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"In Indonesia’s administration, only 6% of the 6,672 primary teachers (Timorese and Indonesian) held the necessary teaching qualifications (Columbia University, 1999). The purpose of the nationwide teacher selection examination appears to have been to cut back on their numbers and, thus, on education budget spending. Such a drastic reduction – down to less than half original numbers – flies in the face of the proclaimed access to primary school education for all children. At 1:55, the teacher/pupil ratio is not one that will enhance quality. The World Bank’s emphasis on quality when it comes to buildings and furniture – and the availability of funding from TFET – do not seem to be echoed in the area of human resources that depend on the current budget." East Timor Observatory
See also: Portuguese: Out 2 2000 OTL: Educação, início do 1º ano escolar em Outubro de 2000  Report

We should all understand that Liberation of the Fatherland is only half the objective of independence.
After independence, Liberation of the People constitutes the other half of the objective of independence.
(Xanana Gusmão, 1999)

East Timor Observatory

Ref.: EDU02-02/10/2000eng

Subject: Education - 1st school year starts in October 2000

The Facts


The physical reconstruction of schools is just one step, apparently the easiest, towards full rehabilitation of the education system. Even in this area, however, there have been delays that will undermine the school year that is about to start. In the 1999-2000 school year, which was a success in terms of numbers of young people attending education structures, there was no set curriculum and schools functioned on an ad hoc basis. Proper educational activity should resume on 2 October. Year 1 will be taught in Portuguese – the language chosen by the CNRT Congress to be the country’s official language. In view of the shortage of teachers qualified to teach in Portuguese, however, other languages, namely Indonesian and Tetum, may be used. From Year 2 to Year 12, lessons will be taught in Indonesian, with the exception of two subjects, Portuguese language and Religious instruction. For financial reasons, the number of primary school teachers has been cut from 6,670 (in 1998-99) to around 3,000. At secondary level, the teacher shortage is a major problem since about 80% of the staff had been Indonesian. While the World Bank-UNTAET-CNRT plan has been concentrating on re-launching primary and secondary education, pressure from university students appears to have been behind the decision to reopen higher education as well.


Since over 75% of buildings used for educational purposes had been destroyed in last year’s violence, the World Bank-TFET was obliged to channel most of the education sector’s resources into physical reconstruction. However, a major legacy of Indonesia’s occupation could be the divisions that have now emerged in Timorese society over the question of language: Timorese of over 30 years of age are in favour of Tetum and Portuguese, while younger people would prefer the adoption of Tetum and Indonesian. The current structure of Tetum, the lingua franca of both groups, makes it unsuitable as the country’s official language. Adoption of Portuguese as the official language and teaching medium could place the Timorese who were educated under the Indonesian system at a disadvantage, and cause them to feel frustrated and marginalized by the reconstruction process. The temporary solution of using more than one teaching language places an added burden on a fledgling system already undermined by material and human resources shortages.

The facts:

1. Reconstruction-revitalisation programmes

On the basis of proposals put forward by the CNRT, UNTAET and World Bank, and in order to facilitate and co-ordinate the development of educational activities, an educational sector plan was designed and summarized in the form of a Matrix of East Timorese Educational Development Activities for the Transitional Period (2000-2002), which will cover the following major activity areas:
a. restoring primary and secondary school attendance
b. establishing national consensus concerning mission, vision, and key policies
c. establishing a National Education Authority and East Timor School System
d. developing pilot programs for early childhood education
e. developing adult education and training programs
f. revitalizing primary education
g. revitalizing secondary education
h. revitalizing post-secondary education
i. providing human resource development for educational personnel (including teacher training)
j. developing national cultural and sports programs (World Bank, 27-5-2000)

The School System Revitalization Program developed with support from the Trust Fund and other donors, concentrates on activity areas (f) and (g) of the Matrix. The phasing of these projects is to lead to progressive quality improvements:

