Pancasila for our classrooms
Strengthening pluralism, democracy and social justice as the basic values of the national ideology Pancasila is essential in developing a multicultural and democratic Indonesia. However since the fall of Soeharto, Pancasila has become marginalized both as the nation’s reference and social discourse, even in schools and colleges.
In the midst of widespread corruption, violence and threats from radicals, evoking Pancasila education in our classrooms is a must. Rediscovering Pancasila education for our children is urgent to ensure the future of our nation as we commemorate the 67th anniversary of Pancasila today.
We cannot avoid the reality that Pancasila and civic education is highly susceptible to the interests of the incumbent ruler in maintaining the status quo as happened in the past. Under Sukarno, civic education was no more than a transmission of his personal political beliefs. During the New Order, the regime held a monopoly in interpreting Pancasila by enacting the 36 items of the Pancasila code of conduct. Civic education was then reduced to a rendition of the regime’s interpretation of Pancasila for students from primary to university level.
Pancasila education lost its appeal soon after the New Order regime collapsed. National Education Law No. 23/2003 omitted Pancasila as a mandatory subject in the national curriculum. As a consequence, Pancasila now is simply an adjunct to civic education.
In the current curriculum, Pancasila is taught only in the first quarter of the academic year in the fourth and sixth grade of elementary schools and a half semester in junior and senior high schools. With the linear model of the curriculum, it is easy to understand why education institutions do not take Pancasila seriously. Nowadays, civic education is skewed to the study of politics, governance and constitutional law, even in primary schools that should cover only the basic knowledge and put more emphasis on character education.
The changes to Pancasila and civic education policies so far have not changed the generally dull characteristics of the subject. Pancasila and civic education are flooded with too many topics and dogma but do not encourage critical thinking. Pancasila and civic education are often taught by teachers with a narrow repertoire, low competency both in basic knowledge and teaching skills, so that they tend to stick rigidly to the official curriculum.
The learning process of the subject is therefore marked by the talk and chalk method, question and answer, or regular drills to accustom students to ticking the boxes of multiple-choice model tests. It comes as no surprise then that the subjects of Pancasila and civic education are so boring, unattractive and unpopular among our students.
Policy makers urgently need to bring Pancasila education back to schools as the nation’s moral guidance, without having to revive the old style of teaching.
In my opinion, at elementary-school level, Pancasila education should focus on character building. At secondary-school level students can be introduced to politics, governance studies and constitutional law under the umbrella of Pancasila and civic education. While at college level, students should learn the subject of Pancasila philosophy, in which students are given ample room to debate, reexamine and challenge Pancasila as against other major ideologies in the world.
Teaching Pancasila as the basic national values should not be monopolized by teachers of the subject of Pancasila education. It is the responsibility of all teachers to promote Pancasila as values that can be learned in all subjects, including math, science or even sports. Pancasila can be taught using the spiral model of curriculum in a continuous way at all levels of education according to the phases of child development.
Critical literacy derived from critical pedagogy is compatible to meet this need.
Critical perspectives in Pancasila education are shown in the ongoing program of critical literacy for the revitalization of Pancasila education conducted by Sekolah Tanpa Batas and Yayasan Tifa in three provinces. In the remote village of Waykanan, in the northern part of Lampung, an uncertified English teacher experimented teaching with Declan Galbraith’s song, “Tell Me Why”.
A small laptop, instead of a projector and a screen, and a mini speaker using an electric battery managed to grab the attention of junior high madrassa (Islamic school) students to follow the session enthusiastically. While learning English, the students could discuss the values of solidarity, social awareness and justice as reflected in the lyrics of the song, the values Pancasila advocates.
Critical pedagogy underlines that teaching is not just transferring knowledge. Production and reproduction of knowledge must occur in the classrooms. This can materialize by combining “reading words” and “reading the world”, reading texts always in context. Texts in critical literacy can be taken from news, novels, songs, poetry, video clips or films.
Here learning is not conducted in the classic banking model of education where teachers have the privilege of transferring knowledge. Instead they serve mainly as facilitators who raise questions for deep and critical dialogues in Socratic style classes. This approach allows teachers and students to confront the hidden curriculum, the reality both at schools and in society that contradict the values of Pancasila.
Rediscovering Pancasila education in critical perspectives will help us avoid repeating the past mistakes and misuse of Pancasila to serve the interests of the regime in maintaining the status quo and to conceal reality. Teachers should be given a broad space to adapt and negotiate the official curriculum.
Education bureaucrats should respect the professional discretion of teachers in determining the materials, methods of teaching and evaluation of the learning process. Only critical and authoritative teachers can propagate Pancasila education effectively in order to develop our children as responsible and active citizens in a multicultural, just and democratic Indonesia.
The writer is director of Sekolah Tanpa Batas, a nongovernmental organization concerned of creative and critical education.