Educating Pancasila

May 16th, 2011, in Opinion, by

What pushes a man to identify himself as an Indonesian at one point then suddenly stops identifying himself as an Indonesian and begins to see himself foremost as a Muslim? Or perhaps a Christian or a Javanese? Or a Bataknese and so on?

The answers to this are incredibly complex and it would do no justice what so ever to pinpoint one single answer. Yet seeing the many conflicts that has happened in Indonesia between religious groups and between ethnic groups we can say that the problem lies not merely on radical interpretations of the holy books or the envies of the economic disparities among the society but perhaps it is also due to the single thing that unites us Indonesians, the Pancasila, has become almost non-existent in our society. It is still a symbol of Indonesia’s unity but nonetheless it is but merely a symbol.

For this reason I for one disagree with Yohanes Sulaiman, (Better Religious Classes Are What We Need Not More Pancasila, The Jakarta Globe 3 May 2011) where he discusses that we should focus more on the refinement of religious education rather than strengthening of our Pancasila education. I believe they should both go hand in hand.

The problem with teaching Pancasila nowadays is not the Pancasila itself but on how it is being taught to our youths. It is much like any other subjects taught in Indonesian schools, it only focuses on trivial matters and it emphasizes on the memorization of the subjects being taught, which in this case is the memorizing of the five silas.

We can no longer just merely indoctrinate our youths of the five silas of Pancasila but we must elaborate on the values that have lain dormant beneath these five silas, values such as tolerance, social justice, pluralism, multiculturalism and so on. These are the things that matter the most, not the memorization of the five silas.

The youth must understand from within themselves the importance of Pancasila and the values within it in order to achieve national unity. We can no longer enforce unity, because forced unity is such a fragile and flimsy concept of unity and will only produce limited nationalism. National unity must be grown within our youth and this can only be done by teaching the values within Pancasila not just by forcing our society to accept Pancasila as the bond between Indonesians.

It is much harder to achieve unity if we were only to focus on religious education.

Yet it does not mean that religious education in our country should be over looked. The drawback with religious education is that it always has this unpredictable possibility of it backfiring, such as the current condition of Indonesia's religious education reflected in a research conducted by the Institute for Islamic and Peace Studies (LaKIP). There is no need to elaborate even further of the recent research conducted by LaKIP regarding the high percentage, up to 48.9%, of religious radicalism among the youth or even the research conducted by the Pew Research Center back in 2010 which found that 33% of Indonesians identify themselves as fundamentalists.

With these numbers alone we can see that religious radical groups in Indonesia has steadily become the rising star among Indonesians. It has used democracy as a tool and vehicle to perhaps steadily erect a theocratic government.

This is not just a disheartening prophecy of Indonesia’s future but this is a highly potential possibility of what Indonesia will become based on it’s current conditions.

Current conditions which not only concerns our meek government in being unable to subdue religious radical groups such as FPI but also the laws that the government itself has given birth to.

There are many laws in Indonesia that enables our government to meddle in our personal religious affairs and define what religion is, such as the No.1/PNPS/ 1965 which exactly does such a thing. What I see in these laws are similar to what the European kings have done in the past when the Catholic Church was still on a killing spree, regis jussu et universae plebis consensu, by the order of the king and the agreement of his people. Our “kings” are frightened of it’s people thus any wishes that our ignorant society has wanted has been constantly fulfilled, including matters that our government should not have intervened in.

Yes, perhaps prior elections conducted after our reformation has shown that Islamic based political parties are still far from achieving its goals but much like an unwanted weed in your front lawn, as long as the roots of religious fundamentalism are still entrenched deeply in our society there will always be room for it to grow and flourish. Again, we need no look further than the research that LaKIP and Pew has provided us. Although it would be somewhat utopian to remove every single root but it is possible to isolate it thus minimizing its growth.

When teaching of religious education there will always be personal prejudices, there will always be personal notions from the religious teachers on what religion should be like, there will always be, however slight it may be, a sense of religious superiority when teaching religion. Religious superiority often gives birth to pride and pride itself gives birth to ignorance and when a religious individual is imbued with a sense of superiority, pride and ignorance it is the perfect recipe for a terrorist to be.

Yes, religious education can be refined to minimize those matters such as by educating not only on the rituals and do’s and don’ts of the religion being studied but by educating on tolerance, pluralism, multiculturalism and even the science of other religions yet the results it may bring is limited due to religious education itself being sectarian. There will always be this invisible religious wall that divides people if we emphasize solely on religion. What we need is an education that is non-sectarian and embraces the whole of society. However reformed religious education may be we must not lay our hopes on producing a morally sound individual or national unity only by religious education.

We need Pancasila as a universal Indonesian values education that embraces every Indonesian.

What we have often done is that we have always questioned the impacts of religion towards the society but we very seldom question the impacts of the society itself towards religion.

By producing at first an individual that is tolerant and pluralistic with the Pancasila education he or she will have a tolerant and pluralistic perception towards many things around them including religion.