* Phase 1: "basic operational level". All children will have access to clean, safe and covered schools, equipped with furniture, books and other teaching materials, and staffed by teachers and principals who have received at least minimal training.
* Phase 2: "fundamental quality level". New buildings will replace those beyond repair, existing buildings will be upgraded to a comparable standard of quality, permanent furniture will replace temporary furniture, and school councils will be strengthened.
* Phase 3: "enhanced quality level". At this level, school-community councils will be given the responsibility to manage a block grant for school improvement, giving them choice over how to enhance school quality. This will encourage parents, teachers and other community members to take more responsibility for school results. Support could also be given to professional support programs for teachers consistent with East Timorese educational policy

Reconstruction of school physical infrastructures will be the most costly component of this project (World Bank, 27-5-2000).

2. Reconstruction

a. Only 23 of the 57 classrooms nominated by the district education committees for re-roofing under the UNICEF re-roofing programme had actually been completed (UNTAET Report 3-5 May 2000).

b. "The urgent reconstruction of school buildings must be the main objective of any emergency education project at this time – without safe, covered school buildings there can be no formal education (…) UNICEF, USAID, the PKF, along with several bilaterals and NGOs have an emergency program for replacing roofs on approximately 2,700 classrooms (…)". Rebuilding school physical infrastructures will be implemented by UNTAET/CNRT through cooperative agreements with UNICEF and the TFET - financed Project Management Unit (World Bank, 27-5-2000).

c. The first TFET education project, in coordination with UNICEF, aims to ensure that 2,100 primary and junior secondary classrooms are roofed and have furniture, basic textbooks and teaching-learning materials by October. Other rehabilitation works will be carried out between September and December. The project will also complete the design of 4 prototype schools to replace those, which have been demolished: works for these schools should start at the end of the year (World Bank, 1-7-2000).

d. There are concerns about the delayed implementation of the WB School Rehabilitation Program, which is supposed to be completed for the start of the next school year. The assessment of schools to be repaired is ongoing, but no indication has been given as to actual progress being made. (UNTAET, 6-13 July 2000).

e. The La’o Hamutuk project criticises the fact that while UNTAET’s report stated that 98% of primary school children were back in school, it reported that schools in many areas still lacked roofs, but failed to consider how the absence of roof cover would affect the viability of those schools (La’o Hamutuk Bulletin, 17-7-00).

f. In the last week of July, UNICEF announced that the following week could see the start of the programme’s second phase, which had been delayed for several months due to logistical problems. The aim was to re-roof some 800 classrooms by the end of the year (UNTAET Report, 20-27 July 2000).

3. Re-launching Education – 1999/2000 an ad hoc school year

a. Teachers began to work on a voluntary basis in view of the urgency to get children back into school (see ET Observatory EDU01). Later on, they were paid by UNICEF through its education committees and/or received food aid. As from April 2000, teachers’ earnings rose from 150,000 to 300,000 rupiahs [3,700 to 7,400 Escudos] per month. (UNTAET Report, 3-5 May 2000). As from July, UNTAET took over payment of teachers’ salaries.

b. At least 80% of the 2,000 secondary school teachers, mostly Indonesians, fled to West Timor in the wake of the September violence and had not returned (Sydney Morning Herald, 6-5-2000).

c. With neither curriculum nor learning-teaching material [and no decision on the language of teaching], educational activity in the 1999-2000 school year was carried out on an ad hoc basis. 6,929 teachers were involved, teaching 173,259 pupils in 752 schools in the 13 districts (UNTAET Report, 24-26 May 2000) – 6,000 more pupils than in the previous school year [East Timor Update, May-June 2000].

d. In an effort to encourage school attendance, the FAO, in cooperation with CARE, CARITAS, World Vision, UNTAET and the district education committees, distributed food in schools in Dili, Baucau, Covalima, Aileu, Ermera and Oecussi. In Dili district, only dry food was distributed to 68 schools for a total of 26,000 children (UNTAET Report, 24-29 June 2000).

e. "Teachers so far have not received a regular salary. The only incentive most have received to date has been a small stipend (around US$20 per month) and an allocation of rice, provided by UNICEF and the World Food Program" (World Bank, 26-6-2000). On 12 July, UNICEF completed the payment of primary school teachers’ cash incentives, with a total number of beneficiaries reaching 6,961. The total cost of the incentive programme since its inception is estimated to have reached US$1.33 million (UNTAET Report, 6-13 July 2000).

