Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Redeeming Indonesian Education

Obviously, Indonesia is very rich in terms of its natural resources. However, our country is left behind in every aspect of development. The US, UK, Germany, Japan, are among those that lead the international community at this point in time. There is this common question we usually raise: How come Indonesia that is very rich in natural resources is listed among poor countries, while Japan (for example) that has no natural resources is listed among the richest countries in the world? What is Indonesia lacking? Why we easily trust products from Japan, Germany, and so on rather than our own product?

From an educator’s eyes, I would say that Indonesia lacks discipline. What I mean is that Indonesian people tend to be lazy. We are easily pleased with imperfection. We tend not to have the spirit to pursue perfection. When we work, we tend to work carelessly. Is it because our natural resources are too much that we can live even without working hard or smart? It seems that we don’t have such motivation to make the best our hands can touch.

If my hunch is correct, then maybe what we need to is create a culture that is loaded with discipline and the pursuit of perfection. Jesus said: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Jesus requires the children of God to be perfect in all aspects of life.The pursuit of perfection is natural because we are created in perfection and because we are the children of the perfect God. Now, the big question is: How can we create such culture in Indonesia?

My immediate answer is through education. Education has been believed for so many centuries to be the gateway of cultural change and the guard of tradition. However, using education to create a culture should not be done sloppily. We got to go back to basic. We got to embrace the very basic foundation of education. When I use the term education, I mean all education. So I do not merely single out formal education or schooling, but I mean formal, informal, and non-formal education. All education spheres must be touched. The next question is: Where do we start?

I would say we start from teaching. As Gabriel Moran has pointed out that teaching is showing how to live, then the task of teachers is to show their students how to live. If we relate it to our conversation about perfection, then teachers’ task is to show our students how to pursue perfection. This means that as teachers we ourselves MUST first and foremost be the pursuer of perfection. If we don’t, then we can’t show our students how. Now, I need to clarify that when I say teachers or students, I don’t mean only school teachers or school students, but instead I mean anyone in the role of teacher and student. Only then can we create the culture of discipline and perfection.

There is a big warning for this endeavor. This task cannot be done through external discipline. To pursue perfection, one must have discipline. But the kind of discipline we need is not the external discipline. We need the internal discipline, or what we often call as the self discipline. To have such discipline is not easy. Self discipline requires us to possess LOVE. The love of perfection and the love of the subject being studied are extremely important for the self discipline to rise. MODELING. Modeling is consistent with Moran’s definition of teaching, which is showing how. Modeling is an excellent choice because it not only shows the students how to get a certain task done, but it can also motivate students to want to do it.
The pursuit of perfection requires one to want to do it by him/herself. External discipline will work only temporarily and the effect can be very negative. Therefore, the method of education in this matter cannot be rewards and punishment, but instead it must be

This is my analysis: Indonesia was occupied for 350 years by the Dutch. The self discipline that we had before the colonialism era was sadly wiped away. To return our one great culture of self discipline that we had in the Sriwijaya or Majapahit era requires our generation to work together. Furthermore, our generation must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the goodness of the next generation and for the entire nation and for the whole world. In this context, Indonesian educators need to be aware that simply employing western education or international education will not work here. The current western education is to aim at excellence and its research is focused on learning, which paves the way for learning conveniently. If our beloved Indonesia adopts such convenient learning model, then we are destroying ourselves, for we don’t yet have the discipline and the spirit of pursuing perfection like the west or Japan. For Indonesia, our first step is to embrace self discipline for the pursuit of perfection. This is the first goal of education in Indonesia, I believe. If all people in Indonesia embrace self discipline and perfection, then such culture is formed, and only then am I sure that the future of Indonesia can be very bright. I believe that if it is so, Indonesia will be listed among the top developed countries in the world and history. Only and only then can Indonesia give a significant impact to the world.

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