The History of English Curriculum in Indonesia

A Brief Overview of Indonesia

Indonesia is a multicultural nation. It has a population of 210,5 million of which consists of 500 different ethnic groups scattered in 30 provinces on 17,500 islands (Diknas website, 2004). Many countries in Asia such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Philippine, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor surround Indonesia. To the south part, Australia is the nearest neighbouring country of Indonesia.
Like other developing countries, Indonesia is considered an agricultural country. Therefore, in the working sector, many people work in the agriculture sector. Indonesia also has many natural resources such as oil, nickel, timber, and gold.
The people of Indonesia have different customs, habits and practices. They are generally polite, religious, and respectful to others. Although the people speak more than 300 local languages in daily life, they regard the Indonesian language as their national language. This means that in governance, politics, economics, and education, Indonesian language is used.
Education in Indonesia

Indonesia proclaimed its freedom on 17 August 1945. Since then Indonesia has had five presidents. Whenever the government changes, the policy on education also changes. At the beginning of the independence, Education was not a primary priority. Security was the area of most concern to the government. When Soeharto became the second president, in what was called the “new era”, the government started to develop the education sector. They started by categorising the school systems through levels. They are elementary school, junior secondary school, senior school, and higher school like university and institute. They also built many schools around Indonesia and recruited many teachers.
During 30 years of the “new era”, the government was the sole agent, responsible for all aspects of education. They made the buildings; they provided the teachers, the funds, the textbooks, the curriculum, and all the facilities in the schools. The local government in the provinces was only responsible for administration. There was little involvement of the people in the education sector and little support for their work.
However, the development in Education brought about a good result in literacy. During the twenty years from 1980 to 2000, the number of people who had not finished primary school decreased significantly, from 27.54% in 1980 to 8.37% in 2000. Similar changes also happened in higher education levels.(Depdiknas website, 2004).
According to the Undang – Undang Dasar 1945 (the 1945 Indonesian Constitution), chapter XIII, verse 13, says: “Tiap – tiap warga negara berhak mendapatkan pengajaran. Pemerintah mengusahakan dan menyelenggarakan suatu sistem pengajaran nasional yang diatur oleh Undang – undang. “The people of Indonesia have the right to get education. The government is responsible to provide everything in terms of education based on the constitution (my translation). The main purpose of education in Indonesia, based on the constitution of the Educational system no 2 (1989), is to have Indonesian people who believe in the almighty God, Indonesian people who are fair, healthy, have knowledge and skill, strong identity, and people who are responsible for the nation (my translation):
Menurut undang – undang no 2 tahun 1989 tentang sistem pendidikan nasional, pendidikan nasional di Indonesia bertujuan mencerdaskan kehidupan bangsa dan mengembangkan manusia Indonesia seutuhnya, yaitu manusia yang beriman dan bertaqwa kepada Tuhan Yang Maha Esa dan berbudi pekerti luhur, memiliki pengetahuan dan keterampilan, kesehatan jasmani dan rohani, kepribadian yang mantap dan mandiri, serta rasa tanggungjawab kemasyarakatan dan kebangsaan (Depdiknas website, 2004)

Under the “reformation era” in 2000, the government has started to decentralise educational policy. The new policy on education is expected to bring new hope for the provinces, the schools, and the society to manage them free from central control.
The Department of Education recognizes that there are some major problems with education: The amount number of educated people is still low; the quality of education is also low. There is a gap regarding the quality and quantity of education between the west and east of Indonesia. A similar gap also occurs in some areas between rural and urban schools. (Depdiknas website, 2004).
There are two main systems of education in Indonesia. They are School education and Informal/Out School education. School education is where the process of learning and teaching is done in the schools systematically and continuously. The students go to study in the schools regularly. The schools like as sekolah dasar or primary school in Australia, sekolah lanjutan tingkat pertama, sekolah menengah or equivalent with secondary school in Australia are regarded as school education. While Informal/Out school education is a process of teaching and learning that is not done in the formal school described in the above example. Since this is the ‘informal’ school, the involvement of society is expected. The aim of these schools is mainly to develop and heighten the students’ skills. Early education, playgroup, and special interest courses are some examples of the informal/out schools.

