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.

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

Stop corruption: Abolish the national exam

Gordon LaForge, Jakarta | Opinion | Thu, December 12 2013, 10:53 AM

In the Indonesian educational system, everybody cheats. Or at least that’s what I came to believe during nearly two years as a visiting English teacher in local high schools in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

During my first month in the classroom, I helped proctor an exam. As the co-teacher passed out the test, he read the rules: Do your own work, don’t cheat.

He then sat down, the exam began and the students promptly started cheating. They passed notes, talked across the aisle and even wrote on one another’s test papers.

Baffled, I looked to the teacher. He shrugged, as if to say, “It is what it is.”

It turned out that cheating in the school was common. Other teachers I knew placed in state, vocational and religious high schools from Aceh to Kupang, reported similar episodes at their sites. One teacher in Palembang recounted an instance in which he had caught students sharing answers during a test. When he threatened to punish them they just laughed in his face.

Granted, classroom norms vary from nation to nation and a foreigner could easily misconstrue cooperation for cheating. In Indonesia, education is more collaborative than it is in the United States, where learning is regarded as an individual pursuit. Nonetheless, by any definition, cheating in Indonesian schools is rampant.

As an outsider, my scope is limited. But during two years working with local students and educators, I saw that cheating wasn’t nourished by culture or character or anything inherent — but largely by a misguided policy: the high school national examination.

The Education and Culture Ministry recently won praise for canceling the exam in elementary schools, and it should ride that momentum to discard the high school one as well.

In a nation as diverse as Indonesia, it is brutally unfair to predicate graduation on a uniform, standardized test.

When it came time for my students to take the dreaded test, which every 12th grader in every province must pass to graduate high school, I snuck a peek at the English questions. They were advanced, at least relative to my students’ English abilities. If even half of them could pass the section, I would have been surprised.

Yet, somehow, they did pass; every one of them.

It turned out my school’s flawless performance was hardly abnormal. Last year, the education ministry reported that 99.48 percent of students nationwide passed the national exam. It brushed off allegations that cheating had occurred.

Corruption watchdogs have gathered non-circumstantial evidence of teachers and headmasters helping students cheat on the national exam. At one Jakarta high school, a teacher was caught selling the answer sheet to his students for Rp 35,000 (US$3) a pop.

Like the teacher in my high school classroom, few sharpen pitchforks over cheating — not as they do over state corruption, which, with a new suspect dragged into Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) headquarters each week, is apparently just as pervasive. With no massive losses to the state coffers, cheating seems a victimless crime.

But what most fail to realize is that one form of dishonesty begets the other, that the culture of corruption is learned in the high school classroom.

A recent article in The New Yorker by best-selling author and psychologist Maria Konnikova discussed the psychological causes and consequences of cheating in school.

She wrote: “When we cheat, we have a tendency to rationalize the behavior. We can’t change the past, so we change our attitude and justify our action.”

Cheating, researchers have found, is self-reinforcing. It gets easier each time you do it, and dishonest behavior is habit-forming.

It is paradoxical that dishonesty could flourish in Indonesia, where religion is pervasive, social rules governing manners and ethics are deeply ingrained and the education curriculum emphasizes behavior and morality as much as it does knowledge acquisition.

But research has shown the psychological effect of dishonest behavior may nullify moral conditioning. Citing a recent study from Harvard University, Konnikova wrote: “In both hypothetical scenarios and real-world tasks, people who behave dishonestly are more likely to become morally disengaged from their environment and to forget moral rules, such as honor codes”.

So schools can teach good ethical conduct every hour of every day, but when a student is copying an answer on a test — or when a government official is accepting a bribe — all of that learning is momentarily shut out by one’s engine of self-justification.

But for cheating, teachers and administrators don’t deserve the brunt of the blame. The pernicious national exam does. In a nation as diverse as Indonesia, it is brutally unfair to predicate graduation on a uniform, standardized test.

It expects students from high schools with collapsing roofs in Maluku or Kalimantan to be as competent as those from state-of-the-art private classrooms in Jakarta and Surabaya.

The pressure to pass the exam is immense — not just for the kids, but for teachers and principals who will lose face in the community and incite the ire of parents if they fail to pass their students. What choice is there but to cheat?

Providing education across the sprawling archipelago is not easy, and the education ministry deserves credit, especially for increasing access to schooling.

But the high school national exam is a failed policy that schools, and society, would be better off without.

The writer was a fellow in a bilateral educational exchange program. The views expressed are his own.