CHEATING ON NATIONAL EXAM

Annually we like to hear the issue about cheating act conducted by certain schools during the national exam. We can easily blame those schools and their students for dishonest act because it streaks the face of education in Indonesia. To be honest we can’t only blame those schools and their students who involved in such illegal activities. Further as we like to see many polices are involved to take care for the exam questions when it brought into the schools. Maybe we can presume that it will work, but sociologically it doesn’t solve the problem (omitting such illegal activity). The explanation lies in the discussions below.

Mertonian Anomic Deviance and Bourdieuan Capital

Robert Merton listed five ways of adaptation to get goal. He stressed that if there is a disjuncture between structural position and culture then deviance way will be used as a means. In this discussion I will use Merton’s conceptualization of innovation as one of those five deviant acts. Innovation means that the actor uses incorrect way to achieve the accepted goal according to culture. It happens because the actor’s position (structural capacity) is not appropriate to get such goal so there is an acute disjunction between the cultural norms and goals and the socially structured capacities of members of the group to act in accord with them.

Why that actor is not in a good position to gain the goal? Why do they have to act deviantly? Bourdieu’s notion about field and capital can be utilized here. Bourdieu told that in a field there is a competition to beating others for keeping their position or to improve it. Their position in social space is constituted from the amount of capital volume they have. Symbolic capital is one of the most important capital owned through the conversion of other capitals (economic, social, or cultural). The owner of symbolic capital has a legitimation for certain things and of course social honor. Here is a brief description of other capitals:
•Economic capital: money, means of production, and others valuable resource in market
•Cultural capital: knowledge competency, academic qualification
•Social capital: social network

From above brief theoretical description we can discuss the illegal act conducted by schools. The goal of National Exam [cultural goal] is to evaluating whether students are qualified or not to pass their current academic level. This goal is stated in Peraturan Pemerintah RI No.19/2005 chapter 66-72 and has been revised through Peraturan Pemerintah RI No.32/2013. This qualification is depicted through the score of their exam which is the representation of the amount of academic knowledge [cultural capital] they have. Implicitly the qualification of students will depict their school’s qualification to organizing a teaching process. In other word students qualification equals to their school’s competent. That is why National Exam has been the standard of legitimation of school’s prestige and this is the reason why schools are competing one to each other to get an honor (conversion of cultural capital to symbolic capital). Culturally our society is giving a high value in school’s excellent competency for organizing a qualified teaching process therefore to have a legitimacy of such competency is the goal of many schools [cultural goal].

Schools who have enough cultural capital (brilliant students and teachers who can teach a high knowledge) can win the competition through the achievement of their students in National Exam. If they have a high average score in national scale then it’s a guarantee that their students are qualified according to national standard and they can organize a qualified teaching process too. That achievement is a symbolic capital itself. They can get this symbolic capital if they can accomplish the cultural goal. Through this symbolic capital they have a legitimacy to claim and confess that they have a good quality in teaching students and the result of National Exam is the main evidence or in sociological sense they are the best schools where students can get the best output of their cultural capital investment.

How about those schools who lack of cultural capital? Of course their position in the field is lower which shows that their structural capacity is not appropriate to get such goal therefore lacking that capital will hinder their target. They try to get a symbolic capital through deviant act [innovation] like building a cooperation with black agents [social capital] so they can get a resource like the exam questions or key answers so their students can accomplish the national goal [cultural goal] and they can gain a legitimacy as a competent educational organizer [cultural goal]. Actually such deviant act is considered as streaking our education and it’s loathsome. Those schools who lack of cultural capital and try to achieve a cultural goal so they can improve their position in field and gain a symbolic capital.

The Design of National Education

Actually the design of our national education can be considered as the root of cheating practices in educational realm. Standardization through national exam creates a merit environment where schools and students can gain a success through achievement in a free and fair competition. At the same time the fail of students is the mistake of schools so teachers will be blamed. This is the characteristic of competition. As neo fordist theoretical explanation that enterprise culture is created through learning to compete from the earlier stages in life. Sociologically this is the sign where market principle from institution of economy is obsessing into institution of education.

Standardization looks neglect the fact that there is inequality between schools. The analogy is like this. You have two sons. Your older son is 7 years old and his little brother is 2 years old. They want to have a football jersey and of course you buy it for them. Will you buy the same size jersey for them? Of course not because they have different body size. This analogy is fit to our situation because not all schools are equal in the stock of their cultural capital, but they have to compete with the same standard (national standard). The implication of this system is the production and reproduction of inequality. To improve their position and gaining legitimacy certain schools conducted illegal practice and of course it’s affected by our education system. Like our preceding discussion they conducted such practice [innovation] because they have no enough structural capacity to achieve the cultural goal.

In Bourdieuan term the discourse of standardization has become a doxa. Actually doxa is the dominant discourse that is accepted in our society. Why is this happening? Like my previous writing those in power (they have enough capital to have a power in the field) can imposed their principles into other field. In our context of discussion the capitalists can imposed their principles into institution of education and one of their principle is standardization because through which institution of education can filter demanded workers according to capitalistic market indicators. That is why we like to hear that education standard (reflected in curriculum) should be match with the context of capitalistic market. Capitalists can influence the whole life because the capitalistic economy has dominating our life and it’s reflecting Marx’s theoretical argument that the economic system as infrastructure is affecting the other systems [superstructure].

Since standardization is considered as problematic then many scholars give a hard criticism to our education design. They develop a counter discourse [heterodoxa] which is undervalued standardization because it leads to many anti humanist practices. One of English Teacher in certain school said to me that if they failed to help student to reach national standard then the government would blame them. Well it’s not a humanist system because teachers will just become victims. Sociologically the problem is not whether they can reach the national standard to improve our national education accomplishment, but it’s more important to pay more attention to the structure of capital (cultural capital) in our social structure. Since the distribution of capital is far from equal then there shouldn’t be any standardization.

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