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Anies Baswedan: Education Should be a Pleasant Experience
Anies Baswedan, Minister of Culture, Primary and Secondary Education . Tempo/Aditia Noviansyah
Wednesday, 17 December, 2014 | 15:10 WIB
Anies Baswedan: Education Should be a Pleasant Experience

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Photographs of elementary school students hang on the walls of the Ki Hajar Dewantara Building of the Elementary and Secondary Education and Culture Ministry in Jakarta. Most of them show children in remote areas, wearing shabby uniforms but genuine smiles on their faces. The photographs were put up at the request of the new minister, Anies Baswedan, who asked that they be hung everywhere, including in all meeting rooms. "So that when we meet, their faces will remind us that we work for them," said Anies, in his office last week.

Barely two months into his new assignment, Anies has created a buzz in Indonesia's education sector. He changed the function of national school examinations from determining a student's passing grade to merely a tool to measure the quality of education. Another surprising move was when Anies halted the Curriculum 2013 and reverted to the Curriculum 2006 on December 6. He rejected the new curriculum because he noticed that teachers and schools were not ready to implement it. "It's like being told to suddenly switch to an iPhone when you're used to using BlackBerry," Anies explained.

He figures the implementation of the new curriculum was done too hurriedly, hence many teachers and schools were unprepared. But his decision has triggered sharp criticism. His predecessor, Mohammad Nuh said Anies's decision was a step backward. Nuh also felt that Anies acted too fast in stopping the application of Curriculum 2013.

Anies spoke last week to Tempo reporters Qaris Tadjudin, Erwin Prima, Pamela Sarnia, Mitra Tarigan and Heru Triyono at his new office. Before the interview began, he pointed to a thick book on his desk, titled Sekolah Taman Siswa (The Garden of Students Method of Schooling), authored by Ki Hadjar Dewantara. "This book is our foundation. Studying should be something happy and bright, like playing in a garden," said Anies.

Did you take part in drafting Curriculum 2013? Why stop its implementation now?

I was just a source. I was asked my opinion about it, but when my views differed, I was never asked again.


How different was your opinion?

At that time, I posed them the question: have any of you spent a week in an elementary school observing how they work? My question was seen to be irrelevant. So, I changed the question: have any of you spent one day in a school? None of them ever did. So I said, how can you prepare a curriculum for children when you were never there for the children?


So, you disapprove of changing the curriculum?

In principle, curricula must go through changes, but it should not be made a solution to every problem. Take a shooter who is always missing his target. He changes his bullets until he finds one which he thinks is the right one. He puts it in, shoots again, misses again. Yet, he doesn't practice to improve his aim.


Are you saying that teachers are like that?

Yes. I believe that the quality of education is determined by the quality of teachers. If the quality of the teacher's education is good, God Willing, his or her classes will be good, too. The second element is the quality of the schools. A school principal needs training. Any organization, when the commander is good, so will be the subordinates.


What's wrong with Curriculum 2013?

The curriculum itself is good. The main problem is the hurried implementation. Yet, according to Government Regulation No. 32/2013 (on national education standards), the implementation of a new curriculum based on competence must be implemented gradually during a seven-year period starting from 2013. If that seven-year period is used for preparation, I don't think we would have had that ruckus yesterday.


But hadn't the teachers been trained for this new curriculum?

Yesterday, the teachers were trained on specific subjects. And what was taught to them was more administrative matters, like how to write reports. So the training was only for statistical purposes. Do we want to aim for statistics or do we want to initiate change? Remember, education is interaction between humans, between educators and those being educated. A curriculum is only a tool to put that interaction into a structure, so the aim of education can be achieved wherever and whenever. So, those who need to be trained to implement that curriculum are not just the teachers, but the school's entire ecosystem. The term is whole school training. (*)


Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine

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