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Cablegate: East Java: President Yudhoyono Opens Education Day Amid

VZCZCXRO3852
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0061 1350909
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140909Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0216
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0114
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0202
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0221
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0112

UNCLAS SURABAYA 000061

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, EAP/PD, ECA/P/A

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SOCI SCUL KPAO OEXC OIIP PGOV ID
SUBJECT: EAST JAVA: PRESIDENT YUDHOYONO OPENS EDUCATION DAY AMID
STUDENT PROTESTS

1. (U) Summary: President Yudhoyono visited East Java May 12-13
May for National Education Day opening ceremonies at Airlangga
University in Surabaya. The President was greeted by
small-scale student protests calling for reduction in fuel and
food prices, expulsion of foreign oil companies and a solution
to the Sidoarjo mudflow disaster. Consulate Surabaya attended
opening ceremonies at which the President put forward a vision
for Indonesian education, albeit in broad strokes. With the
national spotlight on local education, East Java officials have
admitted that illiteracy is a significant problem. End Summary

2. (U) Police prevented a few hundred student protestors
greeting the Presidential motorcade from entering the campus at
Airlangga University. The students held signs demanding a
reduction in fuel and food prices, a new government economic
team, an end to foreign oil and gas operations and finally a
solution to the Sidoarjo mudflow disaster. The protestors
represented various local universities and a wide range of
student groups including: The Indonesian Muslim University
Student Committee for Action (KAMMI); The Indonesian Muslim
Students Association (HMI); The Nadhlatul Ulama Student Movement
(PMII); The National Movement of Indonesian University Students
(GMNI); and The Christian University Student's Movement (GMKI).
No mention was made of the protests at the ceremony.

Awards for "Educational Heroes"
---------------------------------

3. (U) In a 12 May speech opening ceremonies on Indonesia's
National Education Day, President Yudhoyono praised the teachers
of Indonesia particularly those who "struggle in isolated
areas--they are the real heroes." In his introductory remarks,
the Minister of Education Bambang Sudibyo explained that East
Java had made strides in education and Airlangga is a leading
university and a natural fit for the event. The Governors of
Central Java, West Sumatra and Riau were also given awards for
excellence in managing education in their provinces.

A Vision Built on Buzzwords
---------------------------

4. (U) After thanking the teachers of Indonesia for their hard
work, the President explained the desired goals of educational
reform without offering a detailed plan. In a speech peppered
with English buzzwords, the president exhorted educators to
produce students who are: "self-generating", "self-developing"
and "independent." He stressed that Indonesia must foster a
"critical mass" of citizens who can create a "knowledge-based
society", full of "intellectual curiosity." A "world class
university" and an "open university" are key parts of the
strategy, he said. Apparently referring to resolve and
determination, the President called on his audience not to be
either (in English) "permissive" (or now in Indonesian) "lunak"
(soft). "A permissive nation cannot become a developed nation".
Having set these goals, the President was vague on how they
might be achieved.

East Java Can't Read
--------------------

5. (U) 4.5 million East Javans over the age of 15 are
illiterate, making the province among the least literate in
Indonesia according to Head of East Java Education and Culture
Office Rasiyo, as quoted by local media on May 11. Bambang
Sudibyo, the Minister of Education told local media that
illiteracy in East Java is 11.97 percent, well beyond the
national average of 5 percent. Rasiyo reminded the press that
since 75 percent or 3.5 million illiterate citizens are 65 or
older, many lack the motivation to learn at this point in their
lives. The highest rates of illiteracy are found in the
Regencies of Malang, Probolinggo, Sumenep and Pamekasan. East
Java is ranked fifth in illiteracy behind Papua, West Nusa
Tenggara, South Sulawesi and Bali. Education Minister Sudibyo
said that reducing the rate is "homework" for East Java's
Education and Culture Office.

MCCLELLAND

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