Democracy should not become known as something specific that differs from state to state and from culture to culture, because such particularization of democracy often turns into a tactic by which those holding power justify anti-democratic measures and political violence, in the name of the specific culture or history of the nation in question.
Democracy is best taught as a universal value that applies everywhere and does not differ from nation to nation. The following points, however, should be noted:
In KID circles this approach is known by the term 'contextual democracy'(demokrasi kontekstual).
On the other hand, KID believes that the essence of democracy is expansion in the people's participation in politics. But participation alone is insufficient unless it is accompanied by ability in the discourse of democracy, For that reason, the ideal form of democracy is attained in the balance between the quantity of participation and the quality of discourse.
Choice of a District as the location for a School was based on the consideration that people living at a lower administrative level experienced political isolation during the New Order as a result of the floating mass policy, which prohibited political parties from carrying out political activities below the District level. It was hoped that the Democracy Schools would break through this situation of political ignorance with education in democracy.
Democracy School participants were recruited from four target groups that were seen as the four pillars of democracy, namely, political parties, the government bureaucracy, the business world and civil community organizations. Democracy Schools were conducted in each place by an implementing agency, which was recruited in a public and transparent manner from local organizations for a period of three years.
At present there are eight Democracy Schools, all located at the District level: the School in Banyuasin, which has now been moved to Ogan Ilir (Province of South Sumatra); the School in Tangerang (Province of Banten); the School in Malang, which has now been moved to Batu (Province of East Java); the Jeneponto School, which has now been moved to Pangkep (Province of South Sulawesi); the Lembata School, which has now been moved to Belu, Timor (Province of East Nusa Tenggara); Lhokseumawe (Province of Aceh), Sanggau (Province of West Kalimantan) and Jayapura (Province of Papua).
School participants do not have to pay fees but they must be local residents, be aged between 21 and 40, have a Senior High School education or the equivalent, have a commitment to expansion in democracy and have a reference from a local institution. It is obligatory for 30 percent of participants to be women. During the first three years of the Schools each class was limited to 30 participants, while for the second three-year period the number has been raised to 35.
The number of teaching hours per year averages between 250 and 300 hours in class and 150 hours outside class. In-class activities focus on basic knowledge and the values of democracy and are founded on modules prepared by KID and on local modules prepared by each School. Out-of-class activities develop democracy skills in the form of participation in talk shows on local TV or radio, sharing opinions with the local government or community, and visits to villages.
By 2009 the Democracy Schools had produced 586 alumni, of whom 200 were women. If seen in terms of the four pillars of the Democracy Schools, the distribution was as follows: 94 persons came from political parties, 321 persons from NGOs, 62 persons from business circles and 109 persons from the bureaucracy.
When the 2009 General Elections were held, 86 alumni took part in the legislative elections at District level. Nine people won seats in these legislative elections, eight for the District-level DPR, and one woman graduate for the provincial-level DPR in South Sumatra. In addition, one alumnus is now the Chairman of the General Election Commission for the Province of East Java.
Each School obviously faces specific problems in its own District and solutions must be thought about. Now, after several years, each School has developed outstanding features that in nature are specific to the region. The Malang Democracy School is skilled in guiding effective communications with hardline groups in East Java. The Democracy School in Lembata is adept in utilizing traditional-law institutions in the democratization process, and the Democracy School in Banyuasin has succeeded in gaining the support of the mass media for its programs.
The presence of the Democracy Schools has not always been accepted with open arms since an attitude of scepticism has appeared here and there. Can this small step have any effect on political change in Indonesia? In KID's view, this is not a theoretical question but one that must be answered in a practical way. The Democracy Schools constitute a practical way in which to answer.
For more information about KID Democracy Schools, please download our publication 'KID Democracy Schools 2006-2010: Lessons Learned from 5 provinces in Indonesia'