The commitment to global education was apparent on our third full day in Indonesia. Stationed primarily at the hotel at workshops, the fellows and I participated in panel discussions regarding the Indonesian school system. With little background information, I was planning on a very informative discussion, which Dewi didn’t disappoint. The biggest surprise I must admit is that there are far more similarities than I would have ever imagined. The basic idea that we are looking for what is in the best interest of the students is apparent on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. The means and resources for how we get there is main difference. It seems that the main area that is holding the Indonesia education system back is the quality of educators that are being hired. To my surprise, Indonesia has the best ratio of students to teachers, with 1 teacher for every 17 students. The problem stems though with the quality of teachers hired since the pay is not ideal. More fascinating is due to the perception of being a teacher is often tarnished due to the lack of excitement and quality education for students going through the system as students themselves, causing a cyclical problem of uninspired teachers. This isn’t indicative of all the teachers of course, but a widespread problem none-the-less. The facilities and resources available aren’t at the quality levels of a typical middle America classroom. Encouragingly, despite all these tribulations, parents and students see the profession with endearment. Parents rarely contact or question the teacher’s decisions, assuming they are fulfilling their professional promise. All of the talk regarding education in Indonesia was making me want to leap out from my seat and start heading to a school, to see the learning environment in progress. Education in Indonesia is also different due to teachers across the entire country are on the same salary step schedule. Other main differences are in Indonesian classrooms, students do not rotate classes, rather the teacher rotates from class to class., making planning and preparation a little more challenging, students learn 3 languages (Indonesian Bahasa, a local language, and English),and if a teacher is out of the room, the class will be without a teacher with the students monitored by a camera, there are 37-40 students in a classroom. Without a doubt the biggest difference between our two education systems is the separation of church and state, or the lack there of in Indonesia. Due to the country being 90% Muslim, students have different choices for the type of elementary, middle, and high school they can attend. Without getting into the specifics, essentially there are Muslim schools and non-Muslim school opportunities. After the meeting and grabbing lunch, we headed back to the conference room for a panel discussion on the Indonesian education system. The three teachers shared their personal insights into the education, reaffirming many of the previous maladies mentioned earlier. When dinner time came, a small group and I decided to venture off into the city on our own without Dewi or Sarah for the first time. Seeing the wide discrepancies between city blocks with the safety and environment of the facilities, we made a point to not venture too far out of the way. I never realized how ubiquitous our phones and their GPS systems have become in our lives until we are tasked with navigating a foreign city without them. Using the concierge’s directions, we headed alongside the bustling roadside traffic as it crawled past us. Motorcycles streamed by us as they navigated the smallest of cracks, weaving through the congestion. After clearly passing any signs of restaurants we held a team meeting to figure out where we are concerning our Indonesian restaurant, realizing we are about 12 minutes walking distance out of the way. The group had split between making up lost time, with half the group wanting to break from the safety procedures and hailing a taxi, with Christy and I refusing to get in a cab. We ended up walking to the restaurant as recommended by the US Embassy’s safety protocol. Finally making it to the restaurant, we begrudgingly laughed at how our venture in the wrong direction could have been saved if we made one quick turn early on, as its location was actually very close to our hotel. Two other fellows met up with us and we dined on more amazing Indonesian cuisine. The wait staff couldn’t be more patient and understanding to our language differences. Feeling filled with an exquisite dinner of chicken and rice with a fair amount of heat, we headed back to the hotel where I worked on pictures and of course video chatted with my family.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.