Overhauling the Curriculum

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The instruction from President Joko Widodo for Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Makarim to completely overhaul the curriculum has the potential to weaken our education system. The problem is that Jokowi is pushing for improvements to the curriculum simply to bring school leavers into line with the demands of business and industry.

    It is undeniable that the curriculum and the teaching methodology in our schools have problems. Therefore, there must be improvements to the curriculum. But the initiative to overhaul the curriculum must be based on a thorough study of the problems of education and a deep understanding of the aims of developing Indonesian human resources in the long term.

    On elementary school benches, children have their heads stuffed with subjects and tasks that sometimes seem to have little benefit. On average, children at elementary schools in Indonesia study twice as many subjects as children in developed countries such as the United States or Japan.

    For decades, teaching methodology in schools has emphasized the importance of rote learning over understanding, following orders without allowing any discussion and bringing about uniformity of understanding rather than optimizing the potential of every child. Although some of these problems were addressed in the 2013 curriculum, the preparedness of teachers is still an issue. And schools have recently been focusing on indoctrination about a narrow definition of piety, ideology, and nationalism.

    This type of curriculum and pedagogy needs to be corrected. But the curriculum should not be overhauled simply to meet the needs of the industry. And the government should not be trapped in the narrowly-defined concept of link and match at a time when the business world needs school graduates who are ready to work.

    It is important to understand that schools are not simply factories to produce robots or machines ready to work in other factories. As well as producing graduates who are productive in the world of work, more importantly schools must produce complete humans: graduates who can make a positive contribution to humanity and the environment, who care about democracy and who are aware of the importance of fighting for human rights, especially those of minorities and people who have been sidelined.

    Therefore, the job of Minister Nadiem is to return Indonesian educational institutes to their main role: honing students so they are able to think critically and creatively. This way, students will be more able to understand problems, will be more innovative in seeking solutions and will be better able to face challenges and change. Rather than reviving the concept of link and match that failed in the 1990s, the government should prioritize the ending of teaching methodology that stifles freedom and creativity.

    Then, while drawing up a curriculum that can make rounded people of students, Nadiem must ensure that there is equality of opportunity for all Indonesian children to obtain a proper education. No matter how good the national curriculum, if there is no opportunity for everybody, schools and universities will only educate those who are able to pay.

    A curriculum and teaching methodology that improves children’s common sense, as well as equality of opportunity to study, will become solid foundations for resolving the many problems in this nation.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine