Saturday, May 9, 2009

Elementary schools too hard on children

Sunday, May 10, 2009 2:47 AM
Curriculum demands too much of students and burdens them with unnecessary learning materials and long school hours.

"I don't know why they have to stay at school for so long, learning things that they don't need to know much of at their age," Diana, a graphic designer and a mother of two, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The day before, Aisyah, her eight year old daughter, came home from school at 1 p.m. After changing her clothes, she went straight back to her school books.

After two hours of frowning over mathematics and Islamic subjects, she played with her 10-year old brother Alif, who had just came home from his school.

Her children are studying too much and too long, Diana said. "They have to study hard to keep up with their classmates, but overall I think the curriculum is just too heavy for them."

Vivi, a director of an IT company, said that her child, Biru, a fifth grader, has trouble with history. "There's just too many dates and names to memorize," Vivi complained.

Her son is studying at a Catholic school in South Jakarta, which holds classes for as many as eight hours a day. "After school, he gets a half an hour break before going to a two-hour tutoring session. Some days of the week, he also takes piano and English lessons.

"I know it's hard for him, but he has to take extra lessons. As I work everyday, I can't keep a constant eye on his progress," Vivi said.

She added the extra hours of learning were necessary to ensure that Biru can keep up with the increasingly heavy subjects taught in his school.

Some schools do not balance heavy learning materials with good teaching methods, Susi, an administrator, said.

Her son is a first grader at an exemplary state school in South Jakarta. "The curriculum there is harder than the one taught at regular public schools." She said her son was taught about the abstract concept of the market.

"Despite the heavy subject, the school allows too many children in one classroom, thus depleting their concentration." There are about 40 children in her son's current classroom, she said.

The pressure of education is already building for Iwan, the father of five year old Egi, who will most likely enter elementary school next year. "I heard that most primary schools require those entering first grade to be able to read, write and do simple maths," Iwan said. "Egi is not the sit-and-learn type, he is more of a socializer, so I am afraid that he might not pass the entrance test."

Susi, Diana and Vivi voiced an almost uniform suggestion to improve the current education system: less heavy learning and more entertaining teaching methods.

"Less quantity and more quality," Vivi said.

Some schools in Jakarta, such as those focusing on "character building" or "fun learning" have adapted less conservative teaching methods. However, not all parents have the will or financial ability to enrol their children in such schools.

"I've heard of schools with better educational systems, but I don't think I can afford them" Iwan, who works in the human resources department of a consumer goods company, said. (dis)

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