Education reform and deform

The thing about the recent proposal to “simplify” Indonesian primary education curriculum, which perhaps most controversially will scrap English and combine natural & social sciences into “general knowledge”, is the private schools (especially the elite ones) will keep teaching those subjects anyway. The problem of our country is deep socio-economic inequality and our education, which is supposed to reduce the gap, is also affected by it. And perhaps this simplification was proposed to address the problem, to make the playing field more equal. But ironically this could even accentuate the inequality even further, as the private schools will keep teaching those scrapped/combined subjects anyway, and hence their students will have a head start by the time they go into the secondary school. The issue is indeed delicate and not easy to solve: how do you design a national curriculum which could “fit” the entire country? Or is the idea itself absurd and should be abandoned? I still think that we do need a national curriculum as without it the gap will just widen even further. Nevertheless, I also think that watering it down is not the answer. It’s like we are barking up the wrong tree. The issues (and the cure) perhaps lie elsewhere: standardizing the quality of the teachers, improving (& standardizing) the quality of schools’ infrastructure, improving access to textbooks and stationeries for poor children, or even tangential issues such as improving access to electricity throughout the country (as, you know, you can’t study in the dark). So, again, the socio-economic issues are related to the national education. It’s not like only by going for the latter you can improve the former, but more often than not you can also go for the former so that you can improve the latter as well. Quoting Obama’s energy policy, the solution to our education problem should be an “all of the above” approach.

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