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

When testing matters more than learning

Yanto Musthofa, Jakarta | Opinion | Sat, May 03 2014, 9:42 AM

The debates on the necessity of nationwide final mandatory exams for both junior and senior high school students, which mounted again in the wake of alleged widespread fraud, actually relates to a peripheral issue of education.
These debates could have been easily settled if national education stakeholders were willing to return to the essence of education.

The 2003 law on national education states three basic elements of education: by-purpose and planned efforts; learning conditions and processes; and students who develop their own potential.

The first element refers to the need for qualified accountable providers of education — parents, teachers, schools and authorities.

The second implies the necessity of best conditions, situations and processes to enable the third element, students developing their own potential.

The debates on the quality of the first two elements should never cease as quality needs constant improvement. They must always develop to enable students enjoy increasingly better facilities, environments and necessary support to develop themselves.

Herein is the cause of the destruction of our education. Over decades, the whole energy to promote the quality of those first two elements has been focused on the peripheral, numerical data of achievement.

There is virtually no happy learning in our schools. Schooling has long been reduced to merely creating the best test takers in the three-day final mandatory exams, which have been taken for granted as the only ticket to future success.

Worse, the selective-system schooling paradigm screens only the best test achievers to be able to enroll to the next level of qualified, reputable schools or universities, which are always in limited number and capacity. The rest, the large majority of losers, are steered out of the game as the residue of education, which cannot possibly find another way, because there is just no other way.

Their individual specific potential has disappeared along with the standardized-buzz saw schooling to pursue the uniformed scores. The schools do not provide them with the learning processes to acquire necessary life skills. They have been prepared to be only good at working answering the test questions.

Basically, the numerical data of school achievement should have been the accountability instrument for the providers of education. Instead, the instrument has become the burden to be inflicted on — and an intimidating tool against — the students since the earliest stage of formal schooling. We have got exactly to the point where testing matters more than learning.

The unintended effect is fraud, unfairness, as immoral practices become inevitable not only for students, considering the mighty power of the crucial scores for their future, but also for parents, teachers, schools and local authorities altogether. They all share the interest of determining the highest performance written in the students’ certificates at all costs.

This unhealthy model of education has stemmed from the 19th-century industrialist paradigm of American education, which had adopted the Prussian authoritarian-military education model. This compulsory schooling, which became the forerunner of American public schools was a breakthrough in fulfilling the needs of quickly available, massive and cheap labor for the industry since Horace Mann ceased standardized testing in 1837.

Of course, the compulsory schooling was not designed to encourage every student to become long-life learners, creative thinkers and independent and capable workers, because the industry needed only human bodies with standardized skills, uniformity and conformity.

Whoever becomes the next education minister in the new cabinet should bring back the basics of learning and learning process to our schools. In doing so, he or she need not to be a spectacular new curriculum super creator.

Instead, the minister would just need to make sure that every single Indonesian student is invaluable with his or her inherent potential. Every single Indonesian child is entitled with the right to be free from any negative stigma. We should no longer see the majority of losers after high school ends. For everyone should be a winner.

The writer is a member of the central governing council of the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI) in Jakarta

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.