Can Indonesia Survive A Future Where Science is Cut From School? – Dessy Sagita & Markus Junianto Sihaloho for Jakarta Globe
Indonesian government (well actually, every country’s government) is notorious for making news, plans, and policies which (the people think) are disadvantaging (for the people). Unnecessary plans, or abandoned yet beneficial infrastructure building plans, or corruption cases buried beneath the cancellation of a pop singer concert, et cetera.
Sometimes I am too tired to care for such issues. I prefer not to comment wildly on Twitter, making kultwit, or do some SocMed activism.
However, there was this one issue that has kept me bugged ever since I heard this news. The abolishment of science studies from Elementary School curriculum.
I am enraged.
I’m a die hard science fan, both natural and social science. In elementary school, I fell in love with social science, had a really fun time matching Indonesia’s traditional clothes and provinces in the Indonesian-made Peta Buta children software, playing ABC 5 Dasar after I memorized countries of Asia, and imagined living in 19th Century Indonesia where I’ll witness the Diponegoro Wars and VOC. I fell in love with natural science. Fell in love during hours of observing bean sprouts in cupboards, raising chicks (young chickens, that is, not the slang language chicks), and knowing that (surprise!) trees absorb carbon dioxide which is harmful for us and emit oxygen which is vital for our lives.
Reading the article above, my heart died a little. What will become of our nation’s future where kids don’t learn science?
What enraged me was not only the idea of removing science studies, but also the reason behind the removal. The experts from the Ministry of Education stated that “it is too early to teach such hard subjects to the students.” I have to stand on the opposite views. Natural and social science, if taught properly, can encourage children to think critically, to build exploratory senses, to enhance curiosity. I was one of the lucky children whose curiosity and critical thinking developed in this stage of life.
If you were talking about teaching elementary school students about Krebs Cycle, I would totally agree should you abolish these subjects. But if you were talking about birds and bees and trees, continents, rivers, and map legends, I would wholeheartedly disagree.
Also in the article, Dedi Gumelar stated that “In elementary school we need to teach them more about good character, the values of state ideology Pancasila, culture, and ethics,” in order to nurture good “motherland-loving attitude”. I see no direct correlation between removing science subjects and nationalism.
Is by having good science subjects children tend to lose nationalism?
In the current curriculum, elementary school has the subject “Civil Studies” or Kewarganegaraan. Here, students are theoretically taught on how to act in the society; being helpful to elderly citizens, be responsible should your soccer ball hit your neighbor’s window, and be loyal to your friends no matter what. Students are given cases where they would choose one out of the four courses of action, often obvious. Based on my observation, I see, if any, little significant effects on children’s behavior. Practices, be it outside the Civil Studies subject, will have more significant effects.
If you were planning to remove science and replace them with more subjects like Civil Studies but without any changes in the method, I see no significant and beneficial effect.
I must agree if people argue that the current science studies don’t really encourage this “exploratory” senses because it requires students to memorize, not to really understand. But, completely removing them is not an option.
Yesterday, I discussed this matter with my professor, Professor Bill Watson (who wrote this article), and he stated that in UK, his hometown, elementary schools don’t have specified science subjects, only general science where the subject encouraged the students to “explore” rather than to “memorize”. This is a much more plausible change.
If you really think that the current system is faulty and too hard for students, change the method. Delete the paragraphs that list Latin names of Eurasian animals. Delete the paragraphs that list lines and articles of the nation’s Constitution for children to memorize. Ask them to write essays about their favorite animal. Ask them to present their favorite country and why. Ask them to complete observation journals.
As if removing science was not enough, there were issues that stated English was to be scrapped off as well.
How do you plan on making Indonesian workforce competitive in the next decade if you don’t start teaching English since early ages?
Arguments might raise when comparing the proposal with Western education system, where foreign language are being taught in secondary schools, focusing on national language in primary schools.
Then again, can the current curriculum accommodate that? With multiple choices for English national examination and little writing and reading assignments, can our students really learn English in 6 years?
I don’t think so.
And again, what enraged me more is the statements stated by the people of Ministry of Education and Culture.
“..has to carry books in a suitcase because there are so many subjects they have to study,..”
That does not seem to be a legitimate reason to remove subjects from the curriculum.
Oh, this statement is even more absurd:
“…To put it bluntly, it is haram [forbidden under Islam]. Feel pity on the children.”
I might not be that devoted of a Moslem, but as far as I know, Islam encouraged Moslems to gain knowledge. Correct me on this.
Learning is blissful. Students, especially primary school age who are thirsty for knowledge and highly curious, should be encouraged to learn, and should not be exempted from several subjects just because they are “too hard”.
(This quote below might not be relevant to the above opinion, but it so promotes curiosity and I am madly in love with the quote, so here it goes:)
Sometimes questions are more important than answers. – Nancy Willard