Its effects to schools



(A paper presented at Seminar “The improvement of Educational Quality and Students Performance by Applying Instructional Technology, in Sahid Raya Hotel, Surakarta, Indonesia, 5 – 6 September 2005)


Many countries including Indonesia provide free textbooks for primary and secondary education in order to improve the quality of instructional process and outcomes in one hand and to provide more educational opportunity for school-age children in the other hand.  Indonesia implemented free textbook policy as from seventies when the 1968 Curriculum began to operate and the policy continued every time  the Curriculum changed such as for 1975 or 1976, 1984, 1994 and 2004 Curricula. The system of textbook provision has been changing several times but there has been a little progress achieved and similar problems arise year by year. This article discusses how decentralization policy in textbook provision affects the role and the responsibility of the teachers at primary and secondary schools. It is believed that evaluation and selection of textbooks are in the area of instructional technology.


In these last decades, information and communication technology is growing so fast and is also benefited for educational purposes. In instructional processes many schools present information and provide learning experience using high tech media and make learning more convenient and successful. Despite of high tech media development for instructional purposes, textbook as a conventional learning resource is still used in many countries all over the world. Textbooks tend to be the dominant instructional media in the classroom. As textbooks typically deliver the curriculum they are regarded as the single most important instructional material. There is a positive correlation between educational achievements of pupils to the availability of good textbooks. The more availability of good textbooks will contribute to higher scholastic achievement.

As the result, they are central to schooling at all levels (Lockeed & Verspoor, 1990). Modern electronic media seem unable to replace the textbooks totally from the classrooms. Even in certain areas where other learning facilities are still scarce, textbooks become the sole and main learning resource.

As early as 1969 the Indonesian Government had set up a program for the development of primary school textbooks in cooperation with UNICEF and the Canadian Government. It was believed that among the factors depressing quality and efficiency of primary education lack and poor standard of textbooks stood one. It was found out that reading materials in general and textbooks in particular were very rare at almost all schools. The available textbooks contained out of date information and did not meet the curriculum requirements. The pupils largely relied on copied notes and the instructional process was slow resulting in poor learning achievement (Beeby, 1987).

Research findings also revealed the positive correlation between financial burdens to student participation rate at school (Hartono & Parwanto, 1993).  The more financial burden the parents had to bear, the less motivation would they had for sending to or keeping their children at school. One of the financial burdens was cost for textbook they had to pay. The statistical data of the late 1960 showed the low enrollment/participation rate (not more than 35%) in primary and secondary schools (Beeby, 1987).

To solve both quality and quantity problems in primary and secondary schools, the Government of Indonesia (GOI) launched free textbook policy for primary and secondary schools along the First Long Term Development Plan (1969/1970 – 1994/1995). This policy is still being carried out up to the present time when the Government is implementing 2004 Curriculum. Free text book policy became more important and relevant for succeeding basic education program of six years starting in 1984 and nine years starting in 1994.

To reach the target of free textbook provision with the ratio of 1:1 (one book for each pupil) for primary and secondary schools needs a big amount of money as the total population of the schools not less than 42 million.       To finance free textbook program the Government has used World Bank and ADB Loan beside local fund.

Studies on free textbooks provision discovered that the programs did not reach its objectives successfully. The provision of textbooks experienced considerable problems related to both quantity and quality. The number of text free textbooks was seriously limited by the budget; the distribution of this limited number was not targeted to the poor and remote areas; the textbooks were not available at school at the time they were needed; and the quality of textbooks was sometimes lacking (The World Bank, 1995).. Up to 1995 private sector was not allowed to produce official textbooks for the core subjects and it had been aggressively selling its supplementary textbooks directly to schools. Because of the combination of late arrival and lack of free textbooks and discounts on supplementary textbooks, many schools used supplementary textbooks in instructional process and kept the free textbooks in the school libraries.

Learning from the experience in textbook provision year by year from 1969/1970, the Government had improved the policy and the programs in order to minimize the existing problems. From the policy point of view, the previous textbook provision was regarded too centralized and neglected the private publishers’ participation. In 1995 the policy then was modified giving authority and responsibility to Regional Government and schools to select and purchase textbooks for their pupils. The private sectors (publishers bookstores, and forwarders) are invited to participate in free textbook provision.

The reform of textbook policy from centralized to decentralized is expected to contribute to improving production and distribution of more better quality textbooks, their availability in the classroom, and their use by pupils and teachers. But whether this policy reform will automatically solve all textbook problems  is still under a question. This paper discusses the effects of decentralized textbook provision to primary and secondary schools. Particular attention will be given to the teachers’ role in evaluating and selecting textbooks.

