Education Philosophy

Nov 9th, 2007, in Opinion, Society, by

Sylvester questions the philosophy of education in Indonesian schools.

Good education for Indonesians

We are aware that there are many problems with Indonesian society today. Corruption, weak law enforcement, low morality particularly in the government and legislative levels, poverty, bad education, etc. I would like to focus on the problem in Indonesian educational system.

It is obvious that Indonesian educational system is a messy stuff. Each minister of education has a different policy, often contradicting one another. Education is becoming more expensive and inefficient.

If we see the situation today, Indonesia seems to follow the Singaporean system. The system focuses on the improvement of the cognitive aspect of the human brain. Its aim is to provide a generation of hard worker, which focuses less on creativity and developing open minds, but more on productivity. It’s like creating robots.

Intelligence, actually, has many types. Gardner Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences, ISBN 0-465-04768-8 divides intelligence into eight types, i.e

  • logical
  • linguistic
  • spatial
  • musical
  • kinesthetic
  • naturalist
  • intrapersonal
  • interpersonal

Thus, the Indonesian system (like in many less developed Asian countries) only deals with improving logical intelligence. Singapore applied this system simply because Lee Kuan Yew wants to fully control the Singapore people. Remember, he is a good friend of Suharto. To preserve their power, these kinds of leaders never prefer many creative persons.

On the other hand, the education system in many western countries such as in the US, Australia, and the European Union provides the students the opportunities to improve many types of their intelligence. The students are encouraged to be creative, free-thinking, more tolerant, and open-minded persons. This system allows many advances in both technology and society in many developed countries not just the western countries but also in Japan, China, and Korea although in these countries academic feudalism may still be seen.

In addition, the Indonesian educational system is lacking in morality education. Creating a generation with a high morality and social responsibility is not just by teaching and memorizing in the schools. Good marks in Pelajaran Agama (Religious Studies) is useless without good morality education either in the family or school. Most Indonesians are still focused on the outer beauty, not the inner one.

However, it is difficult for Indonesian to improve its educational system, because:

  1. Feudalism. Most Indonesian are still practise feudalism, including in the academic world. Guru or dosen (teachers and lecturers) are always right, the pupils just follow.
  2. Most Indonesians appreciate only a logical/cognitive type of capability. Do not expect a high income if you are just an artist, naturalist, linguist. Parents compete against each other for having high IQ children (for self esteem), “torturing” them by sending to many extra courses.
  3. Indonesian have been indoctrinated during Suharto’s era (maybe still today) to follow “budaya nasional” (national culture), which is more about “kekeluargaan” (family) and “gotong royong” (mutual cooperation) but less about personal creativity, democracy, open mindedness, and freedom of thinking. It does not mean that Indonesian culture is all bad but this particular culture will lead Indo to nowhere. The reason is the kekeluargaan and gotong royong culture only good to a certain extent, it is easily corruptible just like we see today. The bad leaders usually use this for their own benefits.
  4. Indonesians are fooled by the slogan Guru = Pahlawan Tanpa Tanda Jasa (Teachers = Heroes Without Medals). It is a good motto but fully corrupted. Never expect to have a good education and research unless the teachers/lecturers are well paid.
  5. Other reasons which you may be able to contribute.

Hence, to improve the Indonesian educational system, we have to eliminate the hurdles mentioned above. Since most Indonesians are still less educated, it still depends on the country leadership.


10 Comments on “Education Philosophy”

  1. avatar iamisaid says:

    Hence, going especially by the last part of your essay, are you then saying that the solution(s) towards creating a good education system in Indonesia would mean as follows:

    1. That an absence of a hieirarchical structure in Indonesian soceity would support a good education system?

    2. That the Indonesian populace ought to subscribe their mindset to acquire an illogic/non-cognitive capabilities. That would enhance the quality of Indonesian education?

    3. That cultural values, family values and mutual cooperation are singly or collectively hindrances to personal creativity, democracy, so on and so forth as well as for the attainment of good education standards?

    4. That to have “good” teachers rest solely on their remuneration?

    * me stares at the ceiling and blinks !

  2. avatar Sylvester says:

    Let me explain,
    1. The structure itself is OK. The problem is when the structure is used absolutely to judge right or wrong. As I said, the teacher always right. You should know that any discussion is very rare in the Indonesian schools. Also, feudalism exists among the academic staffs. For example, one can become a professor although his research is a crap only because he is old enough and has a good relationship with the government.

