Saturday, May 23, 2009

Conventional classroom:

Sunday, May 24, 2009 3:16 AM

Andra Wisnu , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 05/22/2009 12:24 PM | City

Conventional classroom: In a conventional classroom like this one in an elementary school in Central Jakarta, children mostly sit throughout the entire school day, directly facing the chalkboard. JP/Ricky YudhistiraConventional classroom: In a conventional classroom like this one in an elementary school in Central Jakarta, children mostly sit throughout the entire school day, directly facing the chalkboard. JP/Ricky Yudhistira

Pria Saptono, a math teacher at Sevilla School in Pulomas, East Jakarta, thought he could squeeze in some character building lessons for his students by having them compete in an international math competition.

“The Gauss contest puts more emphasis on student’s abilities in figuring out logical solutions to mathematical problems, since children are free to use their own methods,” Pria said, referring to the 2009 Gauss test — a Canadian mathematics competition held at Sevilla School on Saturday.

This was one of Pria’s attempts to develop his student’s willingness to learn by making mathematics fun, as opposed to information-cramming to get students through the national exams.

“The national exams focus so much on solving problems using formulas, teachers are pressed to cram as much as they can into students’ minds, which I think causes students to forget the essence of learning.

“As a teacher, I would be doing a disservice to my students and their parents if I didn’t teach them the more fun aspects of problem solving.”

Many of the city’s teachers have questioned Indonesia’s education system since apparently it can produce International Science Olympics gold-medalists, and yet the country still ranks high among the most corrupt in the world.

In response to this perceived shortfall, many have begun investing in character education programs, social work and friendly competitions to develop students’ characters.

There is the aptly named Character School on Jl. Raya Bogor, Depok, which focuses completely on character training. Here teachers encourage students to find their main interests and focus on them.

The studies slip into cognitive learning, but focus on making sure children end up wanting to learn.
Then there’s Cikal School in Cilandak, which works to involve children’s parents in their schooling, with community work and psychological techniques to enable children’s characters to develop.

Teachers like Pria who do not teach at such schools, can only do their best to make sure children leave the classroom not just smarter, but also more responsible.

“I don’t think children from my school will grow up without morals,” said Betsy Eliana, a kindergarten teacher at the Al-Azhar mosque in Rawamangun.

“Morals are an important part of our lessons, which we impart using examples of how the Prophet acted.”

Sri Sungging Sumunan, also a kindergarten teacher at Al-Azhar, said children did not get enough character education.

“Especially students at public schools. I think private school teachers have more time to impart important moral lessons,” Sri said.

Character School executive director Rahma Dewi criticized public schools’ moral education (PPKn) programs under the national curriculum.

“Just compare the amount of time given to moral education, and even art lessons, to math and science classes. It’s astounding how much the government is ignoring this important facet of children’s development,” she added.

Earlier this month, the Sampoerna Foundation funded a training workshop for teachers, led by Thomas J. Martinek, an education professor from the Kinesiology department of the University of North Carolina.

Martinek said Indonesian students shared similar problems to students in the United States, with teachers in Indonesia unable to figure out ways to develop students’ characters.

Thomas urged the government to support character education in through the curriculum, instead of just slipping moral lessons into schools without correct implementation.

“The Obama administration has poured a lot of money into character education and I do think it is a growing trend. In fact, it should be the logical trend because it is certainly the most important aspect of educating children.”

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