Are international school students Indonesian enough?

Danau Tanu, Perth | Opinion | Tue, July 15 2014, 10:38 AM

seen as foreign to Indonesia. The Indonesian children who attend these international schools are often accused of being kebarat-baratan, or “too Westernized” — in other words, not Indonesian enough.

But inside the gated campuses, deciding who is foreign and who is Indonesian is not so simple.

Take a typical scene from my research on international schools and their alumni: At one high school, as students flooded out of the classrooms at recess you could hear a Russian and French teenager speaking fluent Jakarta slang to their Indonesian classmates.

The next minute a Taiwanese teenager was speaking English, Mandarin and Indonesian in one sentence. Some of these students were seen as Indonesian despite their background.

There was a large clique among the senior students whom everyone labeled “Indonesian”, or “Indo” for short. But the so-called “Indonesian” group consisted of Javanese, Balinese, Chinese and Indian students, as well as children with mixed parentage

There were also Korean, Filipino and Taiwanese nationals who were fluent or semi-fluent in Indonesian and called Indonesia home.

Regardless of what was officially printed on their passports, there were many students who espoused a sense of Indonesian nationalism. These nationalisms came in different forms.

Dae Sik (all students’ names are pseudonyms), a male student, had an antagonistic sense of nationalism. “This is my country, so the bule [white foreigners] shouldn’t mess with our country,” he said, while perched precariously on the back of a bench. Dae Sik was talking about Indonesia. He grew up in Indonesia, but he was technically South Korean.

“But, aren’t you Korean?” I asked. “Of course,” he responded, “it’s in the blood.” As far as Dae Sik was concerned, there was nothing inconsistent about being both Indonesian and Korean.

Dae Sik spoke fluent Indonesian, English and Korean. But even though he was officially Korean according to his passport, he always hung out in the “Indonesian” group because he could not relate to the Koreans anymore. “Nggak nyambung [can’t connect],” he said of his Korean peers.

One time Dae Sik and a few of his friends took drastic measures to prove their nationalism toward Indonesia. According to a fellow student, Dae Sik and his friends were at a nightclub when they took offense at something that a male American classmate had said to their female Indonesian friend.

So later they hired some bodyguards and visited their American classmate at his family’s home to intimidate him.

Dae Sik strived to show himself worthy of calling Indonesia home by taking an antagonistic stance toward his more foreign-looking Western peers. His friend, Shane, agreed. Shane said of their Western peers: “They walk around like they own the place. So we put them in their place. It’s my country. This is my home.”

Ironically, Shane’s father is British, though his mother is Indonesian.

Others were skeptical of Dae Sik and Shane’s nationalism. Anaya, an ethnically Indian girl with a Spanish passport who grew up in Indonesia, said, “It’s a show they put up. They don’t really have anything to be angry about because they have everything that they want.” According to Anaya, putting on a nationalistic show gave these wealthy boys a sense of “power”.

In contrast, Jason expressed his sense of nationalism by exercising his right to vote as an Indonesian citizen. He had turned 17 (the legal voting age) just a few weeks before the 2009 presidential election. Jason was eager to vote.

“I was always looking at the news and everything about the election to see who would make a good leader and I based it on that. I am sort of a nationalist,” he claimed. His parents did not bother to vote that year, so Jason went by himself to the polls for the first time.

Jason had a more accommodating stance toward his Western peers. Even though he did not feel as though he could relate to them as well as he could his friends in the “Indonesian” group, he said that he and his friends would often invite Western students to parties.

“We don’t like to make it exclusive or anything, it doesn’t feel right,” he explained. If fights break out between boys, Jason reckoned they are isolated incidents triggered by one or two who happened to be arrogant and fueled by teenage angst.

Rajesh was also accommodating of differences. Rajesh is an Indian national who grew up in Indonesia, is fluent in Indonesian and likes to listen to Indonesian pop music.

He was aware that some of his fellow foreign students were well acculturated in Indonesia like himself, while others showed a lack of interest in the country.

But instead of focusing on these divisions, Rajesh chose to serve his community by running for student council president. Rajesh won the election because he was well liked and could talk to both Indonesians and foreigners with ease. Rajesh also knew how to get things done to improve student life.

Whether or not international school students are Indonesian enough depends on how we define what it means to be Indonesian: Is it about the name of the country printed on legal documents like passports, or is it about how you treat the country itself?

Is it about making a performance of nationalism like Dae Sik and Shane, or is it about taking responsibility for the future of the country and of the immediate community, like Jason and Rajesh?

