Mon, 11/10/2008 11:56 AM
Daryl Forde, Contributor, Jakarta
A number of schools have nowadays offered quality education as well as teaching more advanced schooling curricula to improve student performance. The good schools, however, are the educational institutions which also provide professional development opportunities for their teachers and staff.
Education is a prerequisite to development. Quality education will equip people with the knowledge and skills to improve their way of life, to protect themselves from illness, to enhance their professional opportunities, and to take an active role in the family, the community and, in a larger extent, the human kinship.
Equally important, education contributes to attitude change in people which in all countries and sectors is one of the biggest challenges to development. Emphasis on education emerges as a must for any nation’s development.
Many parents now opt for enrolling their children in schools with curricula which are internationally recognized. They look for a quality education that will allow individuals to maximize their learning objectives, but that will also encourage additional training to ensure that they are valued enough in the job market.
Quality education is indeed a significant key for children’s success. Concern about the quality of education has been expressed by philosophers, politicians, parents and educators for centuries.
The concern stems from how individuals perceive the role and nature of education in society and it is a concern that will doubtless continue to exist. Over the past decade, there has been a resurgence of interest on how to improve the content of specific subjects, particularly language learning, science and mathematics.
Many countries have revised syllabi in these subjects in order to improve student performance. This focus on content has been very successful in those countries where the attainment of knowledge is regarded as the most important ingredient of a quality education. And to ensure that the quality is maintained, a standard of performance by students is measured by regular testing and the use of standardized benchmarks.
In his new book, Five Minds for the Future, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner describes the need to develop five kinds of minds of ways of thinking and acting that must be offered to students today. Three are related to the intellect: the disciplined, synthesizing and creative minds; two emphasize character: the respectful and ethical minds. Gardner argues very persuasively that the tools of knowledge from one discipline are not sufficient any longer to answer the questions of an increasingly globalized world.
What is needed is interdisciplinary expertise and teams working on common goals to come up with solutions that are creative and wise. A quality education must foster intellectual development and students must be able to distinguish what is relevant and meaningful from the mass of available information. Schools must give students opportunities to take a risk and to take chances to think differently and in non-orthodox ways. It takes courage and a creative mind to challenge the existing orthodoxy. Creative people take chances. Schools must also encourage real respect for cultural differences and demand that students reflect on the quality of their work.
Enhancing the learning environment means blending concept, fact, knowledge and application. There are characteristics to enhance the learning environment. These include a focus on effort and positive attitudes to learning, the use of new tools and approaches to learning and teaching and adopting accelerated learning strategies for those who need to “”catch up”” or for those who should advance at a quicker pace.
There should also efforts to improving the quality of assessment and feedback to students and parents, shared knowledge about best practice as well as energetic and sustained leadership by all. A main role of the school is to ensure balance in all areas and that in this era of international educational reform we use our experience as educators to ensure that students receive an education that will effectively prepare them for the next stage of their learning and give them the skills and the knowledge to make them confident to tackle the unknown challenges of the 21st century.
Selecting the good or right schools for the children may be easy for some parents but hard for the others. ANPS, however, has set the characteristics of good schools to help parents choosing educational institutions. Among the characteristics are whether the school has developed, documented, published, and implemented a set of clear policies, knowledge of and respect for Indonesian cultural values, diversity, and the natural environment, using both Indonesian and English as educational language, professional development and developing and applying national and international learning outcomes in their curriculum framework.
Other characteristics include whether the school emphasizes student-centered learning and has the resources and facilities to achieve learning outcomes. The Association of National Plus Schools has now 64 member schools. Nine members, including Sekolah Tiara Bangsa – ACS (International), Sekolah Bina Nusantara, Sekolah Global Jaya, Sekolah Ichthus, Sekolah Victory Plus, all in Jakarta, Buah Hati-Cita Hati and Sekolah Ciputra in Surabaya, Sekolah Bogor Raya in Bogor and Sekolah Pelita Harapan in Sentul have been accredited as satisfying such characteristics.
Leaders in ANPS schools were aware of the importance of effective and dynamic practices in promoting successful and sustained change. At their annual conference, school leaders participate in a series of meetings which help them to shape and sculpt a vision of educational quality educational for the future. They are also encouraged to develop a professional learning community in their schools. Quality schools have quality leaders.
ANPS also provides information via seminars, and workshops for teachers to engage in practices and activities that foster not only their own growth but also assists the emotional and personal growth of their students.
Founded in 2000, the ANPS aims to promote and develop quality education in Indonesian schools, provide professional development opportunities for teachers and staff, create a forum in which practitioners and leaders could discuss common educational issues as well as extend the means by which educational quality standards could be established and monitored. Information about ANPS is available at www.anpsonline.org.
–The writer is Chairperson of the Association of National Plus Schools in Indonesia (ANPS) and also the Executive Principal of Sekolah Tiara Bangsa – ACS (International) in Jakarta.