The Education and Culture Ministry and the House of Representatives Commission X overseeing education and youth affairs have agreed that the new curriculum for 2013 will focus more on the character building of students.
Although Commission X has yet to approve the content of a draft prepared by the ministry, chairman of the commission Agus Hermanto said the new curriculum would likely consist mostly of civic education, history and religion.
“Many have raised the issue and they have suggested that we should improve our character building, including through religious education, and the four pillars of democracy,” Agus told The Jakarta Post on Monday. He was referring to Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).
The Democratic Party politician said that Commission X had set up a working committee on the curriculum to meticulously debate the draft of the new curriculum.
Agus said the working committee had also prepared its own version of the draft and would compare it to the version of the government to come up with the best “formula needed to improve education
in the country”.
A member of the committee, lawmaker Reni Marlinawati Amin, said that the new curriculum would emphasize moral and religious values as part of an effort to improve students’ character.
“I believe that our students need to have more time studying religion or Pancasila because we have seen the decline in their morality,” Reni said.
The United Development Party (PPP) politician emphasized that the main purpose of education was to inculcate values of religion into the lives of all Indonesian students so that they could grow to be adults with quality characters.
“We can achieve this by endorsing the culture of praying at schools, among others,” she said.
Reni has also agreed to a proposal made by Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali who wanted
longer hours for students to study religion at schools.
Suryadharma earlier said that his ministry would work with the Education and Culture Ministry to encourage students to use their holidays, particularly the semester break, to learn more about their faiths.
According to Suryadharma, under the planned new curriculum proposed by the government, Muslim students would be obliged to pursue religious education at Islamic boarding schools during school holidays, while non-Muslim students could participate in instructions relevant to their religions.
Education activists objected to the plan, arguing that the length of time to study religion had nothing to do with students’ good behavior.
“They need living examples at home as well as at school. What our students really need are role models from whom they can learn inter-faith and inter-cultural values such as honesty, respect for others and compassion,” said Itje Chodidjah, an expert on education from the Indonesian Education University and a member of the Jakarta Education Committee.
She proposed that instead of extending hours for religious classes, the ministry should provide training for teachers to practice and promote such values.
Itje cited cases of teachers involved in fraud in national exams as an example of teachers’ lack of moral standing that students could easily imitate.
The Education and Culture Ministry has proposed a Rp 171 billion (US$17.78 million) fund for the curriculum improvement to take effect by mid 2013.