Improving teacher training colleges

A. Chaedar Alwasilah, Bandung | Opinion | Sat, September 21 2013, 12:11 PM

It is estimated that 1.3 million students are officially enrolled in 415 public and private teacher training colleges (LPTK) or universities. It is a tragedy that only 100 of these institutions are accredited. By implication, the current teaching workforce is dominated by unqualified teachers.

Since the enactment of Law No. 14/2005 on teachers and lecturers, salaries have improved significantly and education has become a relatively lucrative department, which has attracted fresh high school graduates.

Many universities have been tempted to offer education degrees. A great deal of work should be done to prepare for the likely oversupply of (non-qualified) teachers. If not addressed, this will affect Indonesia’s competitiveness internationally.

Several international studies have indicated that the quality of education in Indonesia is poor. Jalal et al. (2009) affirm that the poor quality of the Indonesian teaching body is associated with an oversupply of teachers, low salaries and a weak national recruitment system that encourages districts and provinces to claim fictitious shortages of teachers.

Meanwhile Suryadarma and Jones (2013) list qualitative defects in primary schools that include: poorly trained teachers, high rates of teacher absenteeism, an emphasis on rote learning, insufficient textbooks and poor quality buildings.

LPTKs should be held responsible for producing graduates who are poorly trained, show high absenteeism and promote rote learning but not for a lack of textbooks, the quality of buildings and facilities. These are the responsibilities of the school management and district or provincial offices than LPTKs.

Poor teacher training seems to be the root of all the other problems. Meanwhile, absenteeism indicates a lack of discipline and a bad attitude. An emphasis on rote learning indicates that teachers do not have a strong enough teaching repertoire.

As matters currently stand, however, there is shared condition among LPTKs that that merit the following reflections.

The curricular across all LPTKs are relatively the same in terms of number of credit hours (less than 150), units of courses offered, mandatory teaching practice at school, and skripsi (small scale research-based) writing.

The curricular include: (1) subject matter courses to provide students with enough knowledge to teach, say, English and mathematics, (2) psychology courses to provide them with soft skills, (3) subject matter pedagogy courses to provide them with sufficient strategies to deliver the subject matter, and (4) education courses to provide them with sufficient knowledge on curriculum and education in general.

Obviously, the existing curricular of LPTKs are a strong foundation to develop the four competences enshrined by Law No. 14/2005, that is four groups of competencies: pedagogical (teaching ability), personal (character and example), professional (training and education) and social (community participation).

In addition, LPTK students have to take general courses mandatory for undergraduate students all over Indonesia. These include courses like religion, citizenship, Indonesian language, social studies, sport or physical education and community service. The new Law on higher education, however, explicitly stipulates four mandatory courses for undergraduate students, namely religion, Pancasila, citizenship and Indonesian.

Granted the curricular described above, LPTK graduates should be ready to embark on teaching professionally: Something must have gone wrong.

In her inspiring book, Powerful Teacher Education, Darling-Hammond lists common components of powerful teacher education. They include explicit strategies to help prospective teachers (1) confront their own deep-seated beliefs and assumptions about learning and students; and (2) learn about the experiences of people different from themselves.

Teachers’ main task is to facilitate student learning and the key to its success is sustainable reflection on their own belief about student learning. What constitutes learning? How do students learn? How do they learn differently?

A theory says that (novice) teachers tend to emulate the way their (LPTK) lecturers teach. The way the lecturers teach reflects beliefs and assumptions of the subject matter, its pedagogy and teaching as a whole. This underscores the role model of LPTK lecturers as prima causa of excellence of (prospective) school teachers.

As Darling-Hammond notes, lecturers are obligated to tell prospective students “explicit” strategies to enable students to learn about different subjects. It would be difficult to be explicit if they do not have first-hand experience themselves. They will be implicit all the way through. At best they will just restate theories of others.

It is a widespread phenomenon across LPTKs that most lecturers do not have any elementary or
secondary teaching experience. Such an experience is not required by the existing recruitment system. The minimum requirement is a Master’s degree.

By way of comparison, their counterparts in the US and the UK must have had years of elementary or secondary teaching experience prior to joining the faculty. From a professional point of view it does not make sense for someone without previous school teaching experience to be a professor or dean of a school of education.

There are always many roads to Rome. I propose three courses of action to raise the image of LPTKs as follows. During the probation period, the newly recruited lecturers teach elementary or secondary school for at least one year, working with different types of learners and classes. This will enable them to immerse themselves in school culture.

LPTKs should have their own school as a laboratory where a new curriculum, syllabus, teaching media, teaching strategies, teaching models and innovation is piloted. Within the current mechanism of teaching practice, LPTKs do not have jurisdiction and freedom at sekolah mitra (partner school) to execute those things.