    2. You misunderstood it. The logic is important but it is not enough. The main point is every human being has his/her own talents. So, education has to bring equal opportunity for each person to develop what he/she like and want to be, suitable to the talents.

    3. Many people use this value for their own sake. For example, lazy leaders like to say that we have to be gotong royong. But for whom? Is it for the society? Or just for a certain people? Gotong royong is Indo’s value, but lazyness also. One could think that if someone else will do the job, why should he bother?
    Individualism is not ideal either. However, it make a person more independent, stronger, and assertive. It does mean that 100 % individualism is good. We have to be able to extract the good side of each idea.

    4. There are two reasons why people can do the job well.
    YOU LIKE IT and MONEY. You can be happy if you like the job although the money is not good. You also can be happy if the salary is high although you do not like the job. But if both can not be obtained, no future.
    Do you think all teacher in Indonesia like to be a teacher?

    Hopefully these will stop your blinking eyes ^_^

  3. avatar iamisaid says:

    Hi Sylvester,

    That is exactly what I am trying to draw you into. I applied the Socratic dialectic method by raising those counter questions to you.

    You now have opined what my counter question aimed at.

    But that’s beside the point.

    There are follow through questions.

    What do you consider as being the benchmark when education is considered good?

    What are the domestic capabilities towards achieving a good standard of education in Indonesia?

    Are the present conditions in Indonesia conducive towards making the initial steps in that direction?

    And with those questions my friend, it mocks at every nook, corner and cranny of Indonesia. It throws open a huge challenge for every single child, parent, teacher, religious teacher, worker, politician, businessman and the economy of the country.

    You have raised a few of the 3 issues that you consider could lead to having a negative effect on education. By tossing those 3 issues they aren’t the kind of issues that leads to placing you in a position whereby you can say, “heads I win, tails you lose”.

    Rather, on the contrary, I would think you would do more by reflecting on the positives by stating what you think are the necessary steps for Indonesia to upgrade the standard of education so that it is progressive and fulfills the aims in nation building. (Most of us already know what is wrong. Why dwell on it further? It’s the dog that wags the tail and not vice versa)

    God willing, who knows there migh be some of the Indonesian powers-that-be reading your post at IM and become inpired.

    As I see it, Indonesia is unenviably grappling with seemingly insurmountable odds. Indonesia’s recent history of political ineptness and financial mayhem. Indonesia will have to take baby steps towards achieving better standards in education. The challenge is as vast as the archipelago let alone the diversity of the populace, clear aims and perseverance to achieve the aims.

    * me going to sleep

  4. avatar Arema says:

    Hi Sylvester, that’s a very good post 🙂

    I share the same thoughts as you do. My elaboration below is intended to strengthen your points.

    1) I agree that human talent / intelligence is not only measured by his/her ability to think logically, like what we are used to be graded in school. I agree that Indonesian system is rigid, more like Singapore’s (but I’m not sure whether Indonesia is copying or just somehow ended up with the same system) which emphasizes on grades based on written exam.

    Okay, let me give you an example. If you ask Albert Einstein to play basketball, most likely he won’t be a superstar. If you ask Michael Jordan to be a quantum physicist, most likely he will not be able to make it either. God created each one of us with unique talent and personality, and it’s up to us whether we want to recognize our abilities and use it to the fullest or not.

    I always said this to my younger brothers and nephews and friends: Covering your weak points will only make you an average person. Recognizing and empowering your strong points will make you an outstanding person. If you’re good at singing, go for it. If you’re good at drawing, go for it. If you’re good at sports, go for it. If everyone want to be a businessman or engineer, then who will become the farmer?

    Each one of us has a role to play. But too bad that one role is paid much higher than the rest, and I think that’s the core of the problem. In the end, it is GREED again.

    2) Teacher.
    a) Teacher is always right. Well, maybe more of these kind of teachers last time, but I didn’t observe too much of that during my school days.

    I find newer batch of teachers are more open-minded and humble. Maybe my sample size is too small but that’s what I observe, compared to older teachers.

    But I do see more of these in religious leaders, and that’s dangerous. Wrong scientific concept can be easily corrected in the future, but wrong ideology and moral values are very difficult to correct when it’s already implanted into someone’s head.

    b) Quality of teachers. You are spot on. We do the job because either we like it or we see the money. Both are not the case with most teachers in Indonesia. Most of them have no choice but to be a teacher for a living. And that explains why the quality of education in Indonesia is so poor! Because the teachers are doing their job without passion, and just barely “meet the expectation” (well, actually they don’t).

