The Jakarta Post
While it has taken a toll on students and their learning outcomes, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented opportunities for educational reform thanks to the acceleration on technology use, Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim has said.
Speaking at the Yidan Prize Asia Pacific Conference held by Chinese education foundation Yidan Prize on Wednesday, the minister said the health crisis had caused some positive transformations, including parents’ increased participation in their children’s education.
“We have never seen such a level of forced adaptation as when parents and teachers stumbled across learning how to use the technology. We’ve also never seen the number of parents who realize what a curriculum is, what homework is or how difficult it is to teach your children,” said Nadiem.
He added that the pandemic had forced policymakers to work harder to address inequality gaps. During the pandemic, students living in rural areas and those from low-income families have struggled to access and afford the hardware and internet access necessary to participate in online classes.
A survey launched by SMERU in July showed that teachers in villages, especially outside Java, needed to visit their students’ homes to give and collect homework because of a lack of internet access.
“The agenda of digitalizing schools to level the playing field in areas that may not have access has now been accelerated, as well as the redistribution of good teachers and the adoption of technology as a tool to enhance the capability of teachers, parents and students,” the minister said.
McKinsey & Co. Education Practice chief Li-Kai Chen said it was important to harness technology to scale up access and redefine teachers’ roles. She said that teachers should be integrated with technology to enhance access and quality.
“[It shouldn’t be] one device for every child but low-cost solutions to support group learning. Teachers must also be learning navigators to help students adapt to remote learning,” Chen said.
Nadiem acknowledged that remote learning could have negative impacts on younger students if it was not addressed properly, such as a lack of emotional and empathetic connection with teachers and fellow students.
The minister reasserted his commitment to improving the quality of teachers in the coming years amid the challenges of COVID-19.
“If you put great people in the right position in the education system, learning outcomes will improve. It’s also important to have educational leaders in schools. A principal must be a pedagogical leader instead of the administrator of the educational system.”
Technology, Nadiem added, could be used to lighten the burden of administrative matters on teachers so that they could dedicate more time and energy to teaching and selecting the most suitable curriculum.
The minister said peer-to-peer mentoring and training for teachers was an important method to build teachers’ capacity.
Chen said the intervention necessary in countries with poor educational performance was the improvement of basic literacy and numeracy, rather than promoting peer-to-peer learning for teachers.
Indonesia’s educational performance is categorized as poor according to the triennial 2018 OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures the ability of 15-year-olds in science, reading and mathematics.
Out of 79 countries, Indonesia ranked 73rd in mathematics, 74th in reading and 71st in science, far below other ASEAN member states, including Singapore, which scored second-highest after China in all three subjects.
Chen said such performance could be improved by providing motivation and skill scaffolding for low-skilled teachers, improving schools’ infrastructure and raising students’ attendance.