Joy and anxiety as Indonesia cancels national exams amid COVID-19 pandemic

Indonesia’s Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim. Photo: Education and Culture Ministry
Indonesia’s Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim. Photo: Education and Culture Ministry

The Indonesian government and House of Parliament (DPR) have agreed to scrap the annual national exams, locally known as Ujian Nasional or UN for short, amid the novel coronavirus outbreak in one of the most significant cancelations thus far in the country.

Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim confirmed the cancelation today.

“For the Education and Culture Ministry, the most important thing is the safety and health of our students, their families, and their grandparents,” Nadiem said, as quoted by Kompas.

Eight million students from elementary school to high school were supposed to take part in UN this year. In its place, the government and DPR are reportedly tossing up between handing students final grades based on cumulative academic and extracurricular performances, or holding a nationwide online national exam, presumably from home.

The cancelation also means that UN as we know it, which heavily favored memorization over critical thinking, is officially gone as it was set to be replaced by a character assessment of students, as well as their literacy and mathematical abilities, starting in 2021.

On social media, the cancelation of this year’s UN was met with a mixture of elation that there will be no exams, and concern that the effects of the coronavirus outbreak have become this serious.

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