4. Teacher training initiatives and programmes

a. National teacher training programme: UNICEF conducted a teacher-training seminar from 1 to 12 May. The participants (29 teachers from the 13 districts) are expected to return to their districts and act as trainers to other teachers (UNTAET Report, 3-5 May 2000). One aspect of the training focused on demonstrating how no-cost alternatives can be used in classrooms, and how children can be more actively involved in the education process (UNTAET Report, 17-19 May 2000). UNICEF will conduct follow-up visits with the teachers to assess the programme’s impact (US Funds for UNICEF, 31-5-2000).

b. Other training projects: The Portuguese Education Ministry, in cooperation with the Portuguese Universities Foundation, sent 42 Portuguese language teachers to Timor. 31 are in Dili and 11 in Baucau (East Timor Transition Support Commission, 1-6-2000). Australia, Brazil and Finland are also involved in teacher training schemes for East Timor.

5. The language issue

a. The choice of the official and national language has led to deep divisions within the Timorese community. The CNRT leadership favours the adoption of Portuguese (Xanana Gusmão said it was: "fundamental for our identity"), while Tetum would need 10-15 years to modernise (AAP, 5-5-2000). Many young people, especially those schooled under Indonesian rule and, therefore, educated in Bahasa Indonesia, hold a different view. The first Timorese students’ congress called for Tetum to be the national language, and for English, Portuguese, Indonesian and Tetum to be official languages used during the Transition phase (3-5 years), after which time Tetum should be the country’s national and official language (First Congress of ET Students Solidarity Council - ETSSC, 28-7-2000). Other young people favour English as the main language, arguing that it would better serve East Timor in international commerce and diplomacy. While they accept Tetum as the national tongue, they also see a role for Indonesian language (BBC News, 30.8.2000).

b. At the CNRT Congress, Portuguese was officially adopted as the official language and Tetum as the territory’s national language. One of the speakers who vehemently upheld the CNRT position was Australian linguist Geoffrey Hull, who argued that without Portuguese, it would be hard for Tetum to survive: "I am in favour of Portuguese in this country because I am in favour of Tetum. I know that for its survival Tetum needs Portuguese" (Diário Económico, 30-8-2000).

6. First school year

A) Schools and pupils
a. In view of the conditions in which the 1999-2000 school year took place, it is likely that many students will have to repeat the year in 2000-2001. This means that enrolments, especially in Year 1, are likely to be double the usual number (World Bank, 27-5-2000).
b. With the October return-to-school, 604 primary, 99 junior secondary and 23 senior secondary level educational communities ought to be fully operational. Nonetheless, not even half of the 2,100 classrooms that are to be rebuilt by the World Bank will be ready by Christmas because, according to Social Affairs Minister Filomeno Jacob, the process is way behind schedule (Jornal de Notícias, 30-8-2000).
c. The next school year starts on 2 October. 197,000 pupils have already enrolled: Year 1: 60,000, Year 2: 28,000, Year 3: 24,000, Year 4: 20,000, Year 5: 17,000, Year 6: 16,000, Year 7: 9,000, Year 8: 7,000, Year 9: 6,000, Year 10: 4,000, Year 11: 3,000, Year 12: 3,000 (Diário de Notícias, 30-8-2000).

B) Curriculum and materials
a. In view of the absence of a new national curriculum and new curricular materials, it was agreed that for Years 2 to 12 Indonesian language materials would be used as a transitional measure (except for religion and language teaching) [one subject in each Year will be Portuguese language]. The textbooks (selected by local education committees with guidance from UNTAET/CNRT) will be purchased directly from Indonesian publishers. They will, however, have newly designed covers and include a local preface, and any inappropriate content will be eliminated. For Year 1, picture books will be procured from international publishers (World Bank, 27-5-2000).
b. To offset the shortage of [Portuguese] books, the East Timor Transition Support Commission is sending 5,000 copies of the Portuguese-Tetum dictionary and 260,000 school textbooks selected by the Education Ministry (East Timor Transition Support Commission, 1-6-2000).