    Actually a lot of able individuals want to be a teacher, like some of my friends, including me. But the remuneration is just not there, so sadly we have to throw this career option away and look for better alternatives. Those who are not so fortunate as us (who have other options) will still be teachers, and they did an excellent job at it, but they are minorities.

    The rest… are most school teachers we see today. Not smart enough, not passionate enough, and not responsible enough. Guru kencing berdiri murid kencing berlari. If the teachers are not good, don’t expect the pupils will turn out good.

    Higher remuneration for teachers will definitely help. It will make teaching a much better career option than now, which will promote positive competition to become teacher, which in turn will increase the quality of teachers. A bit naive maybe, but with better salary the current teachers may respect what they are doing better, not worrying so much on getting more money somewhere else, and combined with increased competition, they will teach better.

    3) Parents putting their “unfulfilled ambition” onto their children’s shoulder. One of the biggest mistake of parents nowadays is to force their children to perform well in school, without identifying what is their child’s strong point / personality. Another mistake is to force the career path, like forcing their son to be a doctor.

    Okay, who don’t want a smart kid. But forcing our children to be something they don’t want to be or something they can’t be is like killing them softly with a blunt knife. Parents, I know you may have all the good intentions in the world, you want your children to have a better future bla bla bla, but please think about your children’s future life first. There is no bigger regret in life than not achieving what you want to be, and in the end that person will put their unfulfilled ambition into their children’s shoulder… and the cycle continues….

  5. avatar Enigmatic says:

    I strongly agree with your point about the quality of teachers.

    Quality of teachers cannot be compromised. As they say, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Thus a possible solution is to increase the teacher’s pay.

    However at the same time while increasing remunerations and benefits for teachers, we must also bring up the demands a notch. I will use Singapore as an example.

    Singapore’s teachers are VERY highly paid. Their salaries are often higher than engineers and even lawyers. They also get many benefits as they are Civil Servants, such as discounts at shopping centres and many others. However most if not all the teachers have really good qualifications. They usually have a university degree and of course they must have the passion to teach. At the same time the Ministry of Education (MOE) promotes teaching as a career actively by holding seminars and conventions for job-seekers with tertiary education. This is a reason why the Singapore Education System is a success. Because of the quality of Education AND MOE’s active encouragement for Singaporeans to use teaching as a career.

  6. avatar iamisaid says:

    As an afterthought, the title of Sylvester’s essay should be brought back into focus, that is, “Education Philosophy”.

    Within the context of his essay it should point to the Education Philosophy in Indonesia. It does sparingly but gets mixed up in his exposition of what he believes is wrong with the Management of it.

    That being said, I have failed in my earlier submissions to mention what follows note the because I started off with the issues that Sylvester proffered.

    Philosophy is explained as the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics) what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic). And on and on.

    We might assume that the purpose of education is to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of students. Unfortunately, this definition offers little unless we further define words such as “develop”, “knowledge” and “character”.

    Not wishing this to become a lengthier and more unwieldy reply to read, let me leave the definition of Philosophy at that and move on.

    There is a dangerous tendency to assume that when people use the same words, they perceive a situation in the same way.

    In lieu of all that has been said above, how shall it be that against such a massive and complex Indonesian background? Is it possible to ever agree unanimously and in a realistic manner as to what basically should be the Philosophy of Education in Indonesia?

    Ayn Rand, a novelist and philosopher, once explained thus:

    “The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life-by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past-and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort.”

    Kindly take note of the key words that I have underscored – “by his own effort”. It alters the conventional finger pointing about the downside of education from school teachers. Education is a passion that comes more importantly from within a person rather than from an external enforcement.

    Now, that is merely having said a little about “Philosophy” and “Education”. To discuss further regarding what its combination means within the national aspirations of Indonesia is beyond my stature.

    For all intents and purposes, the rest of what follows in the Sylvester’s column deals more with the lack of good Management of Education in Indonesia.

    Herein again, up comes our Utopian wish list only to be impaled by a pragmatic Do List.

    Without hesitation, comparisons from other locations are bountiful when discussing about the Management of Education. These comparisons can be argued that what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander, Indonesia-wise that is to say.

    Perhaps these words of Eric Hoffer, an eminent social writer summarises the Management of Education.

    “”The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.”

