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Gadjah Mada University
Indonesia has long looked to other countries in determining its own policies, be they at the
national or subnational level. Other countries are considered more experienced and
developed, with proven policies which can readily be applied to Indonesia. One area where
such appropriation has taken place is in education. Presently it is necessary to reform the
education system in Indonesia in order to promote greater socio-economic development, and
as such it is suggested that the nation once again look beyond its borders for inspiration.
Here we suggest that Indonesia look to Ontario, a province of Canada, which may offer
ideas that can be used for this much-needed reform. This paper compares the systems
currently in use in Ontario and Indonesia, then couples this comparative analysis with
recent studies in the efficiency of education systems to present practical solutions which may
be of use in the reform of the Indonesian education system. This paper also hopes to show
that elements of the Indonesian education system may be of use in further developing
Ontario’s education system. This is, ultimately, hoped to promote an Indonesian education
system which can produce socially-minded critical thinkers as well as tighten the ties
between Indonesia and Canada.
Keywords: Indonesia, Ontario, education reform, social development
Indonesia sudah sering mempertimbangkan kebijakan-kebijakan dari negara lain ketika
menentukan kebiasannya sendiri, baik pada tingkat nasional maupun sub-nasional. Negara-
negara lain dianggap lebih berpengalaman dan berkembang, dengan kebijakan yang sudah
teruji dan dapat diterapkan di Indonesia secara mudah. Salah satu bidang yang banyak
dipengaruhi process ini ialah pendidikan. Kini sangat terasa perlunya ada reformasi sistem
pendidikan di Indonesia untuk memperlancar perkembangan sosial dan ekonomi, dan
karena itu diharapkan bahwa Negara sekali lagi dapat melihat di luar wilayahnya sendiri
untuk mencari ilham.. Dalam makalah ini kami sarankan agar Negara mempertimbangkan
sistem pendidikan yang ada di Ontario, salah satu provinsi Kanada, yang dapat
menawarkan beberapa ide yang bisa menjadi dasar reformasi pendidikan. Makalah ini
membandingkan sistem pendidikan yang sedang berlaku di Ontario dan Indonesia, lalu
menganalisis hasil perbandingan dengan studi-studi mutakhir mengenai proses pendidikan
yang efisien dan efektif untuk menyampaikan solusi-solusi praktis yang dapat digunakan
dalam proses reformasi pendidikan di Indonesia. Makalah ini juga hendak menunjukkan
bahwa beberapa unsur sistem pendidikan Indonesia dapat digunakan dalam pengembangan
sistem pendidikan di Ontario. Pada hakikatnya, kedua hal ini diharapkan dapat membentuk
sistem pendidikan Indonesia yang bisa menghasilkan pemikir-pemikir kritis yang sadar atas
tanggung jawab sosial mereka, sekaligus mengeratkan hubungan antara Indonesia dan
Kata kunci: Indonesia, Ontario, reformasi pendidikan, perkembangan sosial
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in 2013 Indonesia
on the Human Development Index, well below neighboring countries such as
Singapore (18), Brunei (30), and Malaysia (64). This is, in part, owing to the country’s much
lower performance in terms of education: Indonesians receive lower overall scores in the three
main areas of testing (Reading, Mathematics, and Science) and are overall less satisfied with the
educational system then their neighbors. The UNDP records only 41.4% of Indonesians over the
age of 25 with at least a secondary education (a term which may include senior or junior high
schools), whilst data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) indicates that only 28% of Indonesians over the age of 25 have received a senior high
school education; the OECD likewise notes low enrollment rates at tertiary institutions and a low
number of new teachers being trained.
In order to promote better education and, as such, improve the developmental position of
the Indonesian nation—to be done by promoting economic growth, better critical thinking, and
an understanding of social responsibility—reform of the national education system currently in
use is required. To do so it is likely that the Indonesian government will have to borrow ideas
from education systems elsewhere. This paper, as such, is intended answer two questions, using a
single case study: what changes may be necessary to adapt from a better-ranked foreign
education system, and what might the Indonesian education system offer in return that can
rectify shortcomings in that system?
