How can ‘pesantren’ contribute to national education

Salahuddin Wahid, Jombang, East Java | Opinion | Fri, January 24 2014, 9:06 AM

History shows that pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) have made a great contribution to the independence of this country; most have also played a significant role in making Indonesian Muslims moderate and tolerant. However, the condition of pesantren, especially in rural areas, is deplorable. Most have been left behind in comparison to other educational institutions in urban areas. One reason is the lack of attention from the government on the development of pesantren.

Thus, the government needs to create an affirmative program to help the schools develop, and to support their surrounding communities to face the influence of globalization. Only about 7 percent of students from rural areas continue their studies to a university level; most cannot study in major cities due to the high living costs.

The affirmative program should include affordable non-religious studies for people in rural areas. Such programs would have a multiplier effect, which would improve their competitiveness. Importantly, these programs would reduce urbanization as well as reducing the gap between urban and rural areas; and they are plausibly a good method of de-radicalization.

Not many understand that the oldest and earliest education in the Indonesian archipelago was Islamic education, particularly in pesantren. Islamic education started in the ninth century in Barus, on the western coast of Sumatra, when many foreigners including Islamic scholars arrived there. Foreigners were particularly attracted to the camphor trees in the area, as their sap can be used to produce kapur barus (camphor).

Historical records suggest that the zenith of Islam in the archipelago occurred from 1400 to 1680. Modern Malay civilization developed the use of Arabic script for writing instead of the Latin alphabet; this became known as the Jawi script. Well-known scholars during this time included Hamzah Fansuri, Syamsuddin Sumatrani, Nuruddin al-Raniri and Abdurrauf al-Singkili.

Anthony Johns considered the Malay people’s conversion into Muslims as a remarkable historical development. Firstly, it happened during the setback of the Islamic imperium in the Middle East. Secondly, the process was relatively rapid, in the absence of political support from any military power. Thirdly, the number of people converting from Hinduism to Islam was more than 89 percent of the population. Indisputably, the key to this phenomenon was the existence of pesantren.

The Walisongo (nine Javanese Islamic saints) were the early figures who spread Islam in the future Indonesia. One of the Walisongo, Maulana Malik Ibrahim, who died in 1419, is known as the grand master of the pesantren tradition. Meanwhile, Java’s oldest pesantren is Tegalsari in Ponorogo, East Java, which was established 300 years ago by Hasan Besari. Ronggowarsito, a great Javanese poet, was one of his students.

Several old pesantren that are still in operation today include: the Sidogiri in Pasuruan, East Java, which was first established in 1745; the Jamsaren in Surakarta, Central Java, established 1750; Miftahul Huda in Malang, East Java, established 1768; the Buntet in Cirebon, established 1785; Darul Ulum in Pamekasan, Madura, East Java, established 1787; and Langitan in Tuban, East Java, established 1830.

Several pesantren which are now well-known were actually established at later times, such as the Tebuireng in Jombang, East Java (established in 1899), Lirboyo in Kediri (established in 1910) and Gontor in Ponorogo, East Java (established in 1926).

In the Minangkabau highlands in West Sumatra, a similar institution to the pesantren exists, called the surau, as does the dayah in Aceh.

Secular educational institutions were established by the Dutch East Indies in the early 1840s at the suggestion of Snouck Hurgronje. The main purpose was to attain more educated employees for the Dutch administration and private companies. However, the development of the secular educational institutions was also believed to challenge the influence of pesantren which had begun to irritate the colonial government.

According to Hurgronje, the culture of the East Indies had to be combined with European culture. The Dutch education system was thus expanded, making many more Indonesians eligible to attend. This education policy, later part of the “ethical policy” toward colonial subjects, was deemed the best political decision to reduce and eventually defeat the influence of Islam in the Dutch East Indies.

In 1919, the Bandung School of Technology was set up, followed by the School of Law in 1924 and the School of Medicine in 1926, the latter two both in Jakarta. Interestingly, even though many students received a western education, they did not lose their identities.

