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Academia Agus Mutohar A PhD candidate at Faculty of Education, Monash University Teachers' day: Questioning role of teachers in Indonesia

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by November 25, 2016 General

Indonesia is today celebrating the 71st year since teachers’ day was launched in 1945. Teaching, which used to be depicted as Oemar Bakrie (an underpaid profession), is now becoming more popular thanks to Law No. 14/2005 on teachers and lecturers.

Moreover, the government through the Education and Culture Ministry regulates teacher certification, which has increased the salaries of certified teachers. As an illustration, a level III civil servant teacher who has a basic salary of Rp 2.9 million (US$214) receives a certification salary of up to Rp 2.7, almost doubling their take-home pay. Teachers also receive another salary such as a regional allowance in some regions, including Jakarta.

Of course, this is good news for the 2,294,191 certified teachers compared to teachers’ uncertain fate in the past, when some worked part time due to insufficient salaries.

The teacher certification policy is intended to increase national education performance; however, after almost 10 years of implementation, the results are not straightforward. Many studies such as one conducted by the World Bank in 2014 have concluded that teacher certification has not increased teacher competency or learning outcomes.

Every year, certified teachers are evaluated through a competence evaluationThe results of last year’s evaluation were pathetic. Of more than 2 million certified teachers, only 192 achieved a score of 90 in pedagogical tests, and most scored below 56.

Looking at this reality, teachers should not play the blame game by citing the poor quality of certification programs or bad programs at university. As part of change agents, teachers should play active roles in developing their competencies, not only relying on the government’s program.

Although teachers are often positioned as victims of higher authorities and forced to comply with educational policies without having an opportunity to question them, teachers can still engage and enact such policies on a day-to-day basis in the classroom in meaningful ways as they have direct contact with students.   

As the forefront of educational change in classrooms, teachers need to ponder the basic role of being teachers. The answer is to facilitate students having added value in their lives.

Therefore, teaching should be centered on enabling students to learn more and realize their potential in life. This philosophy goes back to what our role model in education, Ki Hadjar Dewantara, once said: “Children live and grow up by their ability. The task of educators is to foster the development of their ability.”

Even though that type of education is rare under a standardized educational system like in our country, all parents in Indonesia hope teachers will modify their teaching to be more creative, innovative and joyful so that students can be motivated to learn new things.

In order to be able to teach in innovative and creative ways, teachers need to be intrinsically motivated. They can do that by questioning the purpose of teaching. Are they a teacher who wants to contribute to the nation or become a problem?

External rewards such as additional salaries might not work well in improving our national education system, if teachers do not have personal belief or the motivation to become “champion teachers”.

We need to look back at our educational pioneer, Ki Hajar Dewantara, who lived in an era of limited information, unlike now. Yet, he was able to lay the foundations for meaningful education in our country. As a teacher, I believe he had much personal motivation to contribute to the country through building better education.

Living in this time of rapid and accessible information, teachers can easily gain new knowledge on how to teach actively and creatively from books, the internet and their colleagues.

To become champion teachers, we do not need to compare our country with other best-performing education systems worldwide such as those in Finland and Singapore. After having discussions with educators and scholars around the world, I bravely argue that we should not rely on best practices in teaching that we can learn from overseas. 

Best practice in our education system will arise when teachers can identify what we have in our own schools and classrooms and think about how we can use them to facilitate students in creative and innovative ways.

Finally, happy teachers’ day from a fellow teacher. It is to teachers around the nation that we owe thanks for making our country better.

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Agus Mutohar, PhD candidate at Monash University’s School of Education and awardee of the LPDP scholarship.

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