A holy book of a particular religion has rarely changed, what changes is how we perceive the holy book itself. If we have tolerance implanted in our minds, a holy book will give birth to tolerance as well, that is why Pancasila education as the foundation of Indonesia’s social values is critically important and should never be left out.


6 Comments on “Educating Pancasila”

  1. avatar nobody says:

    ben,
    I think you are exaggerating things.
    That Lakip poll is widely critisized as potentially subjective.. what kind of questions was asked to determine “fundamentalist” or “radical”?
    The few people who did violence are usually hardly educated people, who perhaps only go to SD or SMP, and maybe even failed at those. The majority of student who get normal pancasila and religious educatoins grow up to be just a normal law abiding citizen. So I think the problem is not in the content of religious or pancasila education, but on the quality/quantity of education service as a whole. Despite claim of education fund being 20% of APBN, the government still failed to provide adequate basic education for a big part of its citizens, not only in rural/remote area, but also in cities. This is what you need to peddle to your foreign sponsors, if you have any. Promoting “pluralist education” sounds more catchy and perhaps suit some foreign sponsors agenda better, but that is not the real solution for this problem. Build more school, yes. Bot don’t try to put foreign propaganda inside our children’s brain.

    Btw, you support democracy but you talk about islamic parties somehow as a pariah party, who must be prevented from even dreaming to win an election, presumably you prefer them to be eradicated, just like “unwanted weed in your front lawn”. Very nice of you. Why not just go back to suharto’s system where you can always be 100% sure which party won the election in advance.

    What kind of democracy are you promoting if you wont allow the majority of the people to freely decide which party or law or governing system they prefer for their government?

  2. avatar Lairedion says:

    Build more school, yes. Bot don’t try to put foreign propaganda inside our children’s brain.

    Pancasila is Indonesian, the strongly localized versions of Hinduism and Buddhism (albeit of Indian origin) have their rightful place as the classical religions of the Nusantara, being responsible for a first attempt to unite the region. Islam and Christianity, especially the current dominant puritan versions, are undeniably foreign Arab, Middle Eastern and Western and are severely damaging to Indonesia.

    What kind of democracy are you promoting if you wont allow the majority of the people to freely decide which party or law or governing system they prefer for their government?

    My guess is a democracy with protection of minorities addressed in its Constitution plus a separation of powers into a legislative branch, an executive branch and a judicial branch in order to mute down lawmakers too trigger-happy to coerce minorities. If those elements are absent or not enforced the democracy will be abused and turn into a tyranny of the majority and that’s what happening in Indonesia right now.

    Funny how a honest appeal to tolerance and pluralism is always met with hostile reactions of religious people, citing foreign propaganda and other rubbish.

    Admit it, nobody, your wet dream is a NII (lite, at least) and you will have no problem to hijack democracy to reach that goal. If not, then there’s no reason for you to have a problem with ben’s post.

  3. avatar Pakmantri says:

    What kind of democracy are you promoting if you wont allow the majority of the people to freely decide which party or law or governing system they prefer for their government?

    Exactly, so why is it now only the minority of the people (i.e. the fundamentalist) get to decide what is right and what is wrong for all Indonesian? As we all know that the majority of Indonesians are very moderate and very tolerant.

  4. My apology for my late reply. I was made aware of this reaction to my article a few hours ago.

    Two short points in reply to your nice rebuttal.

    First, my article is written in response to Indonesian govt’s talking points that to fight radicalism, just teach more Pancasila. As you admitted in your post, there’s a problem in how Pancasila is being taught. In fact, in an ideal world, I will be the first one advocating Pancasila education in schools. The problem, however, at this point the curriculum is sadly bankrupt. There are very few capable teachers and student see Pancasila education as more of a hassle, a burden that they would love to escape.

    How do you expect to combat terrorism with that kind of education? Moreover, the fact that many students are attracted to radical Islam and as a result, they won’t listen to Pancasila anymore. They will not listen to the lessons about Pancasila. Plain and simple.

    My point is that since they will only listen to religion at this moment, then the govt should focus on religious education in a short term, trying to get to their heart and mind through something that they will listen.

    Second, as long as Ind’s elite remains bankrupt in morale and conducts, you won’t see people to be attracted to Pancasila. Rather they will see Pancasila as symbol of whatever goes wrong and push for religion as a cure-all elixir.

    I do think Pancasila should be taught, but the govt should make sure that people don’t think it as bankrupt ideology in the first place.

    Please bug me on FB if you want to have a chat. I won’t put my email here as I don’t want spammers to fill my mailbox with useless craps.

    Again, thank you for your nice reaction.

    Sincerely,
    Yohanes Sulaiman

  5. avatar funny says:

    everytime u open ur mouth nobody, garbage and stupidity comes forth. one must wonder if u have any kind of education or morality at all.

    wait i guess u do. in arab i take it?

  6. avatar Yohanes Sulaiman says:

    I am an idiot. Here’s my correct facebook address: http://facebook.com/yohanes.sulaiman

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