A curriculum describes the type of education schools and universities use to teach students. The definition of a curriculum relates to a set of courses, and their content, offered by an educational institute.
The word “curriculum” stems from Latin and refers to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults. Most of the time a curriculum has a prescriptive character, and is based on general guidelines, which specifies what topics must be understood and to what level participants need to achieve a particular grade or standard.
The guidelines for a curriculum may be partly or entirely determined by an external, authoritative body. For example, the National Curriculum for England is determined by such an external body. The US has a different, more decentralized system, where each state carries the responsibility to determine the content of what is taught in local schools.
In the Netherlands, the government centrally determines the guidelines and educational. Schools apply these goals to establish their curriculum. This results in an educational system where school have the freedom to choose what they teach and how they teach it, but results in a situation where most schools follow more or less the same curriculum.
Firman (2008) described in his article the development of the curriculum in Indonesia. He stated that since 2006, when Law No. 20/2003 on the National Education System was implemented, the centralized curriculum was gradually changed by a decentralized school level curricula.
Before 2006, education in Indonesia was determined by the National Education Ministry. Now local school communities, of course in accordance with the national standard and guidelines and under the supervision of the local government, are responsible for designing the curriculum for their own schools.
Thus schools are given the freedom to develop and implement a curriculum that is relevant to the needs of their specific pupils or students. The general model of this school-level curriculum, which was being developed, was quite similar to the one that was being implemented before 2006. This means that most schools develop their own curriculum by referring to national standards.
However, there are also (private and independent) schools in Indonesia that have chosen a different course. These schools have started to develop their own school-based curriculum, sometimes by adopting (parts of) another national curriculum. Popular are (parts of) the Singapore, Australian or UK curriculum. Some schools have chosen to change the language of tuition to English or opt to teach lessons in two languages, with the result of a bilingual school. The starting point for these developments is to improve educational standards and quality in their school, with hopefully the effect of a higher enrollment of students. More students means more money, which generally should benefit the quality of the school.
Of course, decentralizing the educational system and allowing schools in this big country, in accordance with the national standard and its guidelines, to develop their own curriculum is a positive move. However, the change of the role of schools from curriculum implementer to curriculum developer has proven to puzzle and confuse schools. Of course, there are schools that have the money and the professional capacity to analyze the conditions and needs of their students and combine this positively and effectively with (elements of) international curricula.
These schools have been able to implement the right mix of international and national based courses and so improve the quality of the learning. Nevertheless, there are a lot of Indonesian schools struggling with this development, because the people responsible for implementing and developing this school-based curriculum, lack the professionalism to take on this complicated task.
Often the development of the school-based curriculum is left to local commissions or school departments that have a clear view on the subject but little or no experience in the practical aspects of designing a curriculum.
It is not so straightforward to select the proper set of necessary and obtainable knowledge, skills and competences, or to decide how to plan relevant learning outcomes for your students. These are highly complex tasks that need a lot of insight in (international) education, the development of learning and teaching and knowledge of best practices around the world. The question is if schools and local school communities are equipped for this challenge, because developing a school-based curriculum is not something that should be taken lightly.
From our perspective, the best way to assist schools to develop their curriculum is through rigorous professional development. Organizations like the Sampoerna Foundation and NETT academy have been developing courses and programs with the goal to improve professionalism in schools.
Only through professional development will school owners, principals, administrators and teachers learn the right skills, gain essential knowledge and start to understand how to build a balanced curriculum essential for future education in Indonesia.
The writer has a PhD in educational sciences. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.