For the purposes of this paper, the writer has looked to the country of Canada. There are
several reasons for this. First, though Canada is listed eleventh in terms of its Human
Development Index (as of 2013), it has been ranked quite high in terms of education. According
to the 2013 UNDP report on global education, 100% of Canadians aged 25 or older had at least a
secondary (senior high school) education, compared to 92.2% of Australians, 94.5% of
Americans, and 99.7% of Brits; Canadians also scored consistently higher than these 3 major
English speaking nations in terms of Reading, Mathematics, and Science, and showed a greater
satisfaction with their available education. Secondly, the Canadian government has historically
worked closely with Indonesia in areas related to education, sponsoring various subsidies for the
education of lecturers and working with Indonesians for the creation of educational media, such
as Kamila Andini’s The Mirror Never Lies.
However, our comparison must be even further narrowed. It would be difficult—if not
impossible—to present a direct comparison of the Indonesian and the Canadian education
systems, if only because there is no such thing as a monolithic “Canadian education system”.
Instead, in Canada education is entirely within the domain of each individual province and
territory, and as a result there are thirteen distinct education systems in Canada, all of which are
funded by their respective governments. As such, a direct national-to-national comparison is
unfeasible for the purposes of this paper taking into consideration concerns regarding length and
the complexity of possible comparisons: it would require a comparison of all thirteen systems
used in Canada with the system currently in use in Indonesia.
As such, for the purposes of this paper the education system of Ontario has been chosen
for comparison with that of Indonesia. This selection has been made based on several criteria,
with the ultimate result being that the education system in Ontario has been considered the most
useful in terms of comparison. First, Ontario is the most populous in Canada, with a population
of 13.5 million (38.5 percent of the national population of 35 million), and as such its education
system is the largest in the country. Second, Ontario’s periodic standardized testing (discussed
further below) is sufficiently similar to the Indonesian Ujian Nasional (National Exams) to serve
as a base of comparison. Finally, the author’s own familiarity with the province’s education
system, having been educated for fourteen years of his life within it, has allowed a greater
amount of anecdotal evidence and field observations than possible with other systems, thus
ensuring that a greater amount of data is compiled.
Education System of Ontario
The education system in Ontario is divided into four different publically funded school
systems, with divisions based on language and religion, as follows: the English-language public
school system, the French-language public school system, the English-language Catholic school
system and the French-language Catholic school system. These school systems use variations of
a single curriculum and may use different languages for instruction, in accordance with their
mandates. However, all are free at the primary level and heavily subsidized at the secondary
level (as low as $50 a year): the provincial government pays teachers’ salaries and the cost of
materials and supplies.
At the primary level Catholic schools may be limited to Catholic students—these schools
are not required to accept non-Catholics—though this distinction is not present in Catholic high
schools. The public school system, meanwhile, is secular, and open to persons of all faiths,
without any required religious instruction whatsoever. However, holidays for secular schools
remain based around Catholic, Protestant, or cultural celebrations, including but not limited to
Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving; however, students who celebrate holidays recognized by
other religions, such as the Muslim Eid ul-Fitr and the Hindu Diwali, may generally take the day
Other forms of schooling are also present in Ontario, though less common. Parents who
are distrustful of formal education, or who prefer to manage their children’s education on their
own, may legally homeschool their children or follow the tenets of unschooling (education
through natural life experiences). Private schools are also permitted, so long as they can equal or
exceed the provincial curriculum, and have been established along various lines, including
religion (schools for Muslims established by a mosque, for instance), educational method
(Montessori or Waldorf schools, for instance), type of student targeted (schools for international
students or developmentally delayed ones), and specific subject material (ballet, for instance).
However, the province’s Ministry of Education does not regulate, license, accredit or otherwise
oversee the operation of private schools.
These forms of education, however, are much less prevalent in Ontario than the public
school system; for instance in 2008 private schools accounted for only 700 schools in the
province, compared with the province’s nearly 5,000 public schools (4,011 primary, 892
secondary) (Lambert and Soroko, 2008: 3), in part owing to a popular perception that such
schools are too expensive. As such, further discussion will focus exclusively on the public school
systems, though it should be noted that private schools have shown significant growth since the
mid-1990s (Van Pelt et al., 2007: 7).
Ontario’s public schools are officially divided into primary (or elementary) and
secondary (or high) schools, with primary schools consisting of grade 1 until 8 (serving students
aged 6 until 13) and secondary schools consisting of grades 9 until 12 (serving students aged 13
until 17); even after completing their minimum number of courses, secondary students may
complete a “victory lap”, or extra year of schooling in preparation for their tertiary studies.
Students considered to have advanced abilities may be permitted to skip a grade, either by
starting school a year early or by going forward two grades at the end of a school year (for
instance, going from grade 3 directly into grade 5). J unior kindergarten and kindergarten are also
available for younger students, up to age 5.
Classes are held from Monday to Friday, known as the weekdays. In general classes are
held in the morning, starting after 8 a.m. and finishing something around 3 p.m.; the length of the
school day does not vary from day-to-day, but is fixed. Saturdays and Sundays are holidays
(known as the weekend). There are also three lengthier holidays: a one-week holiday in the
middle of March, the summer holidays (lasting from late J une until sometime after 2 September
[Labour Day]), and a two-week holiday in late December/early J anuary during which Christmas
and the New Year are celebrated. The remaining single day holidays are based in the Christian
and secular calendars, as mentioned above.
Courses offered vary between primary and secondary schools. At primary schools, all
students in the same grade must attend the same classes and receive the same material as their
classmates, though the exact form of this material is partially up to the school. There are seven
main subjects taught at primary schools: the arts, first language (English in English schools,
French in French schools), second language (French in English schools, English in French
schools), health and physical education, mathematics, science and technology, and social studies.
This system is meant to ensure that students receive a similar educational background on which
they can develop.
At the secondary level courses begin to be differentiated. New categories are introduced,
including guidance and career education, classical and international languages, and Canadian and
world studies; in order to complete their secondary education, students must complete a
minimum of 30 credits, usually taking four credits per semester. There are different course
formats depending on students’ goals: students intending to enter the workforce directly tend to
take more applicative courses, while those intending to continue their education at a tertiary
school (university, college, or similar) will tend to take more theoretical course. Beginning in
grade 10 students are allowed to select elective courses, though there are still compulsory
subjects which must be taken as well; elective subjects are oriented towards students’ future
For the youngest students, those in grades 1 until 3, tests may be multiple choice or
written. The number of possible answers is generally low. As students age they will receive
fewer multiple choice questions; the focus shifts mostly towards written answers. By the time
students enter secondary school, multiple choice questions are almost never part of the test.
Instead, tests may take the form of projects (particularly in hands-on classes such as arts and
crafts or home economics), essays (written at home or in class), research papers and
presentations, or a series of questions for which the answer must be written by the student.
Ontario has standardized provincial tests, which must be written by all students enrolled
in a public school. These tests are administered by the Education Quality and Accountability
Office (EQAO) and consist of four different tests: reading and math for Grade 3, reading and
math for Grade 6, math for grade 9, and reading for grade 10. The reading tests present short
texts (a little over a page each) for students to read, then 3 to 6 questions about each test;
questions for grades 3 and 6 may be multiple choice or essay, but those for grade 10 students are
entirely in the essay format. An example question is as follows, from the EQAO test presented to
grade 3 students in 2010:
Why does Mr. Wong say “We’ll have to keep an eye on Tony” (paragraph 8)?
o Mr. Wong’s students could easily become lost.
o He wants to make sure Tony stays with the group.
o Ms. Mitra needs to know what teachers do during field trips.
o He wants Ms. Mitra to make sure Tony sees everything in the barn.
For math, tests follow a similar format, though instead of reading passages students are given
math problems to solve (showing their work); these questions tend to be word problems, rather
than pure mathematics. There are no national standardized tests in Canada.
Grading is completed following the Ontario rubric. In this rubric, the minimum passing
score is 50 percent, with four levels (similar to letter grades) based on the percentile earned:
Level 1 is 50%–60%, Level 2 is 60%–70%, Level 3 is 70%–80%, and Level 4 is 80%–100%.
These scores are applied to four different categories or aspects of a project or course, defined as
Knowledge/Understanding, Thinking/Inquiry, Application, and Communication. The final
course score is an amalgamation of all of the scores received throughout the course. Students
who do not pass a course (in secondary school) must repeat it, though they may continue their
studies in other courses which do not have the failed course as a prerequisite.
Each class generally will have 25 or fewer students; many have fewer than 20. At the
primary level each school will have a fixed minimum and fixed maximum number of students
who may be in the same class, with fewer students per class as they age. Total class size often
does not vary much between classes in the same school. Schools themselves may differ widely,
however: according to People for Education (2012: 1), the average primary school in Ontario has
177 students, with schools in the sparsely populated northern part of the province smaller than
those in the more densely populated south; some ten percent of primary schools have fewer than
120 students. Secondary schools have an average enrolment of 794 students, with fifteen percent
having fewer than 250 students.
Smaller primary schools often have a single class for each grade level, while larger
schools may have more than one. Each class will have a teacher for general topics, while more
specific topics are taught by the same teacher for all classes. As such, primary students generally
keep their own designated classroom. At the secondary school level, when students are offered
choices regarding which course to take, the number of selections possible necessitates a greater
number of classes, as does the larger average enrolment at the school. This means, as a result,
students must travel from classroom to classroom; they are not given a permanent classroom for
the school year. Classes in the same field will generally have the same teacher, though schools
may have more than one teacher in the same field, particularly for requisite courses.
There are, as of the 2012/2013 school year, some 115,000 full time teachers at public
schools in Ontario, 73,000 at the primary level and 42,000 at the secondary level (Ministry of
Education, 2013); this represents one teacher for every eighteen students. Teachers are organized
into labor unions based on the level at which they teach: primary teachers are members of the
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, whereas secondary teachers are members of the
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. As such, teachers retain the right to strike in
order to demand higher salaries, better working conditions, and workers’ rights, a right which
they evoke occasionally. The annual salary for a teacher can range from $45,000 for a newly-
hired teacher with little training to $95,000 for teachers with at least ten years of service and
extensive training (McFarland, 2012); this puts teachers in the upper-middle class.
Education System of Indonesia
Here we present only a general overview of the education system currently in use in
Indonesia, serving as a counterpoint to the system used in Ontario which has been discussed
above. This is because of the audience’s general familiarity with the Indonesian system.
The education system in Indonesia is based on a national curriculum, which must be
followed by all public schools and most private schools; schools not following the curriculum are
not allowed to grant diplomas. Though state schools do not explicitly take a religious leaning,
they cannot be said to be secular; religion class is compulsory in all state schools at all levels.
Much of the curriculum is fixed by the central government, represented by the Ministry of
Education, though local education offices maintain some control. Although the government has
enacted policies that help subsidize education, free schooling is unheard of; schools continue to
charge students directly, and entrance fees at more popular public or private schools can cost
millions of rupiah.
As mentioned above, public schools are not the only schools available in Indonesia:
private schools are common. Persons in urban areas will often choose a private school for their
children, considering the cost (sometimes not much different than that of a public school) of less
relevance than the better quality of education thought to be available. Private schools have been
established along various lines, including religion (schools for Christians, for instance),
educational method (Montessori, for instance), type of student targeted (schools for international
students, for instance), and specific subject material. The Ministry of Education regulates and
may give accreditation to these private schools. Homeschooling and unschooling are rare.
Indonesia’s schools are officially divided into elementary, junior high, and senior high.
Elementary schools consist of grades 1 until 6 (serving students aged 6 until 11), junior high
schools consist of grades 7 until 9 (serving students aged 11 until 14), and senior high schools
consist of grades 10 until 12 (serving students aged 14 until 18); these can be oriented towards
academic pursuits or vocational ones. Beginning in 2013, students are required to complete
twelve years of schooling (Metrotvnews.com, 2013).
Classes are held from Monday to Saturday, with Friday and Saturday being half-days. In
general classes are held in the morning, starting between 7 and 8 a.m. and finishing between 11
a.m. and 1 p.m.; private schools may follow different schedules. Sundays are holidays, as some
religious and secular celebrations; the backgrounds of religious holidays are mostly Islam and
Christianity. There are also lengthier holidays during the beginning and end of Ramadan,
between the first and second semester, and after the end of the school year. These holidays are
rarely more than three or four weeks.
Courses offered vary between elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. In
elementary and junior high schools, all students in the same grade must attend the same classes
and receive the same material as their classmates, though the exact form of this material is
partially up to the school; private schools may include, for instance, Mandarin or Arabic. There
are numerous compulsory subjects. At the senior high school level students begin in the same
classes, but are then split into different programs during grade 11: schools generally offer social
science and natural sciences programs, though some may also offer languages or religion. The
courses taken in grades 11 and 12 thus depend on the program taken, and will influence what
programs students’ may take in university.
Students generally take tests in the multiple-choice format, particularly for midterm and
end-of-term exams. The number of possible answers varies depending on the students’ ages:
younger students may only have three choices, while older ones may have up to five choices.
Essay questions are also included and are given a greater weight than individual multiple choice
questions, though the total number is much lower. By the time students enter senior high school,
tests may take the form of projects, essays, or research papers and presentations.
Indonesian students must write standardized national exams, known as Ujian Nasional, in
at the end of grades 6, 9, and 12—before continuing to the next higher educational institute.
