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Jakarta Post

Muhammad Kalend Osen: Fleeing the forest

Muhammad Kalend Osen: Fleeing  the forest
Duncan Graham
  ●   Wed, May 14, 2014

Muhammad Kalend Osen, now 69, grew up in Sebulu, East Kalimantan.  His father was a farmer and the lad worked for a timber mill.

'€œThe Singaporean owner spoke English, and so did my uncle who'€™d been in Malaysia,'€ he said.

'€œI admired them and wanted their skills.  I knew I had to get out of the forest and make something of my life. I also had no religion and I needed faith.'€

Aged 27 he moved to Java and became a Muslim. '€œIt was my time of revolution,'€ he said. '€œIf I'€™d gone to a Christian area I'€™d probably now be a Catholic or Protestant.'€

He studied English at an Islamic boarding school near Ponorogo, East Java and found the going tough, claiming it took him a year to achieve the results now reached by his students after three months.

He married a teacher from Pare and moved to the little town. A couple of friends sought him out to help with their studies.

'€œI thought there might be a business here,'€ he said.  '€œMy wife inherited land and we started Basic English Course [BEC].  Now more than 20,000 have studied with us.  We currently have around 600 students from everywhere in the archipelago '€” we'€™ve even had two from Thailand.

'€œThe 15 staff are mostly former students with teaching ability that I'€™ve selected. I understand the criticisms but my methods have been developed through experience.  Yes, I'€™m authoritarian, I believe in discipline.  I know what works.  The most important thing is to have spirit.

'€œI use former US president John F. Kennedy'€™s quote to inspire students: '€˜Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country'€™.'€

Among Kalend'€™s techniques is to bus students to Borobudur to meet foreigners. The military style pre-assault briefing includes examining a model of the massive Buddhist temple to determine the best ambush spots.

 '€œI never went to university,'€ said Kalend. '€œI'€™ve never been to an English speaking country. We tried employing a native speaker once but there were too many cultural differences.

'€œHe was from Scotland and didn'€™t even understand pluperfects. A teacher has to know. No one from the government has ever been to check what we do. Even the regent hasn'€™t visited.'€