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The Education and Culture Ministry’s decision to evaluate the current school-based curriculum, Kurikulum Tingkat Satuan Pendidikan (KTSP) used in elementary, junior and senior high schools should be commended.
First, as far as curriculum theory is concerned, evaluation is a vital component that cannot be excluded in any educational system. Evaluation reflects an attempt to discover drawbacks in the implementation of a curriculum as well as to sustain quality assurance.
In other words, it is sort of an a posteriori validation of the merits and demerits of the present curriculum. Through a rigorous, systematic and well-prepared evaluation, the efficacy of the contents of the curriculum can be untangled and the extent to which they meet the instructional objectives can be revealed.
The classroom is like a microcosm of society that is dynamic and mutable, and is always in a constant state of change. The corollary of this is that predetermined contents of the curriculum cannot always be capable of catering to the evolving needs of their users, most notably students and teachers.
Curriculum evaluation is thus indubitably called for in order to reduce or minimize any possible gaps created by classroom dynamics.
It should be highlighted that curriculum evaluation presupposes changes (either minor or major) that can eventually lead to the unveiling of new curriculum. It is at this juncture that problems can potentially arise.
Unless shrewdly managed, curriculum evaluation can pave the way for curriculum change, which will likely create more problems, and stymie efforts to improve old curriculum.
In fact, Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh has recently hinted that it is likely that the results from the ongoing curriculum evaluation could be taken as recommendations for a curriculum revamp and change. But, some caveats are in order.
In retrospect, the alterations of school mandated curriculum created only incessant public tumults, with students, parents and teachers becoming the victims of these curriculum changes.
The criticism made against changes to every newly introduced curriculum by the Education and Culture Ministry is a waste and does not have any significant effects on the improvement of educational practices in the country.
Instead, confusion builds in respect to how the new curriculum can be successfully implemented in the classroom with a heterogeneous number of students abounded among teachers.
Furthermore, the psychological burdens teachers have to endure to adjust themselves with the mandated curriculum, not to mention with the textbooks (consequence of the curriculum change) they use are so tremendous that in the end, they often feel fed up and frustrated. As a result, teaching is seen as a banal and tedious activity.
Beset with too much pressure in carrying out their daily routines, teachers often have no choice but to succumb to submissive attitudes. Their role as experienced professionals is eventually vitiated.
However, if curriculum change is seen as a dialogic process which encourages continuous negotiations, teachers have reasons to provide critical feedbacks regarding the implementation of the new curriculum. Without a doubt, teachers are the key players in determining the success and failure of the implementation of new curriculum.
The central role of teachers has been acknowledged by H.H. Stern (1983), who argues that, “The finest and most up-to-date curriculum ideas can be vitiated if they are imposed upon the teachers concerned without having made sure that the changes the new curriculum demands are understood by them (p. 442)”.
The lessons learned from previous fiascos in curriculum evaluations and changes are evaluations and changes that should not be done hastily and in a haphazard way. Furthermore, the inclusion of concerned parties including teachers in the evaluation is paramount.
Curriculum evaluation should be done systematically in the sense that it is carried out with clear rationales, explicit problem formulations, a sounding methodology and explicit report findings. Without any one of these elements, evaluation is doomed for failure.
No less important, the shift of orientation from the top-down approach to the bottom-up is also necessary to ensure the involvement of those who are directly affected by the evaluation results.
If the goal of curriculum evaluation is intended for the improvement of curricular contents to reflect the pressing needs of students, then a thorough evaluation from the bottom-up is likely to yield more fruitful results as opposed to when it is carried out from top-down.
The writer is an associate professor at Atma Jaya Catholic University. He is also chief editor of Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching.