Posts Tagged ‘international leaders in education program’

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 »