Dormitories seem to be an ideal home for prospective teachers to internalize values and positive attitudes toward learning, learners and teaching as a profession in general. The prospective teachers should be catered for in the right way, so that they cater for the kids in the right way too.

It is not easy for most LPTKs to put these three ground-breaking actions into operation. But they are strategic measures that will boost their capacity substantially.

The writer is a professor at the Indonesia University of Education (UPI), Bandung

Inconvenient truths about teacher certification program

Hafid Abbas, Jakarta | Opinion | Sat, April 27 2013, 2:33 PM

Paper Edition | Page: 7

On March 14, 2013, the World Bank launched its publication “Spending More or Spending Better: Improving Education Financing in Indonesia”, which shows that the teacher certification program initiated in 2005 contributes little to the improvement of national education quality.

Ironically, the Education and Culture Ministry program absorbs about two thirds of the total annual state budget allocated for education. In 2010, for example, the program cost the state Rp 110 trillion (US$ 11.3 billion).

The World Bank conducted extensive data collection from 2009 onward to observe the impact of teacher certification on student learning at 240 public elementary schools and 120 junior high schools, including the testing of students and teachers in the Indonesian language and mathematics. The study compared students’ test scores on math, science, Indonesian and English between those who were taught by certified teachers and those by uncertified ones.

The results demonstrated neither a significant difference between the two groups nor the influence of certified teachers on student achievement. For example, at junior high school level, statistically its causal effect was -0.07 with a margin error of 0.17 for 39,531students.

It comes as no surprise that after seven years of the teacher certification program, Indonesia’s ranking in math, science and reading, as reported by International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), remains at the bottom of the list.

In 2011, TIMSS reported that Indonesia scored 386 in math, not much different from Syria’s 380, Ghana’s 366 and Oman’s 329. In science, Indonesia scored 406, compared with Botswana’s 404. Similarly, the PISA report (2009) revealed that Indonesia and Tunisia scored 371 in math each.

Those facts contradict UNESCO’s (UIS-2009) finding that places Indonesia among the top few countries in the world with the lowest teacher-student ratio. At primary school level, the ratio is 1: 16.6, meaning that a teacher only teaches 16-17 students. This ratio is much lower than Japan (18.05), the United Kingdom (18.27) and even Singapore (17.44).

The World Bank publication reminds us of the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth (2006) directed by Davis Guggenheim about former United States vice president Al Gore’s campaign to address global warming. Along with those inconvenient truths, the World Bank report divulges many mysteries and inconvenient realities which Indonesia has to address as soon as possible.

As mandated by the Teacher Law No. 14/2005, by 2015, all 3 million elementary and high school teachers have to be completely certified. This effort aims at improving teachers’ professional competence, which would then trigger an improvement in national education quality as a whole.

The criteria for teachers to participate in the program include a minimum educational level of university graduate, minimum teaching workload of 24 hours per week, seniority, etc. The criteria have to match the four competencies mandated by the law such as academic, personality, pedagogic and emotional aspects. Since 2005, approximately 2 million teachers have been certified, with one-third certified on the basis of their prior learning assessment and work experience portfolio, while the remaining two-thirds participated in a 10-day or 90-hour training session in the education and training of professional teachers (PLPG)

Those who have been certified were compensated with a doubled salary in addition to professional allowances. The Education and Culture Ministry announced that by 2015, only certified teachers would be allowed to teach, although it will cost an extra $7 billion as predicted by World Bank.

The core issue indeed is the obvious failure of teacher certification, which in my opinion stems from lack of management. The bureaucracy within the education sector keeps its old habits intact. Similar to the national exam, the pass rate of the teacher certification program has reached 100 percent every year. This is no more than a formality.

If this habit remains unbroken, there is no reason anymore to allow teachers to decide whether students pass their tests or not. They become mere optics, which diminishes the entire credibility of our national educational system.

In addition, professionalism appears to be another critical issue. In the PLPG implementation, it seems there is no single mechanism to observe how teachers demonstrate their competence in the classroom. As a result, the teacher certification process runs as a separate entity to the improvement of teaching and learning in the classroom.

When I worked for UNESCO in 1993-1994, I visited some schools in Manabo, Philippines. The teachers there only received additional incentives if they could significantly improve their teaching and learning activities in the classroom.

To qualify was quite simple, the school supervisors simply observed how teachers demonstrated their competence in their classroom with a check list of items such as unit lesson planning, innovative media availability, interaction with students, etc. This record would be the basis for teachers to get fair additional monthly remuneration and future career promotion.

It is seeking a utopia to improve the quality of our national education by neglecting the improvement of teaching and learning activities which take place in the classroom Hopefully, the World Bank’s inconvenient truths will teach us a lesson for the sake of future generations and the future of our civilization.

The writer is a professor at Jakarta State University.

Teacher, not curriculum, matters

A. Chaedar Alwasilah, Bandung | Opinion | Sat, January 05 2013, 8:04 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 6

The imminent introduction of a new curriculum in 2013 will not provide any guarantees for resolving the current problems in education in the nation. A new curriculum is always a good notion. However, drawbacks invariably stem from implementation. Thus, what is urgent is not to change the curriculum, but to implement it.

Curriculum implementation means simply putting into effect the curriculum as intended, including a system to appraise its effectiveness. An appraisal process provides feedback for the development process, where the data is utilized for curriculum improvement. The educational curriculum needs continuous improvement, not continuous change.

Curriculum improvement is not necessarily sequential; oftentimes it occurs in parallel as well as in tandem. It is usually begun in a certain area of the curriculum on a trial-and-error basis as an alternative to present practices. Evaluative data is useful for seeing the curriculum in action and is valuable for improving it.

The 2013 curriculum, as Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh has said, is an improvement over the 2004 and 2006 curriculums, which have been said to be competence-based and school-based respectively. Meanwhile, teachers are still learning how to put into action the 2006 curriculum.

Regrettably, most teachers and the public in general are not informed about what essentially went wrong with the 2006 curriculum. The government should have publicized the evaluative data to identify which aspects of the curriculum were problematic. Such data would have made the curriculum change more sensible.

Organizations such as teacher professional development networks (MGMP) should produce best practices that enrich not only the immediate community, but the profession as a whole. MGMP-based programs seem to be more context-specific, teacher-generated, and immediate-needs-driven.

It is a disservice to the MGMP community when we fail to probe the effectiveness of MGMP-established programs and overlook their results. Such a mechanism utilizes the continuous professional development (CPD) of teachers.

Curriculum improvement, rather than curriculum change, is focused on certain problematic aspects. Thus, curriculum improvement is more economic and problem-based. To repeat, what is essential for teachers is CPD, namely a career-long process in which teachers fine-tune their teaching to meet student needs. The major benefactor of CPD is the student. CPD directly tackles teachers’ teaching styles — the patterns of decisions to optimize student learning.

Considering the huge number of teachers, the obstacle of CPD is the inaccessibility of professional development opportunities. Professional development opportunities seldom reach teachers in need. Only around 1 million out of 2.9 million teachers have currently been certified.

However, a recent study by the World Bank on the impact of teacher certifications revealed that certification has improved teacher living standards but failed to upgrade teaching performance. They have failed to motivate students to learn. Obviously it is the teacher that matters most, not the curriculum.

Any of the following could explain why the current government-initiated PLPGs (mandatory teacher professional development programs) have failed to upgrade teacher professionalism.

First, not all teachers are talented and devoted individuals who have a commitment to teaching. The recruitment undertaken by teacher training institutions fails to differentiate teaching-talented prospective teachers from non-talented ones.

Second, teachers differ from one another in terms of their theoretical and professional knowledge and the stages they are at in their careers. At present there are 10 state teacher training universities and dozens of public and private FKIPs (teacher training colleges). All these teacher training institutions vary in terms of resources, and this could explain the disparity in quality of their graduates.

Third, the professional program is not necessarily tailored to teacher needs and motivations, so they do not develop ownership of it. Some teachers do not have good mastery of content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge or contextual knowledge. Thus the content should be tailored accordingly.

Fourth, some teachers regard professional development simply as an administrative duty, rather than as a career-long endeavor. Once the program is completed, teachers go back to their old way of teaching. True CPD is aimed at determining the factors that contribute to the success of all students and teachers.

Fifth, the professional development program is detached from the entire school culture and climate. The CPD program will have an effect on student learning if it involves knowledge about teaching and learning in the school involved. The success of a CPD program is not measured by the completion of individual factors in the programs.

The effect of CPD program is pervasive through an examination of how factors and stakeholders interact with one another. Professional development should be embedded in their daily schedule. In short, CPD should be schools-based.

To be effective, the professional development should be developed by fulfilling the criteria suggested by Díaz-Maggioli in his book Teacher-centered Professional Development (2004) as follows: (1)collaborative decision-making, (2) a growth-driven approach, (3) collective construction of programs, (4) inquiry-based ideas, (5) tailor-made techniques, (6) varied and timely delivery methods, (7) adequate support systems, (8) context-specific programs, (9) proactive assessment, and (10) adult-centered instruction.

The enactment of a new curriculum has always been greeted with doubt and cynicism. It is the teachers who will be held liable when it fails to function as expected. It is time to change the paradigm from government-initiated and top-down curriculum change to the teacher-centered and school-based continuous professional development as a part of curriculum improvement, rather than curriculum change.

The writer is a professor at the Indonesian Educational University (UPI) in Bandung.