Indonesia Tinkers with Curriculum for Global Competitiveness

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Indonesia will be putting an end to a curriculum that focuses on moral and religious education, which has been widely criticized in the country.

After its introduction last year, critics complained that it did not improve the low-skilled workforce that was in need of improvement in order to better compete in the world market, causing a review of the curriculum to be conducted.

“Changing a curriculum doesn’t automatically raise the quality of education,” said Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan, adding that teachers and schools had been inadequately prepared to adopt the new measures. “We have to concentrate on the quality of teachers.”

Former government officials say that while the curriculum did focus on languages and science in much the same way as developed countries, more hours were dedicated to religion.

The curriculum was initiated in 218,000 schools across the country despite complaints of a lack of teacher training and no teaching materials available.

“Our teachers are lacking quality,” said Retno Listiyarti, head of the Indonesia Teachers Union, who supports the move.  “What we need now is not changing the curriculum, but to improve teachers’capacity.” Indonesia spends a fifth of its state budget on education but a large portion goes on teacher welfare, analysts said.

According to a World Bank study released this year, teachers who are certified and receive twice their salaries do not any teach better when comparing student test results.

In addition, Ary Dwidayana, leading political analyst from the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, said the country needs to incorporate more anti-corruption education into its curriculum.  It is estimated that corruption in the country costs the government tens of billions of dollars each year.

In this year’s global Pearson index Indonesia was rated in the bottom 40 countries based on a combination of test scores and educational data.

Amol Titus, president director of Indonesia WISE, a business consultancy firm, has said that the country is in risk of a human resource shortage as the skills learned in school continue to differ greatly from the skills needed by the workplace.

“The graduates are not ready to enter the industry. There is a gap between the knowledge that they acquire from their education and the skills industry requires,” Titus said.

Titus added that the country would need to reduce its dependence on imports while also increasing the agricultural and local services industries.  He suggested that this happen through effective and low-cost technology like the kind being developed in India.  The two countries are working on plans to strengthen their relationship and share such knowledge in an effort to better prepare their high populations of youth for socioeconomic development.

“This association will give opportunities for greater interaction and cooperation between the alumni of both countries and for their greater participation in various outreach activities,” said Indian Ambassador to Indonesia and Timor-Leste Gurjit Singh.