Earning while (still) learning

Nugra Akbari, Melbourne | Opinion | Sat, May 18 2013, 11:06 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 7

When an Australian friend of mine who had just come back from a trip around Asia in February told me and another friend that he was going to go to Hawaii this July, this other friend, also Australian, asked him: “Where do you work?”

To me, the question is peculiar. In Indonesia it would not be heard in a conversation between youths aged 18-20-years-old. If a student of this age group in Indonesia tells his peers about a leisure trip to Hawaii, the common question would be something like “Where do your parents work?”

Most Indonesians may perceive that on average, young people still depend on their parents’ financial support. This perception held true when my mother and I had lunch at a restaurant in a mall in Jakarta. When we left the restaurant a waiter politely thanked my mother, although it was me who paid for our lunch.

In most developed countries like Australia, a career can start in the teenage years. A 16 year-old, for instance, can start to work as a cashier or a cook at a fast-food restaurant. My Australian friend had worked at a well-renowned electronics retail store when he was 18 as well as working as a computer tutor. Another friend is currently working as a bookkeeper while the other is a mining machinery operator.

It is arguably very beneficial to start one’s career this early to improve skills and professionalism as well as introducing work ethics so that these youngsters are ready by the time they start working full time as adults.

This way, many Australian students will have a long list of work experiences in their curriculum vitae by the time they graduate from university.

This is all possible because many Australian employers offer part-time jobs in which the employees are paid according to the amount of hours worked. A standard national minimum wage is assigned to each age group and increases along with age.

For example, the Fair Work Commission, an Australian government body that regulates employment rights, stipulates that junior workers at the age of 16 are entitled to the hourly minimum wage of A$7.55 (US$7.35), while the minimum wage of adults aged above 20 is US$15.96.

Employers in the restaurant and retail industries therefore prefer to hire younger part-time workers, as their standard minimum wage is lower. It is in this type of industry that most Australian youngsters start their careers.

This method allows young people, most likely students, to work without interference in their academic obligations.

Some employers will ask in advance the times at which the prospective employee is available for work. If this suits the business’s needs, it is likely that he or she will be hired.

Paying wages by the hour can be said to be beneficial to employers since they are able to hire many part-timers at the cost of hiring one full-time worker who, as per regulation, works 38 hours per week.

Why is this deemed to be beneficial? One of the reasons is that the employer can get fresh-in-spirit employees every eight and a half hours as they work in shifts.

As a result, from my point of view, the younger generation of Australia has become an established, well prepared and ready-to-compete generation.

Another friend of mine has family issues that forced her to leave home and live on her own. She never asked for any significant help and did not freeload in anyone’s house. She pays her own rent with the money she earns from working. She manages to do all this without neglecting her studies at university.

I wonder if Indonesian young people could be this independent.

There are, of course, franchised restaurants and coffee shops that apply the hourly wage method. However, that is all, compared to the enormous amount of jobs, especially in Greater Jakarta to which this method could apply, for example movie theatre staff, janitors, stockists and many more. Giving these jobs to young people would help them improve their work skills in many aspects.

With the rapid growth of the number of middle-class families in Indonesia, the use of domestic servants has greatly increased. With the peace of mind and ease offered by such servants, are there as many Indonesian youths who are able to sweep and mop floors as there were in the past?

Some faculties in my university offer a co-op program for high-achieving students who are Australian citizens or permanent residents in which they are given a chance to be trained and placed in work in big companies, with which the university is in cooperation. They get $16,750 every year until they graduate, sponsored by the company they work for.

I think there should be programs like this in Indonesia. A company, for example, could fulfill its corporate social responsibility in form of part-time work opportunities and training. In this way, companies give more than just financial aid.

Work opportunities and training would teach the recipients valuable life skills, which of course, they can take advantage of in the long run. Financial aid alone in general may only be a short-term solution. On the other hand, if the company opts to employ one or more of these students after they graduate, they would cut costs in training.

All in all, there would be no harm if Indonesian employers gave young people a chance to start their careers. If trained and trusted, they are capable of doing what their adult counterparts have already been doing, equally well.

The writer, winner of the International Conference of Young Scientists in Poland in 2009, is a recipient of a Beasiswa Unggulan scholarship from the Education and Culture Ministry.

The sanctity of multicultural education in teaching and learning

Kunto Nurcahyoko, Columbus, Ohio | Opinion | Sat, January 05 2013, 12:55 PM

Paper Edition | Page: 7

The Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama victory in the Jakarta gubernatorial election last year demonstrates that Indonesia’s democracy has progressed to a higher level.

The rigid notion about how a particular group should lead the government has started fading. The tough “ethnicity” wall also appears to be crumbling.

But is it true that intolerance has disappeared altogether? Or is the Jokowi-Ahok phenomenon just a superficially attractive delusion for what we call multicultural tolerance?

Probably we should contemplate more on what has been happening. Some examples, like the inter-village clash in Maluku that claimed five lives just before New Year’s Eve and the warning by a particular group against Muslims wishing Christians a merry Christmas, do not follow the same path as our previous euphoria. Indeed, our multicultural tolerance still has a long way to go.

Some aspects might cause intolerance. They might be personal experiences, parental issues, environmental or educational. The latter, especially formal education, plays a significant role in shaping the understanding of multiculturalism. Therefore, we should pay attention to the school element, particularly the teachers. Teachers must be able to prepare students as part of a multicultural society.

Teachers hold a responsibility to create teaching and learning environments that promote a democratic exchange of ideas. By doing this, there will be strong multicultural education in our education system. According to Bannet et al, multicultural education is a democratic approach to teaching and learning that seeks to foster cultural pluralism within culturally diverse societies and an interdependent world. In the US, more than 63 percent of American universities require multicultural diversity in their core course for teachers’ education.

Multicultural education focuses on students’ performance, both academically and socially. Nowadays, often as educators, teachers perceive teaching and learning as processes that solely concern the academic achievement of their students. In Indonesia, for example, most schools employ the results of academic tests as the primary measurement of being a “successful student”. This must change since it focuses more on cognition than preparing students to be responsible citizens of a multicultural world.

Helping students to develop positive attitudes and become responsible individuals is extremely essential in a classroom. Teachers should encourage students to be active learners.

To do this, teachers must lead students to know each other as individuals, regard each other as equals and be able to work together on common interests and goals in a safe and supportive classroom environment. Creating such a classroom climate that promotes the internalization of these shared values through multicultural education will help students actively develop as learners, as people and as citizens.

Multicultural education will prepare students to be responsible members of society. Students must be aware that they are a part of society.

As Pacino eloquently says, teaching and learning in the context of community is truly a moral, spiritual and ethical journey. The concept of ethical and moral values and actions in society should be integrated in their classroom.

Hence, educators should acknowledge and address students’ need to carry on the real experience of being part of a community, not only of individual academic achievement at school.

In addition, in multicultural and democratic countries, teachers should educate students how to actively participate and contribute to their society. By acquiring moral and ethical values from school, students will understand the dos and don’ts within a participatory democratic society. In order to achieve this, teachers should place themselves as the facilitators of information, not as dictators of information. This kind of active classroom setting enables students to experience the feelings of respect and self-autonomy.

There are specific methods that teachers can implement to achieve multicultural education. One example is implementing activities and discussions that focus on the positive aspects of cultural identity, heritage and differences, such as involving students in developing personally relevant multicultural stories, books or even autobiographies. Teachers can ask students to actively present and discuss their own story.

One of the purposes of inviting students to share their stories is to better understand how the students can use their background knowledge to gain access to curricular content. This will also include an understanding of cross-cultural differences and social challenges.

Teachers can reinforce the importance of multicultural education by involving students in community service/learning activities. This gives students the opportunity to be more responsible, knowledgeable and sensitive to their own
surroundings.

This sensitivity is essential for the students’ personal moral development, their sense of community and increased tolerance, acceptance and respect for others.

To realize multicultural education, a Herculean effort from all education stakeholders is mandatory. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding. Hence, let’s keep up the spirit of multicultural tolerance in Indonesia once and for all.

