Natasia Christy & Pitan Daslani
As of the next academic year, the government will reinstate Pancasila courses in Indonesia’s elementary and high schools in a desperate attempt to halt violent behavior and the loss of cultural identity in society.
The decision was made by the Ministry of Education and Culture following a series of fatal brawls in high schools and university campuses, not to mention horizontal conflicts in various parts of the country.
Politicians and community leaders alike have expressed worry that an absence of Pancasila courses has also triggered a rise in ethnic and religious intolerance which could result in national disintegration if abandoned any further.
Pancasila, Indonesia’s state ideology, was ingrained into school curriculums a during former president Suharto’s three decades of dictatorial rule. Critics accused him of using the Pancasila Propagation Course, then known as P4, as a political indoctrination instrument to cement his power. As a result, his ouster in 1998 spelled an end to Pancasila’s inclusion in school curricula.
In July 2003, President Megawati Sukarnoputri signed Law No.20/2003 that resulted in Pancaila courses being scrapped from schools. Megawati’s father, former president Sukarno, was the one who introduced Pancasila as the nation’s guiding ideology on June 1, 1945, prior to independence.
Historian Asvi Warman Adam placed blame on the former government for Pancasila’s absence in schools. He has urged then-education minister Bambang Sudiby to apologize to the public for having made “such a frivolous blunder.”
Retno Listyarti, secretary general of the Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI), said that it is not enough just to reinstate Pancasila in schools — the government must instill the right culture based on the values of the state ideology, especial religious tolerance toward minority groups, because Indonesia is a pluralist society.
She said that discriminative treatment toward students from minority groups was flourishing in public schools. “Civic education must lead to greater tolerance toward our pluralistic reality. The Indonesian state is not based on religious ideologies but on Pancasila,” she explained.
“For example, there are schools that oblige all students to read the Koran or [force] female students to wear Muslim dresses every Friday,” Retno told the daily Suara Pembaruan on Monday.
The Deputy Minister of Education, Muslia Kasin, had said that the government planned to change the name of PPKn civic education course to Pancasila Education.
PPKn as a subject matter was introduced during the 2004 academic year, but the terminology of Pancasila was omitted.
Meanwhile, rector of state-owned Yogyakarta University, Rochmat Wahab, said what is important is not verbalistic changes but the true implementation of the state ideology within society. The government must make sure that Pancasila courses will not only serve the interests of those in power, the academic said.
On Tuesday, Vice President Boediono threw his weight behind the move to reinstate Pancasila in schools, stating that Indonesian students were in dire need of soft skills, including character building based on the values of the state ideology.
“There aren’t soft skill lessons in our schools, and I have the impression that we have not given sufficient attention to promoting [these] skills in the younger generation,” Boediono said.
Such abilities are needed to groom Indonesia’s future leaders in all fields, the vice president explained. “This will determine the pace of our civilization.”
Boediono noted that an absence of the serious development of character in schools in is to blame for frequent student brawls, violent acts, corruption, markup and bribery. “And we wonder why have all these things happened?”
Education must provide an answer to such social maladies, Boediono noted. “My appeal is that all schools at all levels must teach soft skills as [well] as hard skills.”
But religious educators Maman Imanulhaq and Benny Susetyo warned that Pancasila education is not just for students, but for the political elite, as well.
They argued that the government does not take proper action when citizens suffer from discriminatory treatment and religious intolerance.
Maman, an educator at Al Mizani Islamic boarding school in Majalengka, West Java, said that such government inaction is proof that the political elite have failed to implement Pancasila in the real world.
Benny, the executive secretary of inter-religious relations at the Indonesian Catholic Bishops Conference, said that political elites have even “parked Pancasila” and replaced it with pragmatism and trans-nationalism. “Corruption is on the rise, as is oppression, greed and violent behavior that endangers tolerance,” Benny warned.
Nahdlatul Ulama’s Ansor Youth organization’s chairman Nusron Wahid expounded the statement by saying that a number of groups are “forcing their own interpretations of religious teachings from narrow-minded perspectives.”
Earlier reports said the education ministry was planning to remove science and English studies from elementary schools, because the ministry believes that young students shouldn’t be studying too much.
Deputy Education Minister Musliar Kasim said that his ministry is drafting a new curriculum that contains only six subjects: religion, nationalism, Indonesian language, math, art and sport.
Besides scrapping science and social studies from the curriculum, as announced on Sept. 27, the government also intends to eliminate English language lessons.
Science and social studies will be integrated into Indonesian language classes. “So, when learning the Indonesian language, students could study about thunder or rain while learning to read,” the deputy minister said.
However, many education experts have said that the policy would hurt Indonesia.
In other countries, science is taught in elementary school in order to cultivate a critical and scientific culture early.
Educational observer Darmaningtyas said it was wrong to abolish or postpone sciences at elementary school.
“I agree with reinstatement of Pancasila. … However, it should not be done at the expense of science and English. How can we compete at the international level if we don’t master English and science?” Darmaningtyas said.