The Ministry of Education and Culture announced the plan to reduce the elementary curriculum, replacing subjects such as natural science, social studies, and English language with Pancasila moral education. In the future, children will learn only six subjects: nationalism, religion, Indonesian language, math, art, and sports.
According to the Deputy Minister, Musliar Kasim, elementary children are too young to absorb lessons that teach the “hard skills” involved in science and secondary languages. As such, these subjects only hinder the creative learning process and put unnecessary pressure on teachers to meet educational standards and deadlines. The ministry has expressed that the state budget over-spends on textbooks. By reducing the elementary curriculum, funding resources can now go towards the much-needed rebuilding of schools.
However, previous research suggests that elementary school children are at an age best suited to acquire languages and develop critical thinking skills, such as those involved in science. Postponing the courses may actually stunt creative learning development, leading students’ to depend more on rote memorization techniques in the long run.
With respect to the English language, Indonesia presently has a “very low proficiency,” ranking 34 of 44 targeted countries, according to Education First’s most recent English Proficiency Index. However, it’s hard to believe that low achievement rates are due to children’s fundamental inability to understand. More likely, it reflects social and economic challenges to obtain adequate educational resources and quality teacher training.
Some wonder how the decision will impact the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN’s) efforts to achieve a common language. Educational enthusiast Darmaningtyas asks, “How can we compete at the international level if we don’t master English and science?” Clearly, the new policy has many critics scratching their heads.
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