Illiterate Javanese

Nov 16th, 2006, in Society, by

Those on Java island have the worst rates of illiteracy, even while they dominate the nation.

For some the modern state of Indonesia can be characterised as a kind of Javanese empire or colonialism. It may then come as some surprise to learn that of the thirteen odd million Indonesians who are substantially illiterate ten million of them come from Java, according to the Department of Education. Broken down by provinces:

  • East Java, 4.6 million
  • Central Java, 3.2 million
  • West Java & Banten, 3 milllion

Outside of Java those provinces worst affected by illiteracy are West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, Papua, South Sulawesi and West Kalimantan.

Sudjarwo Singowidjojo, the Director of People's Education at the Directorate General of External School Education, says the Javanese are hindered by the fact that many of them still have Javanese, a language that uses the Sanskrit alphabet, as their mother tongue. This makes people, especially old folks, disinclined to learn the Latin alphabet, he says.

Javanese language and culture should hurry up and die, he goes on:

Javanese culture is still too strong.

Most of the illiterate are over forty years old and the problem partly stems from the pre-1960's government of Indonesia not requiring children to go to school. Harsh words follow:

People were too lazy to go to school.

He says that this year and next his department will focus on the Rembang, Kuningan, Majalengka, Sampang, Sumenep, Indramayu and Karawang areas, in its efforts to improve literacy. tempo


14 Comments on “Illiterate Javanese”

  1. avatar Munafikbangetloepade says:

    Javanese language and culture should hurry up and die, he goes on:

    WHAT???

    A very lame excuse.

    Tell that to the Japanese (yes, Japanese, those who created the world wonder called Nintendo)…, and see how the would react!

  2. avatar ali says:

    Javanese and Japanese, minor name difference, HUGE attitude difference.
    So close yet so far away.

  3. avatar Travis says:

    Tell them both, and let them trade places!

  4. avatar O. Bule says:

    Whatever happened to the Sumpah Pemuda:

    Satu Tanah “” Air Indonesia (One nation “” the Indonesian nation)
    Satu Bangsa “” Orang Indonesia (One people “” the Indonesian people)
    Satu Bahasa “” Bahasa Indonesia (One language “” the Indonesian language)

    O. Bule

  5. avatar Tomaculum says:

    People were too lazy to go to school.

    If you don’t have even enough money to buy food for your children for tomorrow, then you will be too “lazy” to go to school.

    The one, who said this , is either arrogant or blind or ignores the economical situation at that time.

    Even nowaday there are still many “lazy” javanese young people, which don’t have enough money to pay the further education after the middle school.

    Sudjarwo Singowidjojo, the Director of People’s Education at the Directorate General of External School Education, says the Javanese are hindered by the fact that many of them still have Javanese, a language that uses the Sanskrit alphabet, as their mother tongue.

    My mother tongue were javanese and bahasa Indonesia and I have now 3 (three) specialisation in the medicine and have read many books from Al Qur’an over Nietzsche to Marx. So I am surely more illiterate than this Mr. Sudjarwo Singowidjojo.

    What kind of bull sh*t some people exhale!

  6. avatar Fanglong says:

    Sudjarwo Singowidjojo, the Director of People’s Education at the Directorate General of External School Education, says the Javanese are hindered by the fact that many of them still have Javanese, a language that uses the Sanskrit alphabet, as their mother tongue. This makes people, especially old folks, disinclined to learn the Latin alphabet, he says.

    Javanese language and culture should hurry up and die, he goes on:

    Javanese culture is still too strong.

    As our friends suggest, Japanese writing is far more complex than the Javanese alphabet (which is not Sanskrit [Sanskrit is a language mainly written in Devanagari], nor derived from it, but from Brahmi like most of Indian writings — Huruf Jawa [honocoroko] derives more precisely, like Mon, Thai, & Lao, from a Southern Indian species of Brahmi-derived writing — more curves than straight angles, etc.) : there’s no hindrance in there. In modern Nintendo Japan, newspapers & schoolbooks are written with two 30-syllable alpabets (katakana & hiragana) + 1850 kanji (there are many more kanji, or “Chinese characters”, but only 1850 are “allowed” in some publications, the rest is written with the two syllabaries). As I said, Javanese is as perfect as a language may be, so is Indonesian, which is Malay w/ some variations in syntax & vocabulary : Latin alphabet is fun, it can be learned within some days by motivated people guided by competent teachers : here is the problem, isn’t it ? Competence & motivation. But apart of certain colonialistic trends, indeed, Javanese culture should never die ! What are you saying, Mr Director of Education ?

  7. avatar DianDoank says:

    Don’t think that these days people in java still use Sanskrit to write letter to each other 🙂
    I think everybody understand the importance to speak and write good Bahasa Indonesia. And yes it is essential to have one language which every citizen use to speak with each other since we have more than 250 tribe languages. However it shouldn’t at the cost of local language.