    And I had echoed a wee bit of Eric Hoffer when I responded earlier on where I stated:

    “And with those questions my friend, it mocks at every nook, corner and cranny of Indonesia. It throws open a huge challenge for every single child, parent, teacher, religious teacher, worker, politician, businessman and the economy of the country.”

    and

    “As I see it, Indonesia is unenviably grappling with seemingly insurmountable odds. Indonesia’s recent history of political ineptness and financial mayhem. Indonesia will have to take baby steps towards achieving better standards in education. The challenge is as vast as the archipelago let alone the diversity of the populace, clear aims and perseverance to achieve the aims.

    To those who had the patience to read all of this, Thank You.

  7. avatar Sylvester says:

    Thanks guys,
    Arema, the statement that mostly in Indo the teacher is always right is partly due to the feudalism in the society. In most universities, the teaching is still like that. You know the behaviors of most lecturers in Indo, for example in several state universities in Java.

    Another thing that should be fixed in the Indonesian education is how to manage bullying problems in the schools. Many teachers in Indo still assume that bullying is “normal”, ah biasa anak-anak. This is very dangerous! It is a seed of violence. No wonder many Indo are easily to be provoked to commit violence. In the countries like US, Australia, and some EUs, bullying is taken seriously.

    With regards of the teacher salary, yes, many lecturers/teachers abroad are paid high. In Australia, the salary for teachers/lecturers is about AUD 50,000-80,000 per annum after tax. The living cost for a family is “only” 50,000/annum for a very good lifestyle. The spouse can also work part time, which make more saving as well. In Indonesia, even professors only get Rp 30-50 millions/annum. The living cost for a family with a minimal standard may be double or triple than that figures. So, that’s why it is hard to find a passionate teachers there.

    If the corruption by the govt official and DPR/DPRD can be reduced 50%, I believe it more than enough to boost the quality of Indonesian education.

    Parents putting their “unfulfilled ambition” onto their children’s shoulder. One of the biggest mistake of parents nowadays is to force their children to perform well in school, without identifying what is their child’s strong point / personality. Another mistake is to force the career path, like forcing their son to be a doctor.

    Agree, in fact it is happening in many Asian countries as well. It is a weakness of the Asian values regarding the family structure. There are many good points in the Asian family values but the democracy in the family is something rare. Many Asian parents see their childern as their properties. To solve this, both parents and the schools have to redefined the education philosophy by an active campaign to the society. The government via the Ministry of Education should be more active by sending the pamflets, using media (TV, newspapers) to teach the society about the good education philosophy.

  8. avatar David says:

    As an afterthought, the title of Sylvester’s essay should be brought back into focus, that is, “Education Philosophy”.

    The title was written by me, Sylvester’s title was “Good education for Indonesians”.

  9. avatar Dragonwall says:

    Education is to develop a person’s intellectual mind and how a person thinks will always differ and not necessary in a way indoctrinates like Singapore applied this system simply because Lee Kuan Yew wants to fully control the Singapore people. Remember, he is a good friend of Suharto. To preserve their power, these kinds of leaders never prefer many creative persons.

    Being a good friend does not necessary mean they have to agree to one another. In political exchange of views perhaps.. Control someone I don’t think so. A robot society! Never. I suppose a good leader tends to want their people to be bright and smart and be able to abosrob and implement to use, be it in society or at home. Mind you most of Singapore leaders tends to demonstrate the necessity of one not to forget their root and the basic Philosophy of Life.

    Quite unlike some leaders, religious or political, who uses implied consent and taking action on impulse that is when they feel like provocating the public they will resort to any mean and get it done to much regrets later on.

    If you compare education level of lets say singapore to any european countries. Singapore used to adopt the British and refer much to Cambridge and the most sought after in the early years was not Harvard, MIT or Princeton. Now more and more western people are turning up at Singapore U and Open U because the level of and teaching techniques are far more higher and difficult in Singapore.
    Unlike in the US where kids are like kings and going to school is another day at Wonderland. I dare match 1 to 6 or even more and none of them in the US will come close in term of education in Singapore.

    Most of my family, except me, graduated in Singapore University and their position they held as professional excel their foreign counterparts. My young niece graduated Phd in Mass Communications at 23 when people were doing their Masters in europe.

    If Indonesian hopes to improve in their education, they should target teachers before students, statr run before private. A consolidation of teachers to standardize all state and private. Abolish substandard educator and schools. Introduce multi lingual education techniques. Pressurize the students less and allow them free access to certain electronic and on site exposures.

    I guess a total revamp is imminent.

  10. Two keys areas for developing education in indonesia.
    First is sharpness quality existence education system, and the other is expanding education structure & infrastructure for rural area. Should be each villages/districts in overall Indonsia area from Sabang to Merauke covered by at least one Senior High School structure and infrastructure.

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