From Curriculum Revision to LPTK Regulation

In our rush to reform education, we have forgotten a simple truth: reform will never be achieved by renewing appropriations, restructuring schools, rewriting curricula, and revising texts, if we continue to demean and dishearten the human resource called the teacher on whom so much depends (Palmer, 1998)

In the last few months or so the education in Indonesia again stuck on the old debate on curriculum, especially when the new government decided to stop the implementation of Curriculum 2013 (K13) which has just launched at the end of the SBY administration. Although the implementation of the pilot program of the new curriculum in 6221 schools still continues, the dismissal of the implementation in all non pilot schools still trigger wide polemics.

Some deplore the attitude of the Ministry of Basic Education and Culture who seemed to be in hurry in making such a big decision; but on the other hand, the government argues that many schools and teachers seem to have a lack of preparation to run the K13. In addition, there has been no comprehensive study on why Curriculum 2006 should be replaced. Therefore, the new government assumed that the Curriculum 2006 was still fit for use.

I do not intend to continue the debate on whether to continue K-13 or re-use the 2006 curriuclum, as the decision has been taken place. This article is intended to remind the government and education policy makers in Indonesia not to spend too much energy on the debate about what kind of curriculum that we shall use.

Polemics about the curriculum should not make us forget one important thing to be taken seriously in order to improve the quality of national education, which is how we could constantly prepare qualified prospective teachers. At the end, we have to admit that, as the strong quote from Palmer (1998) on the epigraphs, education reform will never succeed if we only focused on techincal issues such as school restructuring program or rewrite the curriculum. No matter how great the curriculum, it will never run well in the field if it is not supported by qualified teachers. Yes, because the the teachers are indeed the keys and the major players for successful implementation of a curriculum.
In regard to our endeavor on preparing qualified teachers, there is a good point left by the previous government. Along the enactment of Law No.14 / 2005 on teachers and lecturers, some programs of SBY administration as a part of restoration of the teacher as an honorable profession in community deserve to be continued and improved.

Teacher certification program that has been going on for almost seven years gradually began to have a positive impact on our education, especially in the increased interest of Indonesian youths to choose the teaching profession as their career choice. Unlike what happneed in the past when student teachers were more those who failed to choose another field of study (non-educational), now many student teachers deliberateley chose education as their top choice. This occurs because the teaching profession began to be regarded as not only socially and culturally respectable, but also financially promising.

The rise interest can be tracked from the large number of applicants currently enrolled into the Institute of Teachers Training and Education (LPTK). As reported by Alhumami (2013), data from the Joint Selection State University (SBMPTN) in 2013, for example, showed that there were 407,000 (69.4%) out of 585.789 participants chose a course in LPTK. This figure increased significantly compared to 2012, which previously numbered about 350 thousand participants. The number of applicants for LPTKs through the National Selection of State University (SNMPTN) also increased sharply in 2013. It even reached 300% higher than the preceding year. This figure was the highest record in the history of LPTKs. This data did not include yet those who enrolled at private LPTKs which could be two to three times more than state LPTKs.

The growing interest of the younger generation of Indonesia to study at LPTK is certainly a good signal that the government's campaign to restore teaching as a respectable profession is significantly achieved. This certainly could be an entry point to improve the quality of teacher education. When there are more and more candidates, the competition to join with LPTKs will be harder. This competition then allows LPTKs (especially the state ones) to have better prospective teachers in terms of their academic quality. In the long term, good quality of teacher candidates is highly strategic in our efforts to advance the quality of national education through the provision of qualified teachers.

However, this recent booming could also be a dangerous 'ticking time bomb' if the government did not immediately impose a strict regulation and take control on the selection process as well as on the quality of a learning process in LPTKs. Of the main challenges are related to the ratio of the number of student teachers with our need for teachers in ten or fifteen years to come; and the quality of the learning process in LPTK itself.

According to data from Kemdikbud, currently there are at least 429 LPTKs with 1.440.770 students. It is estimated that each year there will be a minimum of 300,000 new undergraduates with Bachelor degree in education. In fact, we would need a new teacher only about 40,000 people per year. This means that every year there will be an excess supply of teachers as many as 260,000 people. Think of five or ten years to come, how many excess we are going to have. This figure is certainly potential to add to our unemployment rate as well as social problems.

Another serious challenge is how to monitor the quality of the educational process in the LPTKs, especially in many private LPTKs which currently grows in large numbers. As explained by Muchlis Samani (2013), there is even a few LPTKs operating before obtaining license from the Ministry of Higher Education. Some of these LPTK tend to accept students in large numbers, exceeding their capacity for qualified lecturers and necessary facilities.

Such conditions can certainly result in a lower quality of graduates. Therefore, the government’s plan to create a National Standard of Teacher Education (SNPG) certainly is the right step. This standardization is expected to minimize some potential problems as I mentioned above. The standardization is further expected to be not only as a reference for all LPTKs to play their roles as institutions for “teachers production’; but also as a selection to determine which LPTK deserves to be keept operating.

To be more specific, there are at least two issues that need to be clearly defined in this SNPG. First, the government must be firmed in setting up quota limits for the number of students to be accepted in each LPTK considering their available resources and capacity. The quota limit also needs to be applied in to student teachers for Professional Teacher Education program (PPG), which is already underway.

Furthermore, the government must make strict criteria in the selection process of prospective students. The criteria should enable the LPTKs to have students from the best high school graduates. In this context, we can have a look at how some developed countries, such as Finland, South Korea, and Singapore select their student teachers. These three countries consistently apply a very strict system in their student selection process in which they apply a merit based selection system. They only recruit students from highest-achieving (high) school graduates. So, they only accept student teachers with brilliant academic achievement.

In the Indonesian context, the strict criterion is not new. Since the era of independence until 1960s, the government used to apply strict criteria for accepting prospective students to be educated in teacher training institutions. To be accepted in the SGB (School Teacher B) and SGA (School of Higher Teachers), for example, candidates must be the best graduates from the School of the People (Sekolah Rakyat). The same pattern also applied when the government made a new institution, the School of Teacher Education (SPG), which also accepted students with the best academic background. I think there is no harm if the government re-adopts this strict recruitment system for todays teacher education.

In regard to the quality of learning process in LPTK, although article 9 of Regulation No.19/2005 on National Education Standards states that the each LPTK is given the freedom to develop their own curriculum system, I would argue that the national curriculum for teacher education which comprise  Content Standards and some basic competences is also important. Through this national curriculum the government enacts to make sure that every LPTK is on the right track in developing the four competencis as professional teacher mandated by laws; pedagogical competence, professional competence, personal competence and social competence. The dormitory system within teacher education and intensive training we used to have are also worth to be considered as an alternative model of the learning process for our teacher candidates.

* The writer teaches at the Faculty of Teachers Training and Education of Riau University, currently pursuing his doctoral degree in the Faculty of Education, Monash University Australia.

(This article was first written for The Jakarta Post)

I teach (and learn) for the same reason I breathe. Jatuh cinta dengan kegiatan belajar dan mengajar, karena dua aktifitas inilah yang menjadikan peradaban terus tumbuh dan berkembang ^_^ I have been teaching in various institutions in Indonesia, ranging from primary school to university level. I am currently an associate professor in the English education department of Universitas Riau, Indonesia. My research interests are in the areas of (English) teacher training and education, English Language Teaching, and educational policy in the Indonesian context. I am happy to share my knowledge with all interested teachers worldwide. Feel free to contact me through my email as seen in my blog :-). Many thanks!

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