Better Teachers for Indonesia’s Future


Besides their hardworking mindset, what I love about Japanese people is that they respect teachers better than people in my country do. I once heard a story about a Japanese war lord who asked “How many teachers are still alive?” after the end of a war. Instead of asking how many knights survived, he was worried on who would be responsible for the children’s education. And until now, it is proven that the story is not a merely self-perpetuating myth, because Japan’s education is one of the best in the world.

What about Indonesia? Well, off course we still respect teachers, but they earn less than laborers in Japan do. According to the Indonesia Teachers Solidarity Forum (FSGI), a teacher in Pandeglang regency earns Rp 60,000 (USD 4.9) per month while the area’s minimum wage is Rp 1.1 million. In Japan, a baker average salary is ¥ 153,000 (USD 1,462). And teachers? It’s at ¥ 392,000 monthly, according to the World Salaries.

As an Indonesian, I can’t be so sure what makes teachers in my country couldn’t afford proper income, because, as far as I know, the Government allocates 20 percent of National Budget to Education. Maybe it’s because there are many corrupt people inside the Government, especially in the Education and Culture Ministry.

With such little amount of salary, no wonder that teachers in Indonesia can’t carry their duties well because they have to think of getting some more money outside classrooms, and that will adversely affect their teaching. As the result, in the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which looks at how well 15-year-old students are prepared for life, Indonesia ranked around 50 out of 57 countries in science, reading and math. It’s a bad achievement regarding to Indonesia’s position as a country that has been experiencing a stable 5 to 6 annual economic growth rate and it is the third largest education system in the Asia region and the fourth largest in the world (behind only China, India and the United States), according to World Bank report.

Besides raising teachers’ salaries, what the Government should do to improve our education rank is to change conventional way of teaching that is still common in Indonesia schools. Teachers should have creativity to get the students engage directly to the subject they’re learning on. One of good examples of creative teaching came from Retno Listyarti, an education activist and FSGI chairwoman. She said that she always gave her students real examples of the lessons, such as news articles with some problems that the students needed to discuss actively.

She also said that some simulations could be effective to learn some issues such as pregnancy, in which the students should go to the hospital and ask pregnant women some questions. They also were obliged to wear pregnancy dress and carry loads as if those were their babies.  Surprisingly, not only they were able to study well about the matter, they also became more aware of the danger of free sex and how hard for teenagers if they should be pregnant in their adolescent times.

The revolution of education system is urgently needed, especially when it comes to teachers’ capability to teach students effectively and creatively. With presidential election is coming in April this year, I hope the future leaders could solve problems in the education system including teachers’ salaries and proficiency. One of leader candidates that have clear vision on improving education system is Anies Baswedan, an education expert who initiated Pengajar Muda (Young Teachers): a movement in which young scholars teach students in remote areas across Indonesia.

Education is really important for this country because now it is one of emerging economic powers as many developed countries are affected by the global crisis. With better education system, hopefully we will be the 10th largest economy by the end of the decade and by 2030, we could be the 6th, as predicted by economist Nouriel Roubini.

Indonesia is a new promising country to lead the global world, but we can’t accomplish that dream if the young generation is educated by teachers with income less than five dollar per month.

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