Pada tahun 2005, saya merasa beruntung berada di Indonesia saat upaya reformasi guru dimulai. Parlemen Indonesia menetapkan sebuah undang-undang komprehensif mengenai guru disertai agenda yang besar. Program utamanya adalah sertifikasi yang bertujuan meningkatkan kesejahteraan sekaligus kualitas guru secara signifikan. Guru yang telah menerima sertifikasi akan menerima gaji dua kali lipat. Syarat sertifikasi adalah memiliki gelar S1 serta kompetensi untuk memberikan pendidikan yang berkualitas.
Semua bahan untuk melakukan perubahan besar sepertinya tersedia. Regulasi yang bagus, dan upaya yang dipimpin seseorang yang mengepalai sebuah direktorat baru di Kementerian Pendidikan dengan mandat khusus untuk meningkatkan kualitas guru dan staf pendidik.
In 2005, I had the great fortune of being in Indonesia just as its major teacher reform effort was beginning to take off. Indonesia’s parliament had passed a comprehensive law on teachers, along with its ambitious agenda. Its signature program of certification intended to dramatically improve both teacher welfare and quality. Certified teachers would receive a doubling of salary, and certification was to require that teachers hold a four-year degree and demonstrate possession of competencies necessary to provide good quality education.
The key ingredients for major change seemed in place. Good legislation, and an effort led by a dynamic champion who headed a newly established directorate in the Education Ministry, with the specific mandate of improving the quality of teachers and of educational staff.
The December export numbers for China showed a 2.8 percent decline from the year before. This was the worst showing in a decade, but better than the 4-5 percent decline expected by the business press. There is still plenty of cause for worry, as economist and blogger Brad Setser wrote in a recent post, "This really doesn’t look good". While Setser is talking about the breath-taking drop in Korean and Taiwanese exports in December, some of those exports normally would be on their way to China for further processing and re-export. So, the grim news from those economies in December probably presages more tough times ahead for China's exports.
In this deteriorating global environment, the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank's Beijing office last week held a seminar with some very good international and Chinese economists to discuss China’s macroeconomic policy options. While the economists had a wide range of views, I took away a pretty strong consensus from them on three things:
Soaring food prices have suddenly become a major concern for policy makers in East Asia. The price of rice - which provides one third of the region's caloric intake - is a particular worry. Rice prices have been moving higher since around 2004, although this was from very depressed levels in the early years of the decade. Prices surpassed $300 a ton in early 2006 for the first time since the late 1990s, kept moving higher, and then took off at an accelerating pace from late 2007: up 11 percent in the the fourth quarter, then 56 percent in the first quarter of 2008 an