A PhD candidate at Faculty of Education, Monash University
For decades, politicians have been debating over different ideas for education reform for Indonesian education. Muhajir Effendy, recently appointed Education and Culture Minister, for instance, promotes his controversial plan to extend school hours for elementary and junior high school students in order to have better-educated students and less stressful parents.
In the time when Indonesia’s educational ranking in the world is still low, Effendy’s plan on full-day schools seems very logic. Additional school hours could means more educational outcomes. If school time are extended into 4 or 5 p.m., students can learn more.
The minister said that in the traditional hours students could learn on academic subjects such as math, science, and other learning subjects. Then, in the additional hours, students could do extracurricular activities, such as sports and religious activities to engage them in positive learning environments.
He goes on to states that parents could benefits from full-day schooling too. Knowing that students in a safe and positive environments would bring peace of minds for parents especially for them who are working full-time.
However, the full-day school will be another educational problem as it will fit in traditional schooling system in Indonesia.
Before regulating any policy in Indonesian education, policy makers should consider of what is called by ‘grammar of schooling’, a term referring to regular structures and rules that organize how schools work. The term of ‘grammar of schooling’ was introduced by David Tyack and William Tobin from Stanford University to explain the rules and structures of schools that hindered any educational innovations and policies.
As we might know that school in Indonesia is rigid organization with clear objectives, standardized curriculum, and classes are divided and evaluated using traditional methodologies.
If we look at the daily activities of students in the classroom, we will see exactly the problem of Indonesian schools. Most of students and teachers are working to prepare for examination. Therefore, teachers tend to explain lessons abstractly, then they ask students to work on students’ worksheets to drill material discussed previously.
While there has been numerous policies such as the newest 2013 curriculum that is believed to promote active learning and character building, if the structure and objective of schooling remains the same, any educational innovation will settle on the structure of traditional schooling practices.
Therefore, the idea of full-day school might fit in the traditional schooling practices in Indonesia which can add the burden for teachers and students. While the additional hours are expected for enjoying learning activities, they can turn to be additional times to do homework. This is similar to what happens when students approach the national exam, students learn test preparation until afternoon.
Full-day schools will also add burden for teachers in that they should stay at schools, setting up lesson plan and preparing activities for additional hours. This could be unfair for them as they also need to get along with their families. Moreover, some of teachers still get treated unfair, receiving low salary.
I do believe that educational reform is a complex endeavor. Our country has identified the problems of education countless times, such as the problems of standardized testings that cause rigid schooling systems and create schools like a factory rather than nurturing creativity and respects from students.
Rather than regulating controversial full-day school that receive many disagreements from parents, now it is a time for education policy makers to ponder about the grammar or rules existing in Indonesian school systems. The rigid rules such as excessive homework and examinations need to be reconsidered as they kill students’ developments.
As supposed to teaching students to work collaboratively, the school environment create individual competitions. In this fast changing world, students need to have a collaboration and creativity. These real-life skills are lacking from our schools.
To change the grammar of schooling in our country, we need to think about the objective of schools to assist students develop their skills, knowledge, and character. So far, our schooling system has tended to put too many attentions to knowledge. Therefore, activities in schools should unite those three things in daily activities by having problem-problem based or project based learning to prepare for students to the real world learning. In addition, schools should create rules and structures that can nurture students’ positive behavior and characters such as respects and cares.
Agus Mutohar is a PhD candidate at Faculty of Education, Monash University. His research focuses on educational policy enactments in Indonesia and the sociology of technology uses and non uses in educational settings. He receives a scholarship from Indonesian Endowment Fund (LPDP) and International Fellowship Program (IFP) Ford Foundation for his masters degree in the University of Texas at Austin.
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