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Vocational schools for all?

Gender favouritism and religious discrimination cause problems at a vocational school


Najib Kailani

najib1.jpg
    Muslims and non-Muslims working together to win the annual
    cooking competition
    Najib Kailan

The Indonesian government is keen to increase the number of vocational schools in the country, seeing them both as a way to enhance the job prospects of school-leavers and as a way to build the human resource base of the country. Vocational schools aim to produce job-ready workers in automotive mechanics. computer software or hardware, accountancy, tourism, office administration and marketing. As elsewhere, in Indonesia they usually specialise a practice that leads to particular schools being dominated by students of a particular sex. Predictably, schools teaching ‘masculine’ skills like automotive mechanics mainly cater to boys while schools teaching office skills or preparing students for other ‘feminine’ occupations like catering are dominated by girls.

Because vocational schools cater to lower socio-economic groups, one might expect them to be inclusive and egalitarian in their school culture. However, the specialisation of vocational schools and their narrow perspectives on religious expression sometimes result in gender favouritism and religious discrimination. In one vocational high school where this was the case, acts of resistance from students and teachers succeeded in partly reversing the trend in the process, making their school culture more accepting of difference.

Gender favouritism

Ridha had planned to study at an academic high school and continue to university, but his family’s economic

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