These are questions that lack straightforward answers. But perhaps the important question is not whether international school students are Indonesian enough, but why we are asking these questions to begin with. After all, identities are complex.
Regardless of their passports, there were many students who espoused a sense of Indonesian nationalism.

The writer completed a PhD in Anthropology and Asian studies at the University of Western Australia on “third culture kids” and international education


A. Chaedar Alwasilah, Bandung | Opinion | Sat, June 29 2013, 11:57 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 6

Parents send their kids to school to get an education. They entrust teachers with the task of providing quality education. Therefore, professional teachers are cherished by all. However, the notion of professional teachers is less understood by them. Problems in teacher training often occur due to a misconception of teachers’ knowledge.

All bureaucrats and policy makers within the Ministry of Education and Culture have learning experience from kindergarten to university, and they may feel more qualified than trained educationists, namely, those who have undergone formal training in education fields, such as curriculum development, educational management and early childhood education.

Due to their authority and power, high-ranking officials in the ministry are often very eloquent in elaborating pedagogical technicalities, despite their non-education background and zero classroom teaching experience. These people are educators by power and authority.

The endless polemic on the national examination (UAN) and its mismanagement this year are indicative that education in this country has been managed by a handful of educators by power and authority rather than by educators by training and experience.

While respecting the minister, deputy ministers and directors general as decision makers and high officials, many teachers and educational practitioners are cynical and made comments such as, “How on earth could a person without elementary or secondary classroom teaching experience talk about teaching and learning?”

The discussion above brings the notion of teachers’ knowledge and experience into focus. In general, there are two types of teachers’ knowledge, namely knowledge that has its roots in habit, ritual, custom, opinion or simply impressions, and abstract knowledge whose concrete implications should be worked out systematically.

As a matter of fact our definition and appreciation of the teaching profession depends on the breadth and scope of knowledge possessed by teachers. This knowledge is part of their competence. Carr and Kemmis (1986) identified seven types of teacher knowledge as follows.

First, common sense knowledge, namely, knowledge about practice that is simply assumption or opinion. For example, it is known that students need discipline and that learning in the morning is more productive than learning in the afternoon.

Second, folk wisdom, namely a set of sustainable praxis, such as the knowledge that students get restless on windy days, and high school students in Bandung do not easily learn on the day Persib (Bandung soccer squad) hosts Persija (Jakarta soccer squad).

Third, skill knowledge, namely knowledge of practical values such as how to get students to line up and how to prevent them speaking while instructions about a task are being given.

Fourth, contextual knowledge, namely knowledge about a specific class (first, second year, etc.) or group of students (boy scouts, cheer leaders, school athletes, etc.), local students, immigrant students, etc. To function maximally, a classroom mentor teacher or wali kelas should know his or her class very well.

Contextual knowledge provides the background against which the achievability of certain tasks or the relevance of certain treatment can be evaluated. At the national level achievability of the national test, for example, should be evaluated against cultural characteristics of provinces. How students learn is culture-specific.

Fifth, professional knowledge, namely, knowledge about teaching strategies and curricula: Their potential, forms, substance and effects. Professional teachers master not only the subject matter to teach, but also the strategies of school subject delivery. Any change of curriculum will definitely bring about changes in the potential, forms, substance and effects.

Sixth, educational theory, namely a body of knowledge about the role of education in society and about the development of individuals. Teachers, regardless of the school subject, should have a reasonable degree of familiarity with the sociology of education and developmental psychology.

Seventh, general philosophical outlook, namely about how people can and should interact, the development and reproduction of social classes, the uses of knowledge in society, or about truth and justice. In the Indonesian context, Pancasila as the state philosophy has set the philosophical outlook for teachers.

It is relevant here to mention Pancasila as a mandatory subject for undergraduate students as stipulated by law. Prospective teachers should be provided with the Pancasila outlook on education for developing the whole nation.

The aforementioned types of teacher knowledge, acquired through both experience and formal training, provide a starting point for critical reflection. Reflection is both personal and collective judgment of a problem.

With the seven types of knowledge as elaborated above, professional teachers are by implication more knowledgeable than bureaucrats about students’ day-to-day progress and achievement. In other words, teachers and the school management – not the central government – are the right stakeholders to pass or fail students.

When the 2013 curriculum was introduced, teachers’ reactions varied depending on their knowledge, as elaborated above. They used those types of knowledge to anticipate the potential, forms, substance and effects of the curriculum. Their reflection was experience-based.

On the contrary, most of the bureaucrats – lacking teaching experience and school management – overlooked the potential, forms, substance and effects as anticipated by teachers. Their reflection was authority and power-based.

What all this suggests is that if teaching is to become a more genuinely professional activity, there are at least two sorts of development that need to take place. First, teaching praxis should be research-based, that is grounded in educational theory and research.

Second, the professional autonomy of teachers must be extended to include the opportunity to participate in decisions beyond the classroom setting. Moreover, the profession should be both personal as well as collective.

Teachers, unlike other professionals, have little professional autonomy at the collective level. Collectively, teaching professionals should have the right to determine the sorts of policies, organizations and procedure that should govern their profession as a whole.

Education is not limited to instruction in the classroom, but involves activities beyond the classroom. As everyone would agree, the impact of education is for the entire life.

The writer is a professor of language education, the Indonesian University of Education, Bandung.

Should college students learn Indonesian?

A. Chaedar Alwasilah, Canterbury, UK | Opinion | Sat, November 24 2012, 9:35 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 7

Why do you need to study Indonesian in college? Don’t you think you have studied it enough in school? Such questions are often raised by international students studying on our campuses. For them, it is not sensible, just an unnecessary repetition.

By way of comparison the undergraduate curriculum in Australia, England, France, Japan and many others do not require them to learn their own national language. For them learning the language in K-12 is enough, unless they want to be an expert in the language: a linguist, literary critic, fiction writer, or philologist.

K-12 education has provided them with relatively strong literacy skills to perform college tasks. In the UK, English, along with mathematics and science, constitutes the core curriculum. English, evidence suggests is a vital foundation for developing a high-level of literacy.

At home, the present law on higher education (Law No. 12/2012) confirms the status of Indonesia as a mandatory subject. The law explicitly states that the undergraduate curriculum must include Indonesian language along with religion, Pancasila (state ideology), and citizenship.

When drafting the bill, specifically Chapter 35, especially Article (3) regarding the four core subjects, the lawmakers should have reflected on what they learned from their college experience and listened to more knowledgeable academics. Such a reflection would have informed them of what went right and wrong with those courses.

Their inclusion suggests that the four subjects are unconditionally essential. By implication, our graduates are expected to demonstrate a very high degree of understanding and mastery of those areas. More importantly though, they are to have the high literacy skills which will enable them to develop civic commitment, national identities and democratic citizenship.

Why very high? Because those subjects have been learned in elementary and secondary schools, repetition at college level suggests the four subjects are core subjects for post-secondary education. Students have to take them, like it or not.

Among the four subjects however, it is the freshman Indonesian course that puzzles many international students. Mandatory teaching of Indonesian at the college level suggests two things. First, ostensibly there was motivation to reinvigorate language loyalty and nationalism in general.

Lawmakers took it for granted that such learning will enhance nationalism and college students would take pride on the national language.

The truth is that the attitude among the youth, especially freshman students, towards the national language is far from positive. Language attitudes develop early and two credit hours of freshman Indonesian will not change anything. They are potentially sheer repetition of the high school subject.

The most logical rationale for mandatory teaching of Indonesian in college is a collective assumption among lawmakers that the teaching of Indonesian in schools — from elementary to high schools — is not enough. Or, put bluntly, language education fails to provide Indonesians with the high literacy skills of their counterparts in Australia, England, France and Japan.

Early this year the Directorate General of Higher Education issued a policy on mandatory journal publication for college graduation. The policy sparked protests from private universities. The protest manifests the theory that our graduates lack academic writing skills.

Inclusion of Indonesian as a core subject in college is probably meant to provide students with the skills to write a BA or Master’s thesis, which are — as a matter of comparison — not required in many other countries.

It is self-apparent that K-12 needs to be redesigned with a new paradigm. Indonesian as a school subject needs to be taught in such a way that no repetition is necessary at college level. Removal of the course from the college curriculum would prove the success in teaching in schools.

Education, regardless of subject, level, and student age, is facilitated through language. At a philosophical level it is urgent to redefine Indonesian language for national education. Indonesian must be at the center of all education. Success in Indonesian language teaching would be a step in right direction.

In the UK, Dixon’s Growth through English (1967) inspired English teachers to observe themselves and their teaching activities. Teaching English, consisting of composition, language, literature, and poetry, flows together in a holistic way.

A British primary school, for example, develops students personal response to literature and their enjoyment of literature as a way of liberating the imagination and exploring experience. By corollary, children’s literature is the bedrock of primary education.

In Indonesia, the focus of teaching Indonesian language at primary level should be on developing enjoyment in reading, and at secondary levels on literacy in general. Through this paradigm of teaching and learning, our high school leavers will be ready to develop a tertiary level of literacy, namely the ability to transform and reproduce knowledge.

The writer, a professor at UPI Bandung, is currently a visiting researcher at Canterbury Christ Church University, England.