    There should be an education system where local languages not extinct. Look at how UNESCO try to preserve tribal languages. At this point government should be happy that along with bahasa Indonesia, javanese still be used as the medium between the older generation to younger generation. Using local language will provide a smooth knowledge transfer between genre on the culture and social life that might hard to transfer by using Bahasa.

  8. avatar Niamh Piperman says:

    Wow, this guy’s seriously out of touch. Since when do Javanese use anything other that a LATIN alphabet to write?

    O.Bule, the Sumpah Pemuda does not mean one language in place of all the rest. It simply means one UNIFYING language. Never was it intended to displace the regional languages.

    To insist that being too much of any culture is to be somehow less Indonesian is absurd and has NOTHING to do with illiteracy.

    Besides that, there is also the National Motto – Unity in Diversity. How can you have diversity if everyone speaks only one language, or no longer claim heritage as Javanese or Batak or whatever. How boring a buffet meal would be if all the ‘different’ dishes were Mashed Potato.

    Cheers,
    NP

  9. avatar Ray says:

    This is my first time to visit this website. I am very much surprised by comments that Sudjarwo Singowidjojo made in this article. I just couldn’t believe that he could be so inconsiderate and harsh in handling matters that are really important and personal to citizens of Indonesia. I was born in Indonesia, I am currently studying Design in US. So, I felt I needed to say something about “lazy”. I think it is okay for children to feel “lazy”, regardless their economical status. Because they are kids and all they want to do is play and play. Just because degree and education is so important, doesn’t mean they have to be a robot, do they?

    I believe it is wrong when Sudwarjo said that people were too lazy to go to school. He should have considered different aspects before he makes a conclusion. He is not fit for his job.
    -ray

  10. avatar Astrajingga says:

    I believe Sudjarwo Singowidjojo, despite literacy is his business, can not read statistic very well.

    The reason why most of illiterate people lives in Java (not necessarily Javanese ethnic) is, IMHO, as simple as because most of Indonesian lives in Java.

    If the javanese language and sanskrit (which is not sanskrit at all) alphabet is the culprit, how can we explain bataknese? They have their batak language, still use it daily, and they have their batak alphabet, but better literacy rate.

    Then, the real problem is not about illiteracy rate itself, but how government, or people appointed by government like Sudjarwo Singowidjojo, will deal with the illiteracy problem.

    For sure, I won’t let government spend taxpayers’ money to erase ethnic language and alphabet.

  11. avatar Astrajingga says:

    By the way, there’s no “Mengakoe Berbahasa Satoe: Bahasa Indonesia” in Soempah Pemoeda. It’s “Menjunjung bahasa persatoean: Bahasa Indonesia.” And it makes the whole differences.

  12. avatar Adityawarman says:

    Javanese never used a “Sanskrit alphabet”. Sanskrit is a language not an alphabet. Sanskrit was written using various scripts, mainly the Nagari script whereas the (long extinct!) Javanese script was derived from a south Indian script. Indonesian (which until 1928 was called Malay) is now the national language of Indonesia. It is spoken by about 90% of Indonesians. The largest percentage of people who don’t speak Indonesian are Javanese peasants. Javanese is spoken by 100 million people and so there is little incentive for uneducated Javanese to speak Indonesian.

  13. avatar Yaser Antone says:

    ONE in five UK adults is “functionally illiterate” a report reveals today.

    The staggering total means up to EIGHT MILLION are so poor at reading and writing they struggle in their daily lives.

    In a devastating condemnation of our education system, they have difficulty reading a medicine label or simply using a chequebook.

    And filling in a job application with any hope of impressing an employer is beyond them — which costs the UK economy £81BILLION a year in lost earnings and increased welfare spending.

    The bill is the highest in Europe — twice that of Germany’s and three times the drain on France’s purse.

    The grim findings by the World Literacy Foundation are contained in a report which focused on the world’s wealthiest nations.

    Its chief executive Andrew Kay described the findings as “shocking” for Britain. He said last night after the UK was ranked third worst for reading and writing behind Italy and Ireland: “No matter whether you live in the developed or developing world, poor literacy is ruining lives.”

    The shock figures come after one in ten boys were revealed to be leaving primary school with the reading age of a seven-year-old.

    UK pupils have slipped from the world’s seventh best in reading to 25th, according to a separate study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

    Last night a spokesman for the Department for Education insisted: “We are unashamedly determined to drive up literacy standards.”

  14. avatar Oigal says:

    Yasar, you are looking for the website ‘UK Matters’. Stick with the socks and besides its not fair to include people like the EDL in any literacy or educational stats. That would be like including the FPI or PKS in a morals or ethics study useful only in establishing the base point (oh and I mean base as in basement)

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