Monday, 8 February 2010

A quick observation..

In this post, I would like to put forward some thoughts to continue my previous post about specialisation in high school education.

At the end of 1st year senior high school, I was selected to be in a student exchange program. Ten students from my senior high school were sent to a private school in Australia to study there for one month. Upon our return, selected students from the Australian high school would come to our school also for one month.

During the exchange program, I learned about the different things about the 'school-life' of Australian and Indonesian students.

The most obvious difference was of course the moving-class system.. which we found tiring.. :-P

There was also a time when the student who was paired with me was not well for a couple of days, and for those days, I successfully got lost in-between classes..

The positive thing was, we realised that having a moving-class system, students can have more freedom and independence in deciding the subjects they want to specialise on.

At that time, we only thought that it was the main advantage of the moving-class system, but as I started university, I understood the bigger picture..

I had to face reality when I graduated from high school of not being able to enter national university. The differing opinions between my parents' and my own about which university I should choose led me to an 'unusual' path taken by a child in my extended family.

The national universities my parents asked me to take entrance exam to rarely accepted students from social-science stream into their Accounting faculty. As expected, I didn't pass the Math exam for one reason only.. I did not do 'Science Math' in high school.. which of course I didn't, since I chose social-science stream and I did 'Economic Math' instead (as prescribed by the curriculum)!

At the same time, I couldn't accept the offer from another national university, which accepted students from social-science stream into its Accounting faculty, because my parents considered the university was too far from Jakarta (with my final grades, I was entitled for school's endorsement for a place in a national university out of Jakarta -about 12 hours travel time- without entrance exam).

Having denied the chance to enter three national universities (with two being the closest ones to home), I had to consider private universities, which I managed to enter without difficulties.

However, the better option was still waiting for me..

When I was asked by my high school to deliver a talk about experience in studying in university, a few representatives from an Australian college were also there at my high school. They were introducing a new program for overseas students who wanted to study in Australian universities.

My English teacher quickly introduced us, and after a quick interview, the representatives decided that I was fit as a candidate and they would like to meet my parents to follow up the enrollment process.

Despite the distance between Indonesia and Australia, when I told my parents that I was accepted as a student in an Australian university, they quickly agreed! I was really glad about that.. :-)

Anyway.. this led to another observation about a different education system, compared to the one I was used to in my own country.

Once I started studying in Australia as a university student, I saw something interesting.. very interesting..

Some students were not only doing one degree at one time, but two.. Some of them were doing 'Commerce/Law', 'Law/Medicine', 'Agriculture Science/Economics', 'Accounting/Computing'.. etc. ..

Combinations that could not happen, with the way high school curriculum was structured in Indonesia at that time..

When I asked local students, how did they structure their high school subjects to be able to do that? They answered me that they discussed their interests and strength with their academic counselor to decide which subjects to take in high school, to enable them to pursue more than one major in university, so that they would have comparative advantage once they graduated from university.


So, it was not only about moving-class system, but also an education system where students are treated individually, depending on their strengths and interests, so that they could achieve their highest potential in the future.

In Australian high schools, when students want to major in science, they can still take an elective subjects from social science area, such as, Economics, History, Anthropology, etc. Therefore, their observation and people skills are developing throughout high school years along with their scientific analysis skills.

Similar situation with the students who want to major in social-science, they can still take an elective from science area, such as, Science Math, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, etc. Therefore, their scientific analysis skills are also developing throughout high school years along with their observation and people skills.

This way, either side loses less than if the curriculum is strictly prescribed.. :-)

Moreover, students can have more options in their life later, long after they graduated from high school.

I am not saying that the Australian system in the perfect one, because each system would only best applied in respective country, after considering skills and knowledge in demand in each country. I am only saying that each country should really consider treating students as separate-entity from others, special in characteristics, interests and strengths. Because these students want different things in life.

These days, I have seen many positive developments in Indonesian education system. For one, specialisation is now only introduced in final year of high school. Therefore, students up to 2nd year (year 11) are doing the full set of high school subjects. I have to admit that on one hand, this might be a burden for some students, but on the other hand, it gives students wider options, as they would be studying both sides of streams for the whole 2nd year (in Indonesia, 2nd year of high school is where the study load is the heaviest , because half of 3rd year is focused for preparation for university).

