How Full-Day School Might Work in Indonesia

This article was rejected by The Jakarta Post, which previously had published a critique by Agus Mutohar on Muhadjir’s idea of Full-Day Schooling, addressing this piece “[would be something] too early to comment on the issue, because the education minister’s concept regarding full-day school remains unclear.” I was hoping that The Jakarta Post would create and accomodate a good and productive public debate on the direction on national education reform but I was wrong.

When the idea of full-day school in public schools for lower education was first introduced to public by the Minister of Education and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, there were harsh criticisms of the idea. Actually, full-day school works like a mandatory after-school program designed to give more time for teachers to make innovations and deliver ‘casual subjects’ to improve students’ skills and knowledge and build good character. Moreover, most people did not recognize that full-day school was inspired by the Nawa Cita of Jokowi’s visionary presidency campaign.

Some parts of the full-day school idea were misinterpreted by public, such as how full-day school will work when students are already burdened with too many subjects to learn in school, dealing with too much homework on a daily basis. Additionally, they did not understand how full-day school would improve the quality of education.

Nevertheless, some aspects of full-day school do have the same goals as the critics. For example, Agus Mutohar wrote a criticism of full-day school that was published a couple of days ago in The Jakarta Post  (23/08). Agus points to the key elements in the 2013 curriculum (K13), where character building and skill developing already get a lot of attention.  Agus does not realize that what Muhadjir wants from this co-curriculum to K13 is similar to Agus’s notion “to assist students develop their skills, knowledge, and character.” Muhadjir’s says that the longer school hours will not be filled with ‘serious’ subjects but instead with adding extra skills and knowledge and building the good character of the students, thus providing what some critics want in our lower education system.

We all understand that Indonesia has many problems in lower and higher educations. Based on the latest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rankings, the country has a low ranking in maths and science for lower education in comparison to other South East Asian countries, such as Singapore (1st), Vietnam (12th), Thailand (47th) and Malaysia (52nd), a statistic that concerns many education practitioners and policymakers.

Referring to Agus’ observation, the problems in Indonesian education are the traditional methodologies used in education that prevent practitioners from making any innovations. The traditional methodologies demand teachers prepare their students to focus and succeed in the examinations based on rigid standardized curriculum.

Alas, the newest curriculum of 2013 (K13), which was introduced by the previous minister Muhammad Nuh and intended to change the way teachers teach  and promote active learning and character building, has not been successful in its implementation. The curriculum contains incomplete material and is inconsistent and there has been a lack of preparation from policymakers in ensuring the change from the previous curriculum to the new curriculum goes smoothly. These issues have raised concern and protests from teachers.

It is also important to note that time is needed for teachers to adopt and adapt to the new curriculum, not to mention changing the old paradigm in our education that focuses on preparing students for examinations. In addition to this, there is resistance to accepting the paradigm endorsed in the new curriculum, where teachers are to encourage their students to take part in active learning, to interpret into practice what character building really is and to manage their classes so that they are an exciting environment for learning. These points are related to the cognitive and emotional strains teachers experience with the change of curriculums.

Teachers are still used to the traditional way of teaching where, as Agus Mutohar states, “teachers tend to explain lessons abstractly, then they ask students to work on students’ worksheets.” The new curriculum, which is planned to promote critical thinking in classrooms, faces another obstacle in the teachers’ stand of unconsciously resisting changes from the old way they are used to.

In the grammar of schooling, a metaphor for the system of education coined by Tyack and Tobin (1994), there are a rigid set of rule for lecture-type sessions and clear boundaries between subjects and their examinations. This type of schooling is what is currently used in Indonesia. These structures and rules that organize instructional work in schools are used because they help teachers do their job, with their mission expected by the state, school boards, and parents to make students pass the examinations. However, this type of schooling holds back innovations in teaching and learning.

It is true that the policy on standardized national examination has changed in Anies Baswedan’s era. The way a student passes a level of their education is now not solely based on obtaining a required minimum score in the standardized national examination. However, it is undeniable that the culture in teaching has not yet shifted and most teachers prefer the lecture-type teaching style. The new curriculum, where rigid and standardized national examinations now only have a 30 per cent weight in deciding whether students’ pass to the next level, may help change the tendency of sticking to lecture-type teaching style. But the idea from the newly appointed minister, Muhadjir, about full-day school must be seen as a good idea to create an opportunity where the rigidness of schooling in the first half-day meets with the casual school activities in the next half-day with some benefits like giving more time supervising for students and giving opportunity for teachers to implement co-curriculum they design  in ‘casual subjects’ but still relevant with the idea endorsed by Muhadjir in adding skill & knowledge and building good character on students, or perhaps providing extra time to help poor students improve their study in a less formal way.

Whilst some people instantly reject Muhadjir’s idea of full-day school, it is actually not a new thing in Indonesia. Some private schools in Indonesia have implemented this type of schooling and they are doing very well.

In the United States, the very same idea was proposed by Peter Orszag in an article the Washington Post in 2012, with a focus on improving academic achievement and providing more time supervising for children, thus preventing them from getting into trouble. However,  just like what is now happening in Indonesia, the opposing voice also took place. For example, the cons said that longer school hours would give no contribution to the quality of education but the pros believed that longer hours of schooling and extensive teacher feedback with more selective teacher hiring as suggested by a Harvard research conducted by Dobbie and Fryer (2012) would elevate the quality of education. Still, implementing the transformation from half-day school to full-day school should not be done in a rush. A study by Thomas Coelen (2004) that compares the variety and implementation of full-day school with half-day school in some countries in Europe to Germany in response to the falling results of their pupils in OECD rankings in maths and science. Coelen illustrates that it is not an easy task to change nationally from a half-day school, such as is common now in Indonesia, to a full-day school system in public school. Many changes in attitude and practice are required for the adoption to be successful.

This is actually what becomes our concern now if the idea of full-day school is to be implemented. Our government still has not perfected the implementation of the K13 and teachers are still struggling with the interpretation of K13 in practice and the adaptation of its spirit with the way they teach their students and manage their classes. Full-day school is not a bad idea and it may work; nevertheless, further questions must be asked as to if it is appropriate to implement it now and whether the government will provide some incentives for teachers, as many teachers in Indonesian public schools are currently underpaid and would be required to spend extra hours learning and implementing ‘added curriculum’ from the not-yet-established K13 curriculum. Would the government provide incentives to teachers when they realize that money is too tight to mention in the revised 2016 state budget? Would the government insist on implementing this idea thus adding burden to the teachers who are already struggling with the K13 curriculum? Despite the idea begs some questions in regard to its feasibility, one thing is still hanging in the air in case the Minister has prepared the whole concept in detail and set plan to implement it soon or just to try to find out what people think about full-day school.