School System Education
Basic Education

Taman Kanak – Kanak (Kindergarten) is school for children aged 4 – 5 or 6 years old. The school’s aim is to develop social life for the children outside of the family and develop independent learning and skills before they continue to the primary school. Most of the kindergartens in Indonesia are private.
Primary School (Sekolah Dasar)

I will focus on Sekolah dasar or primary school in Indonesia since my thesis concerns this area. Sekolah dasar or primary school is school for children aged 6 to 7. The students are expected to study at primary school for 6 years. The aim is to give them basic knowledge and prepare them for the next education level. In this school, they may develop their hobbies and interests. The government usually manages primary schools.
Based on the curriculum in 1994 that is still being used in the primary school, there are seven subjects for first and second year students. However, from the third to sixth year, they must study nine subjects. They are Pancasila and Citizenship, Religion, Indonesian, Mathematics, physics, Social sciences, Arts, Sports and Local Component. Local Component subject is the new subject introduced in this curriculum. It is based on the school and parents’ demand. The local component may be English, Local Language, Dance, or Arts. At the end of their study, they need to take the national exam in order to continue to the higher education level.
Junior Secondary School (SLTP)

After spending six years in the primary school, the students then continue to the next education level, which is Junior Secondary High School. At this stage, English has become one of the compulsory subjects. Again, at the end of the study, the students must take the national examination.
Senior Secondary School/Vocational School (SMU)

This is the continuation of previous school. The school is divided into two types. They are high secondary and vocational school. The purpose of this level is to broaden and develop basic knowledge of the students, and also to prepare them to be active in society and work force. The students spend three years to finish their study. When the students are in the 11th grade in the high secondary school, the class is then divided into four main groups. They are physics, biology, social sciences and language. The students’ score and interests determine which groups they belong to. While in the Vocational school, the students need to finish the study for 4 years. In This kind of school, the students could develop their talents and skills in preparation for work.
Tertiary Education

The next stage of education is university, academy, institute, high school and polytechnic. The aim of this kind of Education is to prepare the students to achieve good academic and professional skills. Similarly, they can create and develop knowledge in many fields.
The students usually spend four years to get a bachelor degree. A master degree takes two years to complete the study. A doctorate program will take another three or four years.
Informal School/Out School Education

This kind of school is based on the people’s participation. The government does not participate much in this kind of education. However, the government still plays an important role in giving licences and supervising. The aim is to develop the students’ basic knowledge and skills. When students finish the program, they are ready to apply their knowledge and skills in the work force. Literacy programs, early education, various courses and training program are some forms of this education.
English Language Teaching in Indonesia: Past – Present