A number of them gathered in Jakarta in October 1928 to hold the second youth congress, which then resulted in Sumpah Pemuda (The Youth Pledge). That moment surely formed the embryo of Indonesian independence. To achieve this vision, the future years saw cooperation and understanding between our founding fathers, who graduated from pesantren and western style education.

In 1950, the religious affairs minister of the time, Wahid Hasyim, and the education minister, Bahder Johan, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to combine Islamic and secular education. Furthermore, the pesantren also contributed to the establishment of the Islamic Indonesian University (UII) as the first private university in Indonesia. The proponents of Islamic higher education further enabled many pesantren alumni to continue their studies in any discipline they chose.

Nowadays, there are some 28,000 pesantren across Indonesia, mostly in East Java. In 1971 there were 4,200 such schools while, in 1998, the figure rose to 8,000, and rose again to 22,000 by 2008. The increasing number of schools shows the public’s appreciation as many citizens choose to send their children to pesantren — which have continued their tradition, over hundreds of years, of educating our society.

The writer is the director of Tebuireng Pesantren, Jombang, East Java

New recruitment model for teachers: Toward competency

Akh. Muzakki, Surabaya | Opinion | Sat, January 18 2014, 11:34 AM

The year 2013 was special for the improvement of education standards in Indonesia. Competence and character qualities received thorough attention, leading to attempts to rewrite the curriculum. The 2013 curriculum is just one of the key results.
The remaining task concerns the quality of teachers. The government drafted a strategic plan at the turn of the year by designing a new model for teacher recruitment.

The projected model of recruitment for government-funded school teachers will be different from the selection of civil servants in general. The forthcoming system and mechanism of teacher recruitment will not be as simple as before.

From the perspective of the existing mechanism, the recruitment of government-funded school teachers used to adopt an “open system” with no significant difference from the recruitment of civil servants in general. In the past, prospective teachers had to apply for teaching jobs under government employment in exactly the same way as applicants for other types of employment.

If they passed the document selection, they then underwent a written test and if they qualified they would be admitted as new civil servants.

In contrast, the new recruitment model works under a so-called “closed system”. The recruitment process starts from the stage of learning at teachers colleges. Technically, schools that are in need of teachers will have to place orders with the colleges for their best graduates.

And then the campus recruitment process begins. Students who meet the desired criteria set by the school register as candidates at their respective campus. The college then provides specialized training for professional school teachers (PPG), as is currently undergone by teachers through in-service teacher education and professional training (PLPG).

The new recruitment model for school teachers should be much appreciated.

The reason for this is that there is a fairly wide gap between a school’s high need for teachers with professional skills and abilities and the competence of graduates from teachers colleges (LPTK).

Teachers play a strategic role in the creation of future generations through education. They are the main players who directly deal with students in classroom learning.

For this reason, the new recruitment model should focus on strong competence of teachers as required by the school in the implementation of quality education practices. Almost all education literature defines competence as the combined personal capabilities, ranging from knowledge, attitudes, skills and practices.

That is not only a matter of cognitive competence alone but also affective and psychomotor. Thus, prospective teachers must master these three components of expertise.

The new design for teacher recruitment aims to strengthen the mandate of Law No. 14/2005 on teachers and lecturers. Article 10 of the law mandates four competencies that teachers must master, namely pedagogical competence, personal competence, social competence and professional competence.

Personal competence refers to the ability to manage learning activities. It deals with the ability of individual teachers to become good role models. Social competence of teachers marks the ability to communicate and interact effectively and efficiently with students, fellow teachers, parents/guardians of students and the community. Professional competence includes the ability to take control over the broad and wide learning materials.

The new recruitment model for teachers needs to take into account the problems of meeting the demands of personal and social competence as such. Pedagogical and professional competence refers only to the mastery of learning materials and the condition of students, while personality and social competence are more than this technical portion of education.

The specialized training for professional school teachers under the new recruitment model, therefore, has to emphasize the issues of personality and social competence. The process of recruitment must then come with additional measurement instruments through two major programs, first, personality training and second, social communication training.

Advancement in information and communication technology is a blessing for students. However, it tends to be impersonal, leaving no room for teachers as a source of value and manner. In this situation, students may lose the figures that could become a reference in their lives.

Teachers, therefore, must play a major role in addition to the significant role of information and communication technology as a source of information.

The loss of this personality will weaken the capacity of teachers to strengthen their competencies as professional educators.

Moreover, children do not dedicate 24 hours a day to school. Children spend an average seven hours at school a day.

Thus, 17 hours are spent outside of school. Family as well as the surrounding community, or places between home and school are then important places for socializing for students.

In that context, teachers need to have social competence. Academic expertise of teachers should be enriched with the ability to build relationships, interact and cooperate through good communication with the parents of students and the wider community more broadly.

The ability to do so would not only shape the character of teachers but would also lead them to professionalism.

The writer, secretary of East Java’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), lectures at Sunan Ampel State Islamic University (IAIN), Surabaya.

Education in 2014: Torward neoliberal urbanism

Setiono Sugiharto, Jakarta | Opinion | Sat, December 28 2013, 11:15 AM

The best perspective we can borrow to envision what the country’s educational policy looks like is the notion of neoliberal urbanism — a neologism first unveiled by educational sociologist Pauline Lipman.

Taking a specific case from the US’ urban school system, Lipman argues that urban areas have undoubtedly become the forefront in creating neoliberal educational policy shifts. This has happened not only in the US but also in Indonesia.

Neoliberal urbanism is predicated on the assumption that urban life is the locus of not only the global economic, financial, cultural, industrial, and political aspects but it is also the potential hub of the construction and restructuration of neoliberalism in education. In fact, the path to neoliberal urbanism is underway, and can be seen from several emerging symptoms.

One clear symptom is the privatization of public institutions , such as in with most top-tiered universities in the capital, Jakarta. The previously state-owned higher education institutions have now become the private belongings of parties who have the authority and control over the marketization of such institutions.

Another symptom is the increasingly high demand for quality higher education in urban areas, which have prompted people from rural areas to flock to these areas, thus transforming the latter to a sanctuary of educational market places. As such, some big cities in Indonesia will in years to come become the global cities where the marketization of education flourishes and finds it fertile ground.

Still, other local schools in urban areas now fervently adopting curricula and assessment systems from advanced countries are mushrooming and are indeed ubiquitous in big cities in the country. Unlike in the past, with the current easy access to schools, toddlers, young children, and adults can enjoy education with an ostensibly “international” flavor without spending more to study overseas.

Probably the clearest symptom that approximates neoliberal urbanism is the incipient creations of a new world order in the Southeast Asian region through the so-called the ASEAN Economic Community (AEA). With the global economic rise of ASEAN, joint ventures in education between countries within the region and between such countries as Europe, US, and Australia will inevitably catapult ASEAN ,including Indonesia, as the locus of global-local, hence the coinage “glocalization”, education.

China Daily (Oct. 25, 2013), in its special coverage on higher education in Southeast Asia regions, reported that individual ASEAN governments stood in support of ASEAN’s global-local education by increasing public investment
in universities.

With such a trend, the Indonesian government is likely to create an educational policy that will facilitate the rapid construction of neoliberal urbanism. In this respect, neoliberal educational policies will be preferred, as they are deemed congruous with the spirit of the ASEAN Economic Community and the global communities within ASEAN regions.

While it is true that the creation of neoliberal policies prompted by the presence of global-local universities in urban areas within ASEAN countries bring immense benefits in terms of many aspects, the policies at the same time bring about paradox.

First of all, the policies will be more likely to take side with those who hail from the middle to high socio-economic background; this in the end will further the inequality and marginality in urban life.

Thus, the paradox here lies in the fact that while the urban brings ample opportunity to those seeking quality education and later seeking workplaces, it widens a social gap in the community. At this point, education will continue to be the consumption of the elites and serve as a tool to spread social injustice.

Second, as the policies will not be made in a political vacuum, there is a tendency that they will valorize certain norms and exclude or belittle others. There will surely be resistance against the issuance of these policies in the future.

Finally, closely related to the second point, unless local universities in the country are not poised to compete globally, the policies will be created only to sustain the hegemony of other economically and politically powerful countries. In other words, neoliberal urbanism will create power imbalances.


The writer is an associate professor at Atma Jaya Catholic University.