My Jakarta: Michael Kurniawan, Headmaster
Kevin Sanly Putera
Michael Kurniawan is the headmaster at Kasih Karunia High School in Cengkareng, West Jakarta. And while he may not be a superhero, like Peter Parker, a k a Spider-Man, he embodies the saying that ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’
The 41-year-old has overseen the Catholic school for the last seven years, and believes that with enough time and the proper environment, any male student can be tamed, educated and turned into a real gentleman. He’s so confident, in fact, that he enrolled his own son at the school.
Do you also teach?
As headmaster, I have a very busy schedule that doesn’t allow for much time for teaching. Outside of the school, I opened a learning center myself. I bought a place and teach science there.
What principles do you enforce as headmaster?
The most important thing is to be disciplined in your time management, and in managing your priorities. I always tell the students to appreciate every single second, and that the time they may think they are wasting in school is in fact time well spent. I also teach them to keep away from cigarettes.
For the teachers, I ask them to be role models in the development of the students’ character. And last but not least, I teach my male students to be gentlemen.
Can you explain that last point?
I think a man’s position is very important in his future as a husband. A husband should be his family’s leader and priest. It is the man’s job to protect the woman. I told my son to treat the title of ‘man’ with honor. It is a real challenge to make ourselves dependable.
What was your least favorite subject when you were in school?
I didn’t hate a specific subject, because when you hate a subject, you’ll have to give a great effort to get good grades. The subject I love the most is science.
What are the main problems you face here at the school?
Most of the kids these days don’t care much about time management and don’t worry about setting priorities. Some are rebellious and poorly motivated to study and have no dreams for their future.
But the good news is that more than 50 percent of our students are highly motivated when it comes to their studies — significantly more so than the average student. They have the ambition and persevere to thrive.
And what’s your worst case of bad student behavior?
There was this boy who hated the idea of coming to school. He was already too attached to his group of irresponsible friends outside of the school. Because of this gang, he always came home late. He went out and smoked a lot. I was afraid that he might start using narcotics. Even his parents ran out of ideas on how to deal with him.
He struggled in the school for a couple of months and left. I felt really sorry for him because he missed his chance at a bright future.
What is it like having your son attend your school?
I put him here because I trust this school. The reputation of the school has been proven by my son’s national exam. He got 10s for mathematics and science, a 9.6 for Bahasa Indonesia, and overall the second-highest score in the school. Besides, he’s still in junior high. Once he graduates, I’ll send him to another school.
What is your view on separating students by academic achievement?
I don’t agree with that. I encourage the teachers to mix up their classes. This way the diligent students can support the ones who are less motivated. Separating them will only justify their lack of motivation. We need to make them realize that they are as capable as other students.
Why do some students thrive and others fail? Is it nature or nurture?
The role of parents is essential. Some children have bad manners and this is likely caused by a strained relationship. When the parents are fine, the children should be too. I believe that 80 percent of a child’s character depends on his or her environment, and 20 percent on the child. That’s why we are making the parents our partners to educate their children. We have a counseling team here, and together, we are forging the students to be polite and well-behaved.
What makes you proudest as a headmaster?
Whenever I sign my students’ diplomas, my heart swells with joy and pride. The success of my team and I is shown by graduation. We educate them and we are grateful for that.
Michael Kurniawan was talking to Kevin Sanly Putera.