Since Independence Day, the government of Indonesia has placed English language teaching as one of the compulsory subjects in the schools. The government has played an important role in determining the school curriculum, textbooks, teachers, and so on. The government has changed the English curriculum five times.
The first curriculum was introduced in 1945. It was a grammar-translation-based curriculum. During the Dutch occupation of Indonesia, the Dutch educational system had been widely used. When the Dutch surrendered and were forced to leave the country, most of the English teachers also returned home. Due to the limited human and material resources, only local English teachers stayed and continued the program. As Dardjowidjojo (2000) and Sumardi (1993) have indicated, the teachers preferred grammar translation because it was suitable for large classes, cheap and only required grammatical mastery of the language.
The second curriculum was introduced in 1958; this was an audio-lingual based curriculum. This was based on the involvement of Ford Foundation of the United States. It introduced a two-year training, “Standard Training Courses” (STC) held in Jakarta and Bukittinggi. This program increased the quality of teacher training due to a number of reasons. All the teachers provided were native speakers, mostly American. The language laboratory was available for the students during the training. Fifty students were selected through some tests each year. English became the main language when the students were in the campus. The curriculum was good and almost all of it concerned English. Moreover, the students stayed in a boarding house. However, there was still a disadvantage because of the limited number of participants who joined the training. The Standard Training Courses produced high quality graduates. However, the number of the students was small compared with the need of English teachers throughout the nation Dardjowidjojo (2000) and Sumardi (1993).
The next curriculum applied in the Indonesian education in 1975 was the revised new style, audio-lingual based curriculum. This was the first curriculum in the beginning of the “new era”. The government, for the first time, introduced new textbook series for the junior high school (English for the SLTP) and senior high school (English for the SLTA). These books become compulsory for the students. Tjokrosujoso and Fachurrazy (1997) point out the revised curriculum contained more systematic teaching guidelines that covered all curriculum components, such as teaching objectives, materials, and approaches and evaluation. This was mostly focused on the achievement of a working knowledge of English (Priyono, 2004). The Department of Education as cited by Jazadi (2004) argued that the structure-based audio-lingual 1975 curriculum was not successful because the curriculum did not support the achievement of the learning objectives, so a new curriculum that encouraged communication (both receptive and productive) needed to be introduced.
Later, in 1984, the new curriculum was launched, which was a structure-based communicative curriculum. This curriculum was considered to develop communicative skills. However, Jazadi (2004) argues that the 1984 curriculum was still form-focused with language structure as dominant feature as shown in the English for Junior High School and English for Senior High School textbook series in 1988. The structure-based communicative curriculum focussed on the development of language skills, functions, and the mastery of vocabulary. It reminds me when I first learnt English in Junior High School in 1985, most of the materials talked about tenses instead of communicative learning. The teaching method at that time focused on memorizing the words. I argue that it was probably one of the reasons why most of the students including me disliked English at that time. Priyono (2004) concludes that there are a number of reasons why the curriculum was not very successful. The teachers still used features of audio-lingual and the grammar translation method such as mechanical drills and explicit grammar explanation. Indonesian language was used as a medium of instruction in the classroom and vocabulary was presented as individual items with meaning provided in Indonesian.
The Department of Education then revised the 1984 curriculum with the new curriculum, named the revised meaning-based communicative curriculum, in 1994. During this time, communicative approach was mostly used in the schools around the world. Musthafa (2001) cited in Jazadi (2004) proposes that the meaningfulness approach, another name for the communicative approach underpinning the 1994 curriculum, is theoretically solid, as it reflects characteristics associated with communicative approaches in the language teaching. However, after some years of use, the 1994 curriculum was found to be too difficult to use owing to the lack of connection among the curriculum components. Moreover, the curriculum and its accompanying textbooks have not really attempted to accommodate learners’ diverse needs and local contexts, as well as teachers’ beliefs and judgments (Jazadi, 2004). Alisjahbana (1990) and Tomlinson (1990) as cited by (Priyono, 2004) note, the failure result of the 1994 curriculum were because students were unable to communicate or comprehend English standard textbooks, let alone write composition. Also, Alwasilah (1997) and Jazadi (2000) observe two reasons why the curriculum of 1984 and 1994 achieved the same disappointing result. Firstly, the curriculum contents focus mostly on reading comprehension materials despite an attempt to integrate the four skills to accommodate the changing orientation to a focus on productive skills. Secondly, the national examination still used the same format as in 1984, that is reading and form-based multiple-choice question, which does not test all aspects of the students’ communicative performance.
Importance Placed on ELT at Present Time

The population of people speaking English has increased dramatically in recent years. English has become more and more popular compare with other foreign languages. As Pennycook notes that:
Otto Jespersen (1938/68) estimated speakers of English to have numbered four million in 1500, six million in 1600, eight and a half million in 1700, between twenty and forty million in 1800, and between 116 and 123 million in 1900. Today, rough agreement can be found on figures that put the total number of speakers of English at between 700 million and one billion. This figure can be divided into three roughly equal groups, native speakers of English, speakers of English as a second (or international) language, and speakers of English as a foreign (international) language. It is the last group which is the hardest to estimate but clearly the fastest growing section of world speakers of English. (1994: 7-8)

Indonesia is considered to be in the last group. The government of Indonesia has put Indonesian language or Bahasa Indonesia as a national and official language since the Independence Day, August 17, 1945. It has become the language of governance, politics, economics, and education. The local language is the second language of the people of Indonesia and preserved in daily life. The third language is foreign language where English has become more popular than any other foreign languages such as German, French, Dutch, and Chinese.
Crystal (1987:358) explains:
English is used as an official language or semi official language in over 60 countries, and has a prominent place in a further 20. it is either dominant or well established in all six continents. It is the main language of books, newspapers, airports and air-traffic control, international business and academic conferences, science, technology, medicine, diplomacy, sports, international competitions, pop music, and advertising. Over two-thirds of the world scientists write in English. Of all the information in the world’s electronic retrieval systems, 80 % is stored in English. Over 150 million in 120 countries receive English radio programmes. Over 50 million children study English as an additional language at primary level; over 80 million study it at secondary level (these figures exclude China). In any one year, the British Council helps a quarter of a million foreign students to learn English, in various parts of the world. In the USA alone, 337,000 foreign students were registered in 1983.

