Practitioners and experts expressed criticism toward the new school curriculum set to be implemented in July next year, saying that the plan will only cause problems for teachers and students.
The Ministry of Education has argued that the current curriculum is putting too much strain on students, and that it’s looking to limit the subjects taught in elementary schools to just six, eliminating science, social studies and English.
The new curriculum would contain religion, nationalism, Indonesian language, math, art and sports.
The Indonesian Teachers Union Federation (FSGI) also criticized the elimination of Information Technology and Communication (TIK), a subject that was recently created by the government.
“There are a lot of candidate teachers for the TIK undergoing training. What will happen to them now? Has the government thought [the new curriculum] through?” said FSGI secretary general Retno Listyarti on Sunday.
Retno also said that the new curriculum has not taken into account the fate of many science, social studies and English teachers at elementary schools.
Although she acknowledges that younger students should not be forced to spread their attention over an expansive range of subjects, Retno said science and social studies should be taught starting at the fourth grade.
The ministry earlier said that elementary students can still study basic science and social studies, adding that they would be integrated into Indonesian-language lessons.
Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh said elementary school students will still be taught the sciences. They just won’t be curriculum subjects on their own, he said.
“The subjects will be integrated, not eliminated. Therefore, IPA [science] and IPS [social science] will always be included in the elementary school curriculum,” Nuh said recently.
However, experts doubted the plan’s logic.
“How are [teachers] supposed to integrate science in Bahasa Indonesia lessons?” Retno said. “It seems like the government hasn’t thought this [curriculum] through.”
The ministry has also proposed a credit system for senior high schools which, according to Retno, would make certain subjects more popular than others.
If the credit system is enforced, “then what about the National Examination? How do you determine which subjects to be tested?” she said.
Despite claiming that the new curriculum would mean less of a burden for the students, the ministry has also decided to increase the school hours to 38 per week to 32.
“This will mean that children will have to eat lunch at schools while most of the food at schools are not healthy to consume. Besides, children will get bored spending a lot of time in class,” Retno said.
The new curriculum sparked controversy and polarized the nation, with proponents of the plan arguing that their children had long felt overburdened by the curriculum.
But opponents of the plan argued that it would make Indonesians less competitive in the globalized market and discriminate against those who could not afford to send their children to private English and science tuition centers.
After weeks of criticism, the Education Ministry recently announced that English language lessons will not be scrapped completely but would be offered as an elective subject or integrated into the six mandatory subjects.
Jimmy Paat from Jakarta State University, however, is more concerned with the fact that the government keeps changing the curriculum.
“Indonesia’s [education system] is lagging behind neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia … but the solution is not to change the curriculum,” he said.
The government has requested Rp 171 billion ($18 million) to develop and implement next year the national school curriculum, which experts say could be used to address the discrepancy in the numbers of quality teachers between major cities and remote areas of the country.
“The most important thing is to fix the teachers’ education system at universities so by the time they graduate they are ready to implement any kind of curriculum,” Jimmy said.
“The bottom line is changing the old curriculum with the 2013 curriculum is oversimplification. The problem is much more complex … so this [curriculum] is not the answer we are seeking for.”
Retno also said the government should improve the quality of teachers rather than merely create a new curriculum.
“Training teachers is a long process,” she said, adding that most teachers will not be ready to implement the new curriculum in seven months.
Nuh, however, said that the new curriculum, which meets the demands of the new era, was necessary to improve the quality of national education.
He added that the new curriculum would be tested in a number of regions. South Sumatra is the second province for the public test of the curriculum after Yogyakarta.