An Examination of the Education System
Our Kid has passed his 11+. That is, of course, a cause for some celebration as it means that, following his 'graduation' six years ago from kindergarten, he's successfully navigated his second rite of passage into adulthood.
There will now be a three year slog until the next set of multi-choice questions is plonked in front of him. Apart from learning how to choose between A, B, C and D, I'm not certain that he'll have absorbed much essential knowledge from his schooling.
I've always hated mathematics; I may have basic arithmetical skills, such as counting (money), telling the time and measuring, but I really don't understand what he was taught, but didn't really grasp, in his final year in primary school.
Last night, over a bottle or two of Bintang (I have problems in counting more than three), three Brits discussed how we were taught to do long division, which is to carry the remainder below for the next step of division with the completed answer being 'built' from left to right at the top. I believe it's named the Fletcher method, but that's immaterial because that isn't the method taught in Indonesian schools.
A friend commented that his daughter did some long division homework but came home in tears because her teacher had marked
her answers wrong even though she had got them all right
. Apparently the lass had used the above method, one that the teacher didn't understand!
What makes this worse is that these same 'standardised' teaching methods and tests are used across the country. They are, as argued by Benedictus Widi Nugroho
, a high school teacher from Yogya, counter-productive.Although the vision statement articulated in the strategic plans of the Department of National Education maintains that education should be able to equip students with spiritual, emotional and cognitive intelligence; education, in practice, has been reduced to test-oriented school tasks.This practice, of course, denies the vision statement itself because classroom activities are focused only on the cognitive domain. Future leaders should have not only intellectual capacity but also spiritual and emotional maturity and intelligence.
What makes it worse is, Iwan Gunawan says
, that the exam system, being controlled by the government, is not transparent.In a country where even prosecutors, judges and parliamentarians can be bribed, the national exam sounds like a nationwide early introduction to corrupt the mindset of our children. Before the exam dates, rumors circulate of offers of leaked test papers.
The major problem is that at the end of Grades 6, 9 and 12, each pupil - throughout the country - must pass a set of exams by attaining an average of the scores of all the tests. The standardisation does not allow for individual talents, aspirations or local conditions. Furthermore, high school students must achieve a pass mark in Indonesian, Mathematics and English. Why the latter I really don't understand.Many students who have been accustomed to an active learning system find it difficult to switch from the independent research skills that they have been taught to the "beating-multiple-choice-test" skills that require more experience of as many tests as possible. The psychological costs of this to our younger generation have been very high varying from an apathetic attitude to developing an "all-is-fair to win" mindset.Such is the obsession with 'passing' irrelevant exams that today's students have no more time to play and relax. Their days are overburdened with school assignments and homework.
There is also the sad consequence of having one exam fit all: provinces at the outer extremes on Indonesia, Aceh, recovering from its civil war and the devastation caused by the tsunami, and East Nusa Tengarra, where last year 17,959 of 51,770 junior high students failed the test, both achieved 'poor' results. Jakarta's government officials, meanwhile, are crowing about the near 100% pass rate.
The head of Jakarta's primary education agency, Sukesti Martono said
that from 116,254 junior high school students taking the exams, only 15 students, 0.01 percent, failed. The average grade this year was 7.35 out of 10. The minimum standard to pass the exam is 5.25.
Let me close with a comment by a Year 6 teacher
: "There's something wrong with the amount of testing and assessment we're doing, the quality of testing and assessment we're doing, and the unseen consequences of that testing for the whole school culture.
"It is still a culture where the success of a child, of a teacher, of a school is linked to testing, testing, testing, that is the problem.
To be fair, the teacher is talking about English schools. That her comment mirrors those being made in Indonesia by her colleagues leads me to think that the forces of 'globalisation' are inherently evil.
Children are being trained to consume unthinkingly rather than to realise their potential as participants in the human race. Those who fail are unimportant anyway as they won't have the financial resources to participate except as androids in the machinery of the multinationals.
Students celebrate passing the national exams
......................For a detailed critique of Indonesia's standardised national exams, download this paper by Iwan Syahril at the Teachers College of Columbia University. He has published a condensed version on his excellent Education 21 blog, which, because I believe Iwan would make an enlightened Minister of Education, I'm giving a permanent link to.