The writer is pursuing a PhD degree at the Ohio State University, in the US.

How difficult is it to learn Indonesian?

M. Marcellino ,  Jakarta   |  Sat, 10/31/2009 1:13 PM  |  Opinion

Indonesian has been taught for decades in various countries in the world, including in Australia, the United States and South Korea, to mention a few. This indicates that Indonesian is one of the foreign languages that university authorities have seriously noted and consider important for their students to take in their countries.

However, over the last few years, as far as the current information is concerned, a number of Indonesian classes in various countries, such as the three mentioned above, have either closed or been canceled due to a very limited number of students interested in taking the course.

This article will present some factual reasons for why foreign students might lose their motivation when learning Indonesian, based on my experience and an intensive observation at a particular private university in South Korea. This article attempts to provide some solutions to the problems that foreign teachers of Indonesian may frequently encounter in class.

The first factor why Korean students lose their interest in learning Indonesian deals with their teachers’ degree of language proficiency.

As teachers play a significant role in arousing their students’ motivation and in making the class lively and attractive, the teachers’ lack of ability to communicate in the target language the learners are studying has a negative impact upon the learners’ language acquisition.

In the case of Indonesian in Korea, teachers often speak Korean in class and this can definitely prevent their students from acquiring a communicative skill, a language ability essential for communication.

Teaching Indonesian in Korean may also make the students lose the great opportunity to observe, pick up and use the language naturally.

Korean university teachers often confront difficulty in using Indonesian as the medium of instruction in class interactions. Accordingly, when in class, they speak Korean most of the time and this leads their students to having little time to practice speaking the language and to become familiar with any expression of the language use they are studying.

Lack of practice in four language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing – will definitely hinder the acquisition of the language skills the students are learning.

When looking closely into the teaching materials, particularly the reading texts, they scarcely present culture-based passages that may both broaden their knowledge and increase their motivation. Passages on Indonesian cultures may be essential for Indonesian classes as they have many functions.

First, learning a language is also learning its culture. Therefore, by having knowledge of some Indonesian cultures, students can also appreciate the people, their customs and beliefs, as well as their way of life and their language that they are studying. Cultures may also attract students’ interest in learning the language, for students may appreciate the cultural values of the people having the customs.

Like other foreign language courses offered and taught in foreign countries, the learning environment of Indonesian classes is mostly not ideal in that the students mostly speak their own language inside and outside the class. This situation prevents or delays the students from acquiring the language they are learning.

With regard to teaching methodology, not many approaches are implemented to stimulate the students’ learning activities. A communicative approach is scarcely adopted in class interactions, instead structuralism has a greater proportion in class practice. As the basic features of this approach concern repetitions, substitutions and language reinforcement with little or no exposure to language use, language is not presented in actual communicative contexts.

Accordingly, students do not learn how the language is used for real communication. Teachers seem not to be professionally acquainted with various teaching techniques in that their teaching style seems to be monotonous.

There are several ways teachers of Indonesian can overcome their problems.

First of all, they have to improve their Indonesian language proficiency and use the language in class. By using Indonesian as the only medium of instruction and communication, students will be greatly exposed to the use of the language, can learn the language naturally and pick up many language expressions useful and meaningful for real communication.

Second, students have to be encouraged to practice using Indonesian inside and outside the class. By so doing, they reinforce their learning, a factor badly required for the process of acquiring a language.

The textbooks the teachers use have to be attractive in terms of their content, well designed and based on an ascending-difficulty principle with respect to the complexity of language components and structures. The textbooks ought to be carefully selected with reference to the level of the learners’ current language proficiency and hopefully have culture-related issues that may arouse the students’ learning motivation.

Third, when learning a language, a variety of teaching approaches ought to be implemented in class to make the class lively. Repetitive teaching styles may easily lead to tedious class in which students can discernibly fall asleep and apparently lose their interest in active engagement in class interactions.

The writer was a visiting professor at a private university in Korea (2008-2009) and a faculty member at Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta.