Posts Tagged ‘indonesian education system’

Jakarta Day 4: Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Banner at school

A banner welcoming us to MAN 4 Jakarta, a madrasah (Islamic) high school on the outskirts of the city.

After returning to the hotel, we had an hour’s break to freshen up then we boarded the bus on our way to our first school visit. This is the school of Novianti, our Jakarta consultant, who will be the host teacher for Mike and Ursula. It is called MAN 4 Jakarta (Madrasah Aliyah Negeri) and is an Islamic or madrasah school on the outskirts of Jakarta. It took us about 45 minutes of travel through local streets and expressways to get there, and the bus pulled in to a slightly muddy open field next to the school that served as a parking lot. We exited the bus, and discovered a large banner unfurled at the entrance to the school in our honor.

Nikki-Matt-Doug with Headmaster

Nikki, Matt, and Doug with the headmaster at MAN 4 Jakarta.

We were met by the headmaster (principal), who walked us through the school to a small auditorium room (but all on one level) with a low stage at the front. On the way there we passed through two inner courtyards with plants, flowers, and vegetables growing. It was quite a beautiful setting. This school (and most others we saw) is built with an inner courtyard with several levels (lantai) that have walkways rimming the central court that enter into classrooms arranged on the outside, the entire building in a U shape, or in this case, a double-U shape.


High school singing group with traditional instruments.

The headmaster said a few remarks, and Sarah presented him with a certificate. The school had chosen two students with good English (they probably had a contest to determine this) as the Masters of Ceremony, and they announced the program. A group of girls in costume danced a traditional dance, students sang songs with percussion instruments, and a boy and girl sang with guitar and electric piano. They had practiced a long time. After the program, we had a question and answer session where the students prepared questions and read them to us in English, and teachers volunteered to answer. Most of them were fairly expected, except the one about what we think of President Trump. Mariya, the Director of ILEP, gave a carefully neutral, politically correct answer to that one.

Dancers 2

A traditional dance done by the students of MAN 4 Jakarta.

While the program was going on, they fed us snacks and plastic cups covered in plastic film with water in them. After the program, the students had prepared a meal at the back of the room. It was bakso, a kind of meatball soup. The meatballs can be either beef or chicken, and they are boiled and served with broth, rice noodles, green onions, and other ingredients. Often some sambal sauce is added to give it an extra kick, but the soup is tasty enough without it. It was very good, and has become one of my favorite foods in Indonesia. When Pres. Obama visited Indonesia, he was asked what his favorite food was and he replied, “Bakso!”

David with dancers

David Black posing with the dancers after the program.

After the program we talked with the students and took photos. One student asked me questions about this blog site (elementsunearthed.com) and our STEAM it Up dye labs. The students here are certainly well prepared, if they are reading our blogs to get ready for our visit. After saying goodbye to the students, we were shown around the school and then walked back to the bus. After boarding, we drove back to the hotel. I have to say, I was very impressed with the warm welcome and student preparation for our visit. It was a fun trip, and I am looking forward even more to teaching in Kalimantan next week.

Ursula and Mike learn dancing

Ursula and Mike learn some dance steps. This was to be their host school next week.

Masters of Ceremony

Two students chosen to be the Masters of Ceremony.


Bakso soup, made from beef meatballs, spinach, noodles, green onions, etc. I added some red sambal sauce, which gave it quite a kick. Very tasty!

Casual group shot

Freestyle shot of the Teachers for Global Classrooms group with the headmaster and teachers of MAN 4 Jakarta, a madrasah high school.

MAN 4 Jakarta article

Official photo of our visit on the MAN 4 Jakarta website. The students shown here were part of a question and answer session we held as part of the program. I like that we are referred to as American gurus (their word for teacher).

Read Full Post »

Jakarta Day 3: Monday, July 17, 2017

Global Ed imageOn Monday we spent most of the day at the hotel learning about the Indonesian Education system. I’ll provide a summary of what we learned in this post.

We began in the conference room with Mariya, the director of ILEP (International Leaders in Education Program), which is the mirror program to Teachers for Global Classrooms. Teachers from 15 or so developing countries apply and are accepted to the program each year. The U.S. State Department pays their way to the United States for five months to attend universities, learn English, and take education pedagogy classes. These then return to their home countries and become our host teachers once there are enough in a country to support an entire cohort of 12-16 teachers.

Indonesia’s education system is definitely a top-down hierarchical structure, beginning with President Widodo at the top, then overseen by the Minister of Education, Muhadjir Effendi, and the Minister of Research, Technology, and Higher Education, Muhammad Nasir, for public secular schools (about 84% of the total). From there, it is directed by the provincial governors. There are 12 years of compulsory education: six years of primary school, three years of junior high, and three years of senior high, which can be in an academic or a vocational school.

Jakarta skyline

A smoggy day in Jakarta.

There are two parallel systems of schools in Indonesia. The first is the regular public schools, or negeri schools, such as the SDN or Sekolah Dasar Negeri (primary schools); the SMPN or Sekolah Menengah Pertama Negari (school medium first public, or junior high schools); and the SMAN or Sekolah Menengah Atas Negeri (school medium upper public, or senior high schools). The second system is the madrasah, or religious schools (usually Islamic). These are also supported by government funds under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. At the high school level, for interested students or for students that don’t pass the mandatory senior high academic entrance exams, there are vocational schools teaching technology, engineering, art, crafts, hotel management or hospitality, tourism, IT, agriculture, forestry, cooking, legal clerking, and other fields. These schools are called SMK schools, or Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan.

There are some private schools and some students are home-schooled. Private schools charge fees and tuition and usually have better facilities, such as more labs, Internet access, lower class sizes, and air conditioning. Trust me, air conditioning is a major plus. About 7% of the population attends private schools.


Sarah Sever with panelists. Dewi is on the right in red.

Students with special needs are not mainstreamed in the pubic schools but attend a Sekolah Luar Biasa or Extraordinary School. These are usually boarding schools and costly, so must students with special needs are simply not educated. When I asked about this, the common answer is that teachers/schools lacked the facilities or training to handle such students or that it would cost too much to make regular schools accessible or to provide accommodations.

No training is provided for special education, and the disabled are not often seen in public. During all my time in Indonesia, I saw one man in a wheelchair without legs (he was at a restaurant parking lot asking for handouts – this was the only begging I saw in the country, and he was treated with respect, not as a beggar), and one child with Down Syndrome in a shopping mall being led by his mother. No one else. Surely there are more people with disabilities. It seems they are out of sight and out of mind. As the father of a child with Down Syndrome, I hope this changes for them. Mainstreaming is good for disabled students and regular students as well, but it took an act of congress and a great deal of commitment for it to happen here.

Teacher training is provided through various universities across Indonesia, and some programs have laboratory schools (such as the school we were to see on Thursday). All teachers are employees of the government and have comparable salaries across all provinces, which can be an issue as it therefore becomes difficult to attract teachers to some of the more remote provinces such as Papua New Guinea. Teachers can request to teach in their home provinces, but they are ultimately assigned by the central government.

Group with panelists

Indonesia cohort of teachers with the Teachers for Global Classrooms program in Indonesia with our panelists.

Education standards and curriculum are determined centrally by the government and leave very little room for local interpretation. Textbooks are centrally decided and provided, as are lab supplies such as beakers, alcohol burners, and chemicals. As I was to discover, this doesn’t mean they are used equally from school to school or that all teachers have sufficient professional development for doing hands-on labs. All teachers are required to provide a detailed syllabus with a complete breakdown of how many days and hours spent on each concept and an academic calendar with analysis of effective days, or days per subject/concept. They also must provide lesson plans for each day (some flexibility is allowed), and both syllabus and lessons are placed in binders in a central location in each school so that substitutes can access them. Teachers are also required to keep attendance lists, journals/notes on the effectiveness of their lessons, and student journals.

Day to day operations are somewhat different than American schools, as students basically stay put in a room and teachers move around, except in specialized classes such as science where students need the lab spaces and therefore move to them. The exact schedule each day was something I never quite figured out, as it seemed to be rather fluid from day to day. In general, a teacher was in a room for about 90 minutes divided into 45 minute sections. The overall calendar for the year is hard to figure out – I looked over the large one at SMAN 1 Mandastana and there were no-school days for Ramadan and Idul Fitri (post Ramadan feast days), Christmas Break, a break in the fall and spring, but also days blocked out for testing, etc. Since Ramadan progresses with the lunar phases each year, the school calendar has to make adjustments around it.

Le Meridien Hotel

The Le Meridien Hotel, where we held our training session today.

By the time students get to high school, they are either in an SMK school in a specific area of study or they are in an academic high school (SMAN) in one of three “major” tracks: sciences, social sciences, or languages. There are some general education courses, such as Islamic studies, that cross all majors, but the students specialize. Language students take classes in 3-4 different languages, including Bahasa Indonesia and English, if teachers are available. Science track students take Civics, Bahasa Indonesia, English, Math, Biology (Biologi), Chemistry (Kimia), Physics (Fisika), Economics, History, Sports, Art, and Local Studies. There is no earth science, geology, or astronomy taught in high school as separate classes, although concepts from these fields may be incorporated into other classes or be taught at the junior high level. I didn’t see any evidence of them being taught in high schools.

After lunch we had several educators at the college level provide a panel discussion. They spoke of some of the training and distribution challenges and how there are gaps in quality in various parts of Indonesia. Because of a government requirement that a school must have at least nine teachers, some small schools have a very high teacher to student ratio, whereas teachers in Jakarta can have 36-42 students in a class. Overall, Indonesia has a 1:15 ratio, one of the lowest in the world. In addition to inequalities in teacher quality and student ratios, leadership is an issue. School administrators typically are selected from the ranks of regular teachers without additional training. They are “teachers with extra tasks.”

But given all these issues, education is seen throughout Indonesia as a valuable and respected career path and teachers are treated as professionals. Parents generally trust teachers and don’t ask questions or challenge them (this can be both a good and a bad thing). Because teachers are relied on so much, most parents are not very involved and parent teacher organizations (PTAs and PTOs) are almost non-existent.

Hotel pool

The pool at the La Meridien Hotel. I never actually went swimming in it.

Indonesians seem open to making changes in their education system, as seen by the yearly tweaks made to the curriculum and course schedules, but because of a centralized hierarchy, change is slow. Certification programs to improve teacher qualifications are only about ten years old, and older teachers are still resisting. Decentralized education is beginning. Differentiation in salaries is starting to be used to draw teachers to remote provinces. Additional control over education is moving to the provinces, such as the now required local studies course, which is decided at the provincial level. Infrastructure improvements to old schools and outdated labs are a continuing challenge and always will be.

It will be interesting to see how things change here over the next ten years as Indonesia enters the ranks of the developed countries. It will be interesting to see how education in the United States changes over the next ten years as well. I hope to be a part of that change.

Read Full Post »