Opinion

National curriculum 2013:
Should one-size-fits-all?

Do you like wearing a one-size-fits-all shirts? If you have a “normal” size body, then you would adore such a shirt.

But if you are relatively petite or large, you have to pass on this adorable shirt. The reason is simple, it does not fit you. So, is your body the problem?

In the garment business, “one-size-fits-all” is a term used to describe a product that has been designed to fit average people. This un-sized approach to clothing design is to make it easy for consumers to grab something off the rack in a hurry.

However, the term can also be used to describe a simplistic and reductive approach to a problem. This includes our recent curriculum change in schools.

Under the previous curriculum (KTSP — school-based curriculum), teachers had to design their own syllabus after identifying the needs of their students. Curriculum prescribes the objectives, whereas syllabus describes the means to achieve them.

Curriculum guides teachers about “what” to teach, syllabus tells “how” to teach it. This process requires teachers’ creativity and commitment.

Some teachers might be burned out due to their heavy workload. But at least this system encourages teachers to teach what is needed for their students to work creatively. Quality work takes time.

Unlike the previous curriculum, the newly introduced curriculum of 2013 comes in a package. In an interview, Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh stated that the government would provide the curriculum in a package with its syllabus.

This could be good news for some teachers, but maybe not for some others.

In explaining about the new curriculum in its familiarization program, the minister analogized the curriculum to tailoring a suit. He claimed that the 2013 curriculum was a nice suit, because it was designed first prior to the tailoring. Did not the previous curricula undergo the same procedure too?

There are at least three flawed assumptions in the new curriculum.

First, the curriculum planners have misidentified the problem. They assume that teachers are like “dirty water in a reservoir”. The phrase was actually presented in a national meeting of the new curriculum. It is not only that the words chosen are offensive, the assumption underlying the phrase itself is also flawed.

Teachers are positioned at the center of the educational problem, and that is why they have to be represented in an appropriate way.

The misidentified problem is that teachers are incapable of writing a syllabus. Therefore, the panacea is the one-size-fits-all curriculum 2013 with its syllabus.

Second, just like the one-size-fits-all shirt may not always be flattering, the syllabus made by the government may fit one school, but may also be irrelevant to others. More worryingly, some schools may get neglected when they have unique needs and issues.

The curriculum basically assumes that all schools, facilities, teachers and students are the same, which is clearly untrue.

Third, that teachers are not trustworthy in terms of exploring their creativity in developing the curriculum based on contextual needs and the unique demands in each region. By the assumption of curriculum 2013, teachers would be steered from a distance by using a universal remote control called syllabus.

The teaching and learning process in schools aims to shape our students’ characters and to achieve a goal where there is no child left behind. Yet Curriculum 2013 suddenly comes out of the blue and purports to act as an instant solution.

If these sudden changes continue, teachers and students, the core subjects of education, will instead fall victim to the errors of our national education system.

I agree that we should not oppose change. But to strive for change, we need to make sure that the changes are for the better, not worse.

Should one size fit all? Should we employ this one-size-fits-all approach to education? So, is your body the problem? These questions could hardly end.

The problem is not only for curriculum planning. Winston Churchill said that “he who fails to plan is planning to fail”. But let’s hope it does not lead to that.

The writer is a researcher at the Center for Multiculturalism, Democracy, and Character Building, Semarang State University.

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