C) Teachers
a. It was decided to test teachers by means of a national exam and take the best qualified into the National Teaching Service (World Bank, 27-5-2000). 6,000 primary teachers had registered to sit the exam, designed by Timorese teachers recommended by the CNRT, and held on 29 May 2000. Candidates were tested in pedagogy, civics, arithmetic, social studies and science by means of a multiple-choice answer test in Indonesian language. The answer papers were sent to Australia for marking and evaluation, which would not be on a strict pass-fail basis but, instead, would take into account both the teachers’ test results and their qualifications, and rank them by region. In view of the high rates of malaria, dengue fever, etc., there would have to be a pool of supply teachers (East Timor Update, May-June 2000).
b. It is not possible to employ all the teachers and healthcare workers who were receiving stipends from humanitarian agencies, the UN and Red Cross. These payments by humanitarian agencies were criticised by Valdivieso [IMF head for East Timor]: "The wage was much higher than had been envisaged", and were up to 50% more than the wage paid to the average teacher in Indonesia (Dow Jones Newswires, 21-7-2000).
c. 3,000 primary school teachers were selected and allocated (on the basis of numbers of students per district) to schools. Teacher allocation for secondary schools was underway (UN Newservice, 24-7-2000).
d. "…An estimated 3,000 teachers, less than half of the existing number, are supposed to cover both primary and secondary education for the next school year. Independent sources of funding will be required to supplement the original plan." (UNTAET, 9-8-2000).
e. This school year, 150 Portuguese teachers will be supporting Timorese teachers (Público, 25-8-2000).

D) University Education
a. The Indonesian Government has agreed to offer scholarships to about 160 Timorese students who had been previously studying at Indonesian universities. They were selected, on the basis of scholarly achievement, from among hundreds of Timorese students wishing to continue their university education in Indonesia. Of the remaining Timorese students applying to return to Indonesian universities to complete their studies, several hundred would be selected (by UNTAET in coordination with the ET Students’ Union) to receive study grants being offered by the Japanese Government and the Ford Foundation.
b. The University of Dili will open in early October, when the new academic year officially begins. It is still not clear, however, who will be substituting the Indonesian teachers. João da Silva Sarmento (Coordinator of the Students’ Council) complained that: "Tertiary education has been abandoned – it is not in the least a UNTAET priority" (AAP, 31-8-2000).
c. On 6 September, the Transitional Cabinet agreed to the allocation of US$1,320,000 from the Education budget to the University of East Timor so that it may open in October for the 2000/2001 year. The decision was endorsed on 8 September by the National Consultative Council (UNTAET Briefing, 11-9-2000).
d. Some 3,000 students have enrolled for classes starting in mid-October. Only 500 will be newly arrived from secondary education (UNTAET, 11-12-9-2000).

7. Various aid

Several donor countries are contributing multilaterally to the World Bank Trust Fund for East Timor as well as to UN education agencies. Japan and Portugal are making bilateral contributions towards study grants, teachers’ training, and Portuguese language promotion.


1. With regard to the delays in rebuilding basic education infrastructure, the excellent intentions underlying the School System Revitalisation Program supported by the World Bank did not materialise, largely on account of the weighty bureaucracy involved. The Program was only given final approval in June, when there was no longer enough time left in which to complete schools rehabilitation in time for the start of the school year in October.

2. The same may be said regarding the preparation of a national curriculum and supply of teaching-learning materials. However, issues such as the choice of language and teacher training exacerbated the difficulties in those areas even further.

