploma mills. Mainly campus-based these mills offer master’s degrees in six months and doctorate degrees can be earned in one year. Honorary doctorates are also offered for a price and other “schools” offer instant degrees in return for little or no work.

Even the established universities such as Bogor Agriculture University and Padjajaran University offer executive doctorate program where the classes are held during the weekends and research activities are very little. Even to run the regular doctorate program the established universities are not yet competent enough compared to their counterpart in Malaysia and Thailand, much less in developed countries. A friend of mine who once took a regular doctorate program in economics at one of the country’s leading universities finally said enough is enough and then he went overseas to continue his study. In addition to the extreme lack of research and rigorous training, the program, he said, was run in a bizarre way where the class can be held anywhere and anytime depending upon the instructor’s demand.

All these produce fake individuals. There is nothing worse intellectually than faking diplomas. Unfortunately most of those who go after fake and quasi-fake diplomas are the ones who are running the country, either through the public or private sector.

The real doctorate program demands a lot of works and it takes at least four years of full-time work (an exception can be made for extremely brilliant participants). It involves research, publications and workshops. While those who take the real doctorate program are doing things the honest way and toiling through a life of struggle and hard works, some others are smiling while tossing some amount of money and little time and efforts for their “doctorate” diplomas without even knowing how to spell “doctor of philosophy”.


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