Education and human rights activists are urging the Indonesian government to revise university admission standards that they say discriminate against the disabled.
The activists said entrance requirements set by the National Higher Education Entrance Exam for courses at several dozen Indonesian universities clearly discriminate against speech-, sight- and hearing-impaired students.
The provisions apply to 62 state universities that accept students through the standardized entrance exam, and particularly discriminates against disabled students wishing to study professional courses like dentistry or architecture.
“It is morally flawed policy,” Doni Koesoema, an education advocate, said in a press conference in Jakarta on Monday.
Doni said the requirement has deliberately limited the rights of disabled people to access higher education.
The government must understand that there is a difference between the rights to education with the demands of a related profession, he said.
"Restricting access to education cannot be justified, though we admit that there are a number of specific requirements for each profession," he added.
For example, he said that while an architect is required to be able to see clearly, this shouldn’t preclude a qualified visually-impaired student from studying architecture.
“It’s a demand of the profession. But it does not limit the group with disabilities who are visually impaired to learn about architecture," he said.
The government should be more respectful of persons with disabilities, he added.
Retno Listyarti , secretary general of the United Federation of Teachers Indonesia, said that if students have sufficient intellectual capacity, "there should be no restrictions on entry to state universities by reason of physical deficiencies”.
Meanwhile, Febi Yonesta, director of the Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta, said an education policy that discriminates against the disabled is contrary to the Indonesian constitution, which ensures that education is the right of every citizen.
He said the institute was prepared to provide legal assistance to disabled groups who intend to challenge the policy.
“The policy is a step backwards and has violated so many principles of law that have been agreed upon,” Yonesta said, adding that the policy “betrayed … the intellectual life of the nation”.
Responding to such protest Bambang Herman, spokesman of higher education national committee, said the committee will review its current regulations in lights of the criticisms.
“The requirements listed are meant to ensure students’ success in studying on courses that interest them," he told ucanews.com.
He said the policy is not meant to discriminate against anyone.
“Therefore, this policy is open to change,” he said.