Give teachers space under uniform education policy

Setiono Sugiharto, Jakarta | Opinion | Sat, May 02 2015, 9:46 AM

Many education practitioners are familiar with Ki Hadjar Dewantara’s educational vision, Ing ngarso sung tuladha, ing madya mangun karsa, tut wuri handayani (provide a model, create a goal and provide constructive support), but not many are aware of his five basic tenets of education known as the Pancadharma (five merits): nature, freedom, culture, nationhood and humanity.

These five merits were introduced by Dewantara, known as a pioneer in education in colonial times, whose birthday of May 2 is commemorated as National Education Day.

It is the merits of freedom and humanity that teachers are still painstakingly struggling to achieve. The strict imposition of an overarching educational policy in a top-down fashion compels teachers to implement the political mandates prescribed in a formal educational directive like curricula.

The top-down policy, made by well-intentioned, but often ill-prepared persons, forces reality to conform to it, rather than the other way round.

This clearly closes off the opportunity for teachers to negotiate what they believe to be congruent with the everyday realities they engage in.

On the face of it, teachers are treated as a sheer implementer of the policy and a passive recipient of it. Their critical voices are often silenced; their teaching intuition and experiences are demoted as scientific gibberish.

They instead must one-sidedly bow to what has been verified as something that has been scientifically proven.

The long-standing pursuit for an educational macro policy like the national curricula for schools nation-wide has reduced the significance of the Pancadharma as envisioned by Dewantara.

The notion of national education has been reduced to an activity that ambitiously seeks a fixed and immutable Procrustean standard, as if this standard is viable to all educational contexts.

We need to realize that what has been formally pre-determined and planned via pronouncements such as legislation, policy statements and educational directives may be at loggerheads with the realities teachers are facing. So to speak, what’s then in a curriculum?

The merit of freedom in the Pancadharma presupposes policy as engagements. That is, written documents like curricula and textbooks are no longer seen as sacrosanct and infallible. They are subject to interpretation and reinterpretation by virtue of teachers’ experiences and their engagements with realities.

As such, teachers have the right to exercise their agency as the ones who have the authority over the knowledge constructed in a very situated and local site (i.e. schools or classrooms).

To realize this, they need to be made conscious that educational directives manifested via curricula aren’t value-free, but are political products.

Educational policies have been used for the perpetuation of certain ideologies and cultural and religious values.

In this respect, they may represent what Pierre Bourdieu calls “symbolic violence”. For example, it is not uncommon to see many kinds of propaganda, coercion and political manifestos being infused (often surreptitiously) into the curricular products and school textbooks.

To be critical about the overt educational agendas (infused into curricula) that often favor certain classes, cultures, languages and religions at the expense of others, pedagogic activism is necessary.

This means teachers must be proactive in exercising their political rights to critically question and even to resist educational policies, should they not accord with the realities and should they do a great disservice to all related parties involved in educational activities.

As this effort happens in a specific site like a classroom, this is a form of a micro-strategy.

Thus policies as engagements encourage teachers to be pedagogically active in constructing and producing knowledge in their specific locality.

We can then offer teachers a space where they can critically reflect the merits and demerits of not only the policies imposed on them, but also those that are the products of their own creation.

The writer is an associate professor of English at the Faculty of Education and Language, Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta.

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.