The scrapping of science will deal RI a serious blow
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The government’s plan to scrap natural and social sciences from the primary school curriculum has met with widespread condemnation from educators and education activists who say it will affect the country’s competitiveness in the national arena.
Deputy Education and Culture Minister for Education Musliar Kasim said on Monday that starting next year, primary school students would only study six compulsory subjects — religion, civics, Indonesian language, sport, math and arts and culture — in an effort to ease the burden placed upon students.
Musliar also said that the scrapping of the subject of science would allow teachers to teach morality to children.
Musliar said that while English would be entirely removed from the curriculum, social and natural sciences would be merged with other subjects, most likely the Indonesian language, as quoted by Antara.
A renowned physicist Yohanes Surya, a science professor with the Pelita Harapan University, doubted the feasibility of the plan to incorporate the natural sciences into other subjects.
“It may be reasonable to implement the changes from the first to third grade, but after that it seems impossible. How can you integrate the study of electricity into Indonesian language, religion or civics?” Yohanes told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Yohanes was one of the expert consulted by the ministry to discuss the curriculum streamlining plans.
If the government pressed ahead with the plan, Yohanes, who trained the country’s young scientists to compete at the international science Olympics, was concerned that Indonesia’s competitiveness in science would decline further.
According to the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Indonesia ranked 57th of 65 countries in reading, math and science proficiency.
The nation’s poor grasp of science is reflected in the 2010 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) ranking. Indonesia ranked 35th out of 48 countries, lagging behind Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Yohanes was also concerned about how prepared teachers would be to implement the new curriculum.
“As we know, many teachers teach science with a traditional approach. They write down the theories on the chalkboard and tell students to copy it. So, I guess it will require a huge amount of effort, and funds, to prepare them for an alteration such as this,” he said, adding that it would be unlikely that all teachers in the country would be ready for the change by next year.
Yohanes suggested that the ministry considered having a trial period before expanding the plan across the whole country.
A psychologist from University of Indonesia, Rose Mini Agoes Salim, said that the real challenge facing the government would be the preparation of students in their adaptation of the new curriculum.
“The existing curriculum segregates studies into too many categories. If some of these studies are incorporated students would understand it more, and eventually be able to put it into practice,” Rose said, “however, teachers must be trained to implement the new curriculum”.
Hikmat Hardono of the Indonesia Mengajar education program said that improvements to the curriculum should be made accordance to demand from society. However, it has to take into account “that teachers are an essential part of the process to improve education in the country”.
Contacted separately, parents and teachers said they disapproved of the ministry’s plan.
“Students love to learn social and natural sciences, because we do a lot of activities, such as observing plants and animals,” Ade Sumarni, principal of SD Sawah I state elementary school in South Tangerang, said.
A mother of a third-grade student, Siti Aminah, was more concerned about the plan to scrap English.
“My son should keep learning English. It will help him [...] to compete internationally,” said Siti. (yps)