Govt Launches New Curriculum Amid Textbook Shortage
[Updated at TK:TK on Tuesday, July 16, 2013]
Indonesia’s controversial new school curriculum got off to a rocky start on Monday as educators and experts continued to debate the merits of the Ministry of Education’s science- and English-lite program and reported a shortage of new textbooks.
“The 2013 curriculum is expected to lead to a better-quality education and progress for future generations of Indonesians,” Education Minister M. Nuh said during the curriculum launch at a school in Yogyakarta, as quoted by Vivanews.com.
The new curriculum slashed the number of subjects taught in a day across the board, dropping dedicated classes science, English-language and social studies courses in favor of classes on Bahasa Indonesia, nationalism and religious studies. The ministry argued that the new curriculum will develop students’ sense of morality and social responsibility, but Nuh has failed to convince critics of the plan.
Critics, like Yohanes Surya, a prominent physicist, said the move away from science and English-language studies during early-learning would damage Indonesia’s ability to compete and impact profoundly on those who could not afford private tuition.
“The amount of science learning in the school curriculum has dropped each year since 1988. If you were to give a student a science test from 1998 today, they wouldn’t be able to do it,” Yohanes said in June. “And the government’s response to all this is to go even easier on the students.”
The new curriculum aims to reduce student course-loads by folding English, science and social studies lessons into thematic lessons on math and nationalism. In elementary schools, daily lesson plans would focus on a single theme that incorporates a variety of subjects into a day-long lesson.
An elementary school teacher in Jepara, Central Java, explained one lesson plan focused on “introductions” that incorporated math and Indonesian language skills into a single exercise.
“In front of the classroom, there’s a picture about how to introduce yourself, how to shake hand and greet [each other],” Ida said. “I asked them to come forward and introduce themselves to their friends. They shook hands and introduced each other.”
She also asked them to count their fellow classmates.
“So in this theme, they learned both math and PKN [citizenship],” she said. “It makes them learn how to be brave and creative.”
This approach lowers the total number of classes taught in a day from ten to six, dropping dedicated classes on English, science and social studies. By fourth grade, science and social studies would be reintroduced, but only as parts of larger thematic lessons.
By junior high school, daily courses would drop from 12 to ten as science and social studies become umbrella courses covering physics, biology and chemistry as “science” and geography, economics and history as “social studies.” The resulting courses will likely emphasize one type of lesson over the others, like at SMP 5 Semarang, where science will focus on biology and social studies on geography.
In senior high school, students will be allowed to choose a major and tailor their course-load to a specific interest. Students will be able to choose from three majors — math and science, linguistics and culture and social studies — attending around 40 hours of class per week, up from 32. English will be offered as an elective to senior high school students, while Indonesia’s national scouting organization — a program emphasizing survival skills and social service — will be a mandatory extracurricular activity.
The new curriculum will take three years to take full effect and will start with students at 6,400 schools who are starting first, fourth, seventh and tenth grades this year.
Around 60,000 teachers will be trained in the new curriculum: they will receive a five-day orientation. Some 6,400 schools — spread across elementary schools, junior- and senior-high schools — will teach the revised syllabi this academic year.
Nuh conceded, however, that not enough textbooks had been printed.
“At the elementary school level, the only books that have been printed are for first through fourth grades,” he said. “We have not printed texts for eighth graders yet.”
Mohammad Abduhzen, the executive director of Indonesia for Education Reform, said the new curriculum may not be of benefit to students.
“This won’t change a thing. It will cause a printing frenzy for new books…,” Abduhzen said. “In the classrooms, it will end with concepts in limbo and confused teachers.”