The only consideration for both high school and university is to make their expectation gap narrower. High schools need to prepare their students to be up to the university's expectation, while universities need to make some adjustment programs available for high school students to catch up with subjects they did not have the chance to study in high school.

The example I learned from university system in Australia was that they have TAFE (Diploma programs) and Foundation program, where students can have one to two years preparation to enter university, if they lack a background subject. For example, a student whose major was in social science in high school, but he/she wants to study 'Computer Science'. The student can enter a TAFE or foundation program that offers science subjects, then, once he/she has the certificate of the program, the student can enter the university program he/she wants.

Indonesia also have diploma programs, but the structure is a little different from Australian TAFE. However, this is not the purpose of my post.. ;-)

Two, there have been many more technical school and colleges for students who are confident of what they want to pursue in life and want to focus from a young age. These schools and colleges are, in a way, a much better alternative to the 'science' and 'social-science' streams in high school.

The consideration for industries is to open as many options as possible for the technical schools and colleges graduates to pursue their career from the path they have chosen.

While the consideration for universities is that they should have a system where students from these technical schools and colleges can continue their education in university much later than high school graduates, if they choose to, considering that they already have the necessary background skills and experience needed for the degree pursued.

Three, students are now more proactive in searching for the skills and knowledge they need. It is evident by the existence of many out-of-school courses, such as, foreign languages, computer programs, arts, business and management, science clubs, etc., and the quantity of students enrolling in various programs offered by those course places.

In the future, if these course places can certify and guarantee the level of competency acquired by their students, then universities can also develop a system to take their certifications into consideration for students enrolling in their degree programs.

Learning is really a never-ending process in our life, including improving the education system itself..

I was just an average student in university, but throughout my study time in Australia, I saw so many Indonesian students excelled in their studies (in Indonesia and in Australia). It opened my eyes that with each step of improvement in Indonesian education system, the younger generations who are more critical in thinking and learning, will have far better chances in gaining a better future.. :-)

Go Indonesian Education!!


  1. Aha.... a very brilliant opinion ! You are exactly promoted to be an aducation minister ha ha ha ... But the big problem in education in Indonesia is, still the gap between education in the big city and in the rural, and most of people live here. I had an apportunity, experienced to see many Schools in the rural area (outside java),and they seemed still stuggle only about the existence of their school, the quality of teachers and some other basic needs....It's about apprehensive.....
    But, sure your idea, is very useful....

  2. It is about apprehensive and comprehensive..

    There should be a continuous study on which sectors are needed in 5-10 years time and so on.. so that universities can 'plan' on which faculties/majors they need to open more, and which they should restrict (put quota) for certain period of time (More advanced countries have been doing this)..

    Personally, I believe that universities in Indonesia should consider opening more faculties and majors related to Agriculture (Ag. Science, Ag. Machinery, Ag. Management, Ag. Research, etc.), Forestry and Fishery.

    Being a country based on a strong agriculture (plantation, fishery and farming) and forestry resources, there are still so many areas about agriculture and forestry that we haven't 'mastered' in..

    It is true that condition and quality of schools in rural areas need a lot of attention. Along with that, government needs to consider the skills and knowledge really needed by rural students.

    Every one needs to learn to read, write and counting, but other than that, other skill and knowledge needs might be different between the urban (city) students and rural students.

    Education gap can be reduced, in a way, not by forcing rural students to study 'city businesses' but by strengthening their own natural skills and knowledge and providing them the wider chances of gaining better productivity, which later, will result in nation-wide advantage as a strong agriculture country.. :-)

    The way some farms are now open for visitors to experience their activities, I think, is a very good start to re-introduce people to agriculture life.. I hope later, more colleges and faculties majoring in agriculture areas are going to be open for students..

    Well, I am not talking about an instant change.. it is all hard work to be done by the whole country over a long period of time.. and I do appreciate all the efforts that the government has done.. ;-)

    Indonesians are strong people, Mother.. We will get there one day.. :-)

  3. Yes,I agree that we must push people to love agriculture life. Because indonesia is an Agriculture country and like or not depends on the ability to process, explore, and extend the agriculture sector. Thats why we send Sinta to study Biotechnology in Moscow ,although we know, that the Agriculture subject is not a favorite choice amongs the student in university. It is only about idealism


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