Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life ain't fair! - Snapshot of education in Indonesia

A Catholic School in Jakarta
Life is fair for everyone is part of childhood innocence. As one grows up and realizes there is no Santa Claus, it shall dawn that life treats some better than others. A major unfairness of life is the level of education one receives while growing up.

As education is the foundation of life, this disparity of education level is multiplied to create a huge difference in knowledge, character and skill in the adult population.

Indonesia is a huge country with huge population. She is still young. While our founding fathers had the foresight to put into our founding charter that one of the nation's purpose is to educate its people, in reality public education both in quality and quantity still have a lot to be desired.

Some are fortunate enough to have the much better private education. I was one of the fortunate ones, to study in one of the top Catholic schools. At the time it was the best education money can buy in Indonesia. As well as the quality of the teaching staff, the discipline and the culture build the students character. Even though it's a Catholic School, most of the students such as myself are Moslems, which teaches everyone tolerance and respect for others' religion.

With this foundation, I was able to sail through in a language that is not my native tongue, my undergraduate and masters degree course, even while spending most of my time in the university pub (please don't tell my parents).

Most of my schoolmate also succeeded in their further education and subsequently became successful professionals and businessmen. They became significantly better than their comrades. Although they were better off to begin with, their better education surely propels them to the pinnacle of society. Some of them are even on their way to become SFRs - Stinking Filthy Rich.
Public School in Purworejo
For the majority of Indonesian, they were not as lucky. The public education system is underfunded. Teacher to student ratio is too big, with teachers that are sometimes under-qualified. The education system itself need revamping, with too much focus on memorizing things, instead of teaching how to learn. The thought processes of coming to a conclusion are not taught, only the results are told to be memorized. The resulting workforces are lacking the creative skill and the self learning ability required to be an entrepreneur. No wonder there are too many people looking for jobs, and not enough creating it.

Some are even less fortunate. With no access to even the most rudimentary education, they are stuck to lives that give them little opportunity to improve to a better life. Indonesian government has a compulsory education program and tried to provide education for all, but it is still a long way coming.

This education quality gap is expanding, with a new breed of private school becoming available to the wealthy. The enrollment fee for a child to these schools is sufficient to run a small public school for a month. These "International" and "National+" schools provide at a cost a top notch education.

Classes' size are small with multiple teachers in the class. Teachings are tailored to individual student's ability and learning style. Psychologists are in-house to constantly monitor the effectiveness of the teaching process.

The expensive tuition also allows the school to have complete infrastructure, music room, theaters, sports facility, superb library, computing facilities even swimming pool. One school even goes to the extreme of providing equestrian as an extra-curricular activity.

Instead of lecture type teaching, they have group discussions. Researching, formulating concepts, writing and individual presentations are integral part of the teaching process. Routine class performance foster creativity and build confidence as well as team working skills. The children are taught not only knowledge but also character and responsibility, to one selves as well as to society. All these in an environment that is fun, giving foundations for the love of lifetime learning.

Classroom in a leading National+ primary school
All these advanced methods are aimed to create individuals that have the ability to think and learn, have confidence, can develop ideas, present and defend it. With the ability to work in a team as well as self starting, these children are well equipped to be successful entrepreneurs or competent professionals.

The students educated at these schools have a significant head start compared to those educated at public schools, let alone to those that didn't have access to education. Life ain't fair...

In a Utopian dream, all Indonesian should have access to quality education. In a Utopian dream, life is fair.

Where we are, we just have to make the best of what life offers and contribute to society so it can be better for the future generations. Their dream is our responsibility. Noblesse Oblige..

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