Crystal (1997) offers three main factors, which have contributed to the global spread of English. They are English geography and cultural history, its continuous promotion through aid programs, and its role as the language of science and technology. The main reason in geography and cultural history is the history of English empire. There are about fifty-five ex-British colonial countries with a combined population of 150 – 300 million. English in those countries may be the language of court, the medium of instruction at least for some levels of education, the press, or the government, and often the official language. The spread of English has been assessed through the continual promotion and the aid programs from English-speaking countries such as the US, UK and more recently Australia, Canada, New Zealand. The programs are mainly for developing and under developed countries. In these countries, the British Council for instance provides consultations regarding English language teaching programs and capacities of school and university students, government staff, and private institutions and industries. The US through the Ford Foundation and Fulbright scholarships has began to provide a large number of scholarships to foreign students to study un the US in all disciplines, including EFL. Therefore, based on the UNESCO (cited in Phillipson, 1992), the numbers of foreign students study in the US increased dramatically to 140,000 compared with 27,000 in the UK in 1971.
The last factor is English has become the language of science and technology. It can be seen in the press, transport, and telecommunication, which have been much influenced by the innovation in sciences and technologies. As Crystal (1997: 5) say, “Books, tapes, computers, telecommunication systems and all kinds of teaching materials will be increasingly available.
Based on those arguments above, it is obvious that English is the most popular language used in the world today. English does not belong to the native speaker countries such as the UK, the US, Australia, Canada but it has become the International language. In connection to English Language Teaching in Indonesia, as I mentioned earlier, English has been taught for 50 years or so. The Department of Education (1967) stated that the objective of English language Teaching in Indonesia was to equip students to read textbooks and references in English, to participate in classes and examinations that involved foreign lecturers and students, and to introduce Indonesian culture in international arenas. The objectives then become the underpinning of the English curriculum in high schools for 1975, 1984, and 1994.
However, according to Sadtono, (1983); Alisjahbana, (1990); Tomlinson, (1990) as cited from Priyono (2004), the unsatisfactory results of the teaching of EFL in Indonesia have been widely recognized. The survey conducted by the Department of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia (1990), has shown that most of the public (94%) and private (91.1%) schoolteachers agreed that the English instruction has not been successful. Despite the efforts of the Department of Education of Indonesia to provide both hardware such as facilities and facilitators and software such as policies and curriculum, some problems still arise in English language teaching in Indonesia.
Since the communicative approach has been introduced in Indonesia around the 1990’s, it has become very popular and used widely until the present time. In the communicative approach, students should be encouraged to be more active than teachers during the lessons. As Richards (2001) has indicated, communicative language teaching is a method that focuses on communication as the organizing principle for teaching rather than focusing on mastery of the grammatical system of the language. In contrast, the English textbook materials used in the school mostly prioritise reading and the evaluations of skills are not applied as an implementation of this method. It can be seen in the national final evaluation and the university entrance examination, which still emphasize structural knowledge rather than communicative skills (Priyono, 2004).

Dardjowidjojo (2001) acknowledges:
Di Indonesia, metode pengajaran komunikatif ini memang banyak diterapkan. Dengan metode ini diharapkan akan ada keseimbangan antara pengajaran tata bahasa dengan fungsi bahasa. Namun pada praktiknya, penekanan pangajaran bahasa baik bahasa Indonesia maupun Inggris, tetap pada pengajaran tata bahasa, bukan pada penggunaan bahasa.

In Indonesia, communicative language approach has been globally used. The implementation of this method is expected to achieve the balance between language usage and language function. However, both Indonesian and English language teaching tend to focus on language usage not language use.
(Dardjowidjojo, 2001, my translation)

In his other book, Dardjowidjojo (1997) states that pragmatic constraints may produce the unsatisfactory results of English language teaching in Indonesia. Class size (40 – 50 students) is one of the examples. A class of this size would not allow the teacher to perform well in spite of high qualifications and a good curriculum. But in terms of the class size, the notion of “large” is a matter of personal perception. The individual teacher can address class size in a number of ways depending on the approaches and techniques used (Coleman, 1987). One possible solution is to divide the class into smaller groups. Dardjowidjojo (1997) furthermore explains that low English proficiency and salary of the teachers may contribute to the lack of success in English language teaching. The teacher’s attention is divided because some teachers have to work in other places. As a result, it is impossible for them to develop their professional skills.
Despite the problems discussed above in English language teaching in Indonesia, English is still in high demand because of its prestige. One is considered as a well educated if she or he masters English in both theory and practice. Pennycook (1995: 40) argues ‘English has become one of the most powerful means of inclusion or exclusion from further education, employment, or social positions’.
One of the indicators, which show the importance of English, as a key to access to the global world, is the rising number of English courses from year to year. A recent report from Himpunan Pengusaha Kursus Indonesia (HIPKI or the Indonesian Courses Association, 2004) cited in Mantiri (2004), has indicated that there are about 25,000 registered courses in Indonesia and half of these courses are English courses. Moreover, Lamb (2002: 35) as cited by Jazadi (2004) proposes English, “along with other educational improvements, can benefit disadvantaged communities in the developing world by giving individual access to more rewarding jobs, and by making societies more attractive to investment”.
Publicity about English is also easily found in Indonesia. Almost every national television in Indonesia has the English news programs once daily or weekly. English movie and song programs are often seen on the televisions too. In addition, there are two English newspapers, The Jakarta Post and The Indonesian Observer, and some English magazines, such as Djakarta, Hello, and Tempo, printed and distributed nationally in Indonesia. Some advertisements and jobs in the national newspapers are sometimes written in English and require English proficiency both oral and written. Some public and private institutions in the Internet and brochures also provide information both in Indonesian and English. Lamb (2002) as cited by Jazadi (2004) points out that the increasing availability of information technology, especially through the Internet in Indonesian cities, exposes more and more people to a variety of information in English. Although the number of the English programs on television has been increasing, English programs for children are not seen yet. The usual language in these programs is originally English, then dubbed into Indonesian.
In the larger tourist cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Bali, Lombok, and Makassar, there are overseas private business or educational institutions that open their branches there. Written English can easily be found in electronic or other products. The politicians often use some English terms to express the opinions or make statements. This may relate with the prestige accorded to English. Among the Indonesian people, to some extent, one is considered as well educated if he or she can communicate in English.
In this chapter, I have discussed education in general in Indonesia, the history of English language teaching in accordance with the curriculum and described the importance placed on English language teaching in the world and Indonesia along with the problems around it. Based on the importance placed on English and the new policy in educational sector I described earlier, the Department of Education has urged the primary schools to put English as the local component in the school curriculum.
Bibliography

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Crystal, David. (1997), English as a Global Language, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Cummins, Jim. (1994), “Knowledge, Power, and Identity in Teaching English as a Second Language”. In Genesse Fred (Eds), Educating Second Language Children: the Whole Child, the Whole Curriculum, the Whole Community, Cambridge University Press, the United States of America.

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Dardjowidjojo, Soenjono. (2002), “Academic and Non-academic Constraints in the Teaching of English in Indonesia”. In Syahid, A., Al-Jauhari, A. (Eds), Bahasa, Pendidikan, dan Agama, Logos Wacana Ilmu, Jakarta.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Suwarsih Madya (a professor, EFL teacher education, Yogyakarta State University) on December 13, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Concerning the Standard Training Course, the writer has given inaccurte information. According Sadtono (2007), the Standard Training Course was established in Jogjakarta (Yogyakarta) and Bukittinggi, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. My lecturers (the late Mrs Moelono, M.A., Mr Haroen Wijono, Mr. MJU Sukardi) said that they enjoyed the high quality of this course in the Sayidan Campus in 1950s. It is better for the writer then to revise his writing.

    Reply

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