Centralized Textbook Policy

Based on the problems faced in free textbook provision the Government (Ministry of Education and Culture, MOEC) developed the policy, strategy, and the programs as necessary which can be summarized as follows.

Table 1: Textbook provision policy1990 – 1996

1 Manuscript development
2 Manuscript evaluation
3 Publishing
4 Printing/Production
5 Distribution
6 Textbook utilization
7 Monitoring & Supervision
8 Fund

When the Government began to operate free textbook policy early in 1970s, the first problem encountered was the scarcity of textbooks available in the market and the quality of the existing textbooks was below standard and did not match the curriculum requirement. The Government therefore appointed a team consisting of experienced teachers and subject specialists from teachers colleges and universities to write and develop manuscripts for each subject in primary and secondary schools. Different teams were also set up to evaluate and test out the manuscripts.

The MOEC published the manuscripts by printing them at private printing houses mostly in Java and distributed to schools by employing private forwarders. Both printing and distributing were done fully under the Government’s cost.

The schools received the textbooks and distributed the textbooks to the pupils on the loan basis and used them in instructional process. Textbook life was expected to last  five years.

All decisions concerning the planning, conducting, and supervising the program of free textbook provision were made at the MOEC in Jakarta

The policy stated above reflected the dominant role of Central Government in free textbook provision. There was no significant authority given to regional offices and schools. The private publishers were not given any opportunity to publish main textbooks but supplementary textbooks and reading books. This policy was implemented in providing free textbooks for 1968, 1975 or 1976, 1984 and 1994 Curricula.

The experiences with this policy indicate:

  1. The government was unable to provide the schools with free textbooks at the time when a new curriculum began to be implemented. It took two to four years to get the books to schools. During the time lag the schools had to find other textbooks (supplementary textbooks produced by private publishers) to support the instructional process.
  2. Due to limited budget, the Government was unable to print and distribute free textbooks in all subjects for each of pupils at primary and secondary school.
  3. The distribution system for textbooks was not effective and the system for monitoring book distribution was also inadequate. The books often arrived late and did not always match local enrollment. The regional offices and the schools were not certain which books were sent from Jakarta and their arrival schedules.
  4. The free textbooks provided by the Government still contained some deficiency in consistency with the curriculum, instructional methodology, language, and illustrations which caused some difficulties for the pupils and students in using them.
  5. Textbooks were officially free for all students but due to insufficient  number and ineffective distribution system, there were only limited number of free textbooks which were normally to schools with schools within easy to reach  leaving the poor and remote schools without free textbooks.
  6. The facts above stated become strong reasons for the schools not to utilize the free textbooks at maximum usage and use supplementary textbooks instead.
  7. The private publishers did not favor the free textbook policy as they considered the policy to lead to monopolizing official textbooks by the Government and give no room for them to participate. The private publishers suffered badly when the Government was producing all official textbooks and this situation weakened the private book industry.

Decentralized Textbook Policy

To improve free textbook provision, the government reformed the policy by allowing the private to produce official textbooks for the core subjects, giving regional offices and schools authority to decide textbooks to be used in the instructional process. The changes of the policy are shown in the following table.

Table 1:Textbook provision policy (1997 –2003)

1 Manuscript development
2 Publishing
3 Manuscript evaluation
4 Selection and purchase
5 Printing/Production
6 Distribution
7 Textbook utilization
8 Monitoring & Supervision
9 Fund

The reformed policy shows the decreasing roles of Central Government and increasing roles of Regional Government, private sectors and schools. In this new system of free textbook provision the Government tends to become the regulator and the private sector the main actors. In details the new policies show as follows.

  1. Private publishers are responsible for writing, developing, printing and publishing the manuscripts to be textbooks.
  2. The Central Government evaluates and selects the textbooks to be official textbooks for each subject at primary and secondary school. The evaluation and the selection are done by National Textbook Evaluation Committee  (NTEC) based on a set of high standards and strict procedures to guarantee that only high quality textbooks will pass the evaluation. The Committee members represent those experts whose achievement, commitment and personal integrity have been acknowledged. The evaluation covers four aspects: quality of content, language, graphical presentation and security (Supriadi, 2000).
  3. As a result of the textbook evaluation the Government issues a list of approved textbooks. The selection and the procurement of the textbook from the list are done through bidding procedures at school level or regional level.
  4. The production and the distribution of textbooks are given to the publishers whose books are selected to be purchased.
  5. The Central and Regional Governments monitor the book procurement and distribution to ensure that the free textbooks reach the school on schedule and are utilized properly in the instructional process.
  6. The Central and Regional Government allocate budget for free textbook provision. Schools are also stimulate to search other financial agents to aid them to provide more textbooks to meet the ratio of 1:1.