3. In Indonesia’s administration, only 6% of the 6,672 primary teachers (Timorese and Indonesian) held the necessary teaching qualifications (Columbia University, 1999). The purpose of the nationwide teacher selection examination appears to have been to cut back on their numbers and, thus, on education budget spending. Such a drastic reduction – down to less than half original numbers – flies in the face of the proclaimed access to primary school education for all children. At 1:55, the teacher/pupil ratio is not one that will enhance quality. The World Bank’s emphasis on quality when it comes to buildings and furniture – and the availability of funding from TFET – do not seem to be echoed in the area of human resources that depend on the current budget.

4. The decision to re-launch higher education in October was taken at the last minute in response to pressure from Timorese students. If the shortage of teachers is a major obstacle at secondary education level (80% were Indonesian), the problem is more serious at higher education level. These major restrictions ought to be very much in the forefront of the organisation of secondary and higher education. They are setbacks that could lead to negative repercussions in the future.

Note: Documents and information relating to this subject have been compiled between 1-5-2000 and 30-9-2000 by the East Timor Observatory in a 32-page thematic Dossier entitled “Education – ref. EDU02”. The Dossier, which is the 2nd on Education, and/or further information may be ordered from the East Timor Observatory.

Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor's transition process a programme by the 'Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere'
Coordinator: Cláudia Santos 
Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE -  1069-069     Lisboa - Portugal
ph.: 351 1 317 28 60  -  fax: 351 1 317 28 70  -  e-mail:

Observatório Timor Leste  Updated Jan 25
Duas Organizações Não Governamentais portuguesas, a COMISSÃO PARA OS DIREITOS DO POVO MAUBERE (CDPM) e o grupo ecuménico A PAZ É POSSÍVEL EM TIMOR LESTE que, desde o início da década de oitenta, se solidarizam com a causa do Povo de Timor Leste, tomaram a decisão de criar o OBSERVATÓRIO TIMOR LESTE. A vocação do Observatório Timor Leste é, no quadro das recentes alterações do regime de Jacarta face a Timor Leste, o acompanhamento, a nível internacional, do processo negocial e, no interior do território, do inevitável período de transição que se anuncia.
correio electrónico:  URL:

East Timor Observatory  Updated Jan 25
ETO was set up by two Portuguese NGOs - the Commission for the Rights of the Maubere People (CDPM) and the ecumenical group Peace is Possible in East Timor,  which have been involved in East Timor solidarity work since the early eighties. The aim of the Observatory was to monitor East Timor's transition process, as well as the negotiating process and its repercussions at international level, and the developments in the situation inside the territory itself.
E-mail:  Homepage:

Observatoire Timor-Oriental  Updated Jan 25
Deux Organisations Non Gouvernementales portugaises, la ‘Commission pour les Droits du Peuple Maubere’ et l’association oecuménique "La Paix est Possible au Timor Oriental", qui se solidarisent avec la cause du peuple du Timor Oriental depuis le début des années 80, ont pris la décision de créer un OBSERVATOIRE TIMOR ORIENTAL. La vocation de cet observatoire est d’accompagner le processus de transition du Timor Oriental, aussi bien le processus de négociation que ses répercussions au niveau international et l’évolution de la situation à l’intérieur du territoire.
courrier électronique:  URL:

See also:

Out 2 2000 OTL: Educação, início do 1º ano escolar em Outubro de 2000  Report added June 27
"Sob a administração indonésia, apenas 6% dos 6672 professores primários (timorenses e indonésios) possuíam as habilitações curriculares necessárias ao ensino (Columbia University, 1999). O teste de selecção ao qual foram submetidos os professores parece essencialmente visar a redução do seu número e, assim, do seu peso sobre o orçamento da educação. O corte drástico, para menos de metade dos efectivos, contradiz a proclamação do acesso à escola primária para todas as crianças. A relação professor/alunos, 1/55, não é de molde a melhorar a qualidade. As exigências do Banco Mundial para a qualidade das construções e mobílias – e financiamentos implícitos oriundos do TFET- não parecem ter equivalente nos meios humanos que dependem do orçamento corrente." Observatório Timor Leste

BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' - A collection of recent press releases, reports, and articles

BD: Financing Reconstruction in East Timor - A collection of recent reports and articles

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