The Jakarta Post
Recently, a second grader's homework became one of the most talked-about issues in Indonesia, after the older brother of the student, in a protest to the teacher, posted a photo of his younger brother's math homework on his Facebook account.
In the photo, the student got only two correct answers out of 10 math problems about multiplication because, according to the teacher, the correct answer to 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 was 6 x 4, not 4 x 6.
The said photo triggered a debate. Even renowned Indonesian professors in physics and mathematics couldn't help but pitch in their opinions regarding this issue. As trivial as it may sound, this issue has put Indonesian education in the spotlight. It is not only about who is right or wrong, but it is also about the implication of this issue toward the development of character and creativity of many young Indonesian minds.
Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on education, in a 2006 Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference explained how schools kill creativity.
'We stigmatize mistakes. And we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities,' he said.
The case of the second grader above perfectly demonstrates how schools do exactly that: stigmatizing mistakes and educating children out of their creative capacities.
The impact of this education system is not merely for the academic skill of the students but also for their moral and innovative capacities. How so?
Our education system still regards a teacher as the omnipotent being who is always right. In this case, although it is clear that the student's answer was also correct, the teacher failed to acknowledge this fact.
Instead, the teacher created the impression that he or she was the only one who was right and the student was denied the chance to learn that two people can be right at the same time, although through different ways.
It is a public knowledge that our schools encourage memorizing a textbook rather than analyzing it. Our schools praise academic achievements more than creativity, despite the fact that 1,500 of the world's top CEOs who participated in a 2010 IBM survey believed that creativity is the number one factor to being successful in today's world.
Google's senior vice president, Laszlo Bock, was quoted as saying, 'GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring and test scores are worthless. We found that they don't predict anything.'
He further said, '[...] in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, [the world] also cares about a lot of soft skills ' leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.'
Apparently, what students learn in school and what the real world demands is far different. According to an article in the Economist, this is the cause of a high level of unemployment among the world's youth, which in 2013 totaled almost 300 million.
What do we learn from the case of the second grader's math homework? Our education is stuck in the 19th century, where all the focus was put into test scores and academics. The 21st century has changed dramatically and those factors are not the only ones that are important. It is time for us to put more attention toward nurturing young Indonesian minds with character and creative competency.
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