The new policies were exercised for the first time in providing free textbooks for Junior Secondary Schools through the Book and Reading Development Project funded by World Bank Loan which was effective from October 1995 – April 2000. Experiences in exercising the new textbook policies show the followings.

  1. The new system of free textbook provision has improved the availability of textbooks at junior secondary schools and has reached the ratio of 1:1. Due inaccurate statistical data, some schools received more textbooks meanwhile other schools got less than they needed.
  2. The evaluation and selection procedures motivate the private publishers to compete in producing better quality textbooks. This policy seems conducive enough in promoting book industry in Indonesia.
  3. The Regional Government and schools do not have enough knowledge and experience and cause time delay in carrying out the new system.
  4. The free textbooks have not been used at maximum and many schools still use supplementary text books supplied by the schools under parents’ cost with various reasons.

The Impact of Decentralized Textbook Provision

In line with the national policy in decentralization as stipulated in the Acts of No 22 /1999 and No 25 /1999, decentralization in textbook provision has strengthened the role and responsibility of Regional Governments and schools to provide and use good quality of textbooks. However recent visits to 8 Primary Schools in Cilegon and Lebak (in Banten Prvince) in August 2005 prove that there is no significant different textbook condition. In 2004 under Block Grant Scheme, all of the schools received fund to purchase Math textbooks allocated in each of the school budgets. However the schools still “forced” the pupils to purchase supplementary text books for Mathematics from the schools with a reason of insufficient number of free textbooks (the ratio is 1:3).  There is no proof that the chosen Math books have been evaluated to ensure that they are of good quality. Additional reason obtained that the Math textbooks approved by the Government were developed based on 1994 Curriculum while the schools are implementing 2004 Curriculum which is different from 1994 Curriculum. According to the teachers the supplementary textbooks are more suitable to meet the requirements 2004 Curriculum. The classroom observation confirms the supplementary textbooks are more frequently used and the free textbooks keep clean in the library. It is also interesting to know that none of the schools selected and purchase the textbooks by themselves using the Block Grant Fund from the school budget. All of them received the Math textbooks from Regional Government (The Office of Education) and collected the fund to Regional Government. This case study concludes that decentralized textbook provision has not worked properly and the textbook condition has not much changed in comparison with the previous policy. Shortly, the classic problems of textbooks remain unsolved.

The book industry in Indonesia is continuing to grow in size, technical competence, and sophistication. It is understandable that even ten years ago a much more important role should be given to the Government for the production of school textbooks, given the weakness of the private sector book industry at the time. Conditions now have changed. Though many inadequacies remain in the book industry, the private sector now has the capability of being the prime actor in the supply of school textbooks. It is undeniable they are more aggressive in promoting and selling their books directly to schools.

The Government has reformed policy in textbook provision. Now and tends to be in the future, under School Based Management and School Committee  more authority is given to schools to make decisions in managing the instructional process including selecting and using the textbooks. The schools therefore should be empowered with technical knowledge to evaluate textbooks and select good quality textbooks. Schools are expected to able to identify good textbooks not only from physical appearance but more from the subject matter, instructional methodology, language, and graphics. Textbook is a learning resource or educational media which should be designed, developed, utilized, managed, and evaluated on the basis of instructional technology. And this is one of the tasks of instructional technologist to be developed.


Althbach, P.G. & Teferra, D. (Eds). (1998). Publishing and development: A book of readings. Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts: Bellagio Publishing Network.

Beeby, C.E. (1987). Pendidikan di Indonesia. Translated by BP3K & YHS. Jakarta; LP3ES

Evaluation Team of Integrated Textbook Project. (1989). Evaluation report on the integrated \textbook project. Unpublished.

Hartono, H.S. & Parwanto. (1995). Studi putus sekolah dan mengulang kelas di pendidikan dasar. Jakarta: Balitbangdikbud.

Plomp. T. & Ely, D.P. (1996). International encyclopedia of educational technology. Oxford: Pergamon

Sitepu, B.P. (1990). Textbook publishing in Indonesia. Jakarta: Ministry of Educationand Culture.

Sitepu, B.P. (1997). Industri buku di Indonesia. Jakarta: Pusat Perbukuan

Supriadi, D. (2000). Anatomi buku sekolah di Indonesia. Yogyakarta: AdiCita

The World Bank. (1995). Book and reading development project. Unpublished.


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