These tests are administered by the Ministry of Education and consist of different subjects for
each grade level: grade 6 students must write exams in Indonesian, math, and science, grade 9
students must write exams in Indonesian, math, science, and English, and grade 12 students must
write exams in Indonesian, math, English and three further specialized subjects depending on
their study program. Failure to pass the national exams generally means failure to complete their
studies, meaning students must repeat the school year.
Grading is completed out of a percentile. The minimum passing grade for each course
depends on the school, and may differ from course to course. The final course score is a
weighted average of all of the scores received throughout the course. Students may be forced to
repeat a school year if they fail too many courses, though most often teachers offer remedial
exams which can help students improve their scores.
The number of students in each class varies considerably depending on the grade level
and management of the school. Poorer schools may have as many as forty students in each class,
to be taught by a single teacher, while some private schools emphasize a smaller class size, with
fewer than 20 students per class. Total class size often does not vary much between classes in the
same school. The size of schools themselves may differ widely, however.
Smaller elementary and junior high schools often have a single class for each grade level,
while larger schools may have more than one; senior high schools, particularly those in the city,
have a minimum of two classes for each grade, divided based on the study program taken.
Classes may have a homeroom teacher to teach general subjects, or a teacher with specific
training in a subject; by senior high school students are taught by a variety of teachers. Larger
schools may have one or more teacher for each subject. Teachers come to the classroom, and
students are not required to go from class to class unless the lesson requires equipment not
There are, as of the 2012/2013 school year, approximately 2.9 million teachers in
Indonesia, most of whom teach at the primary level; this represents one teacher for every twenty
students. Most teachers are located in J ava and Sumatra, leaving less developed areas with even
less access to education. Many teachers are undereducated, and almost half do not have even a
bachelor’s degree (Okezone.com, 2013), and those who do may not have a background in
education. Teachers are not organized into labor unions, and some earn close to minimum wage;
this last consideration has led some to depict teaching as an undesirable profession.
Suggestions for Reform
Based on the above discussion, it is clear that there are several elements of the education
system in Ontario which may be implemented in Indonesia during the course of a reform of the
educational system, namely class size, curriculum, cost of education, and the accreditation and
treatment of teachers. Others, such as the use of standardized exams, are similar to both systems
and thus no basis for reform can be drawn from them.
The first, and perhaps one of the most important changes to be effected, is class size.
Smaller classes allow greater attention for individual students, thus allowing them to better
comprehend the lessons and ask for more detailed explanations, whereas in larger classes
teachers are unable to effectively divide their time amongst the students (thus hurting their
development). Students are unable to ask teachers detailed questions about topics which they do
not understand, and teachers are likewise unable to give detailed answers which provide a better
As mentioned above, average class size in city schools in Indonesia tends to be lower
than those in rural areas; as such, it is the rural children who receive lower quality education. By
enforcing a smaller class size, it is hoped that these children will receive a better education, thus
presenting them with greater opportunities for future development and growth which their
underprivileged backgrounds would generally not permit.
A move towards smaller class sizes would also reduce the workload for teachers, thus
permitting a shift towards more in-depth examinations and assignments (discussed below). With
fewer examinations and other assignments to grade, teachers will have a greater incentive to
provide tests which require students to think and have less of a chance of students receiving a
passing grade due to chance. Tests and other assignments which emphasize individual answers,
particularly argument, would prepare students as critical thinkers who are able to support their
own opinions based on evidence they can present, and thus allow them to better integrate into the
global society and post-secondary education; no longer will students emphasize memorization by
rote, which dulls the mind. Though grading of each individual test would become more time
consuming, the fewer assignments graded could mean a reduced total time spent grading.
Aside from the format of tests, there are several aspects of the Indonesian curriculum
which could be reworked after consideration of the Ontario curriculum. Firstly, the number of
courses should be reduced. Students do not have enough time to enter detailed explanations of
the various subjects which they are studying if they must study 10 or 12 subjects at a time, often
with significantly different points of view or approaches: to go from religion to accounting to
arts and crafts to English in a single day, for instance, is an extensive tax on students intellectual
and time resources. Together with students’ poor time management skills, this promotes a culture
where students do their work the day before it must be submitted and present a final project
which is superficial, rushed, and often plagiarized.
In order to promote a greater comprehension of core subject material, time spent on non-
essential or specialized subjects should be reduced and integrated with more general topics:
grade 8 students need not study biology and chemistry separately when both can presented under
as science, and mostly they need not study accounting unless they intend to enter such a career in
their adult life. Language comprehension (domestic for younger students, domestic and foreign
for older ones), natural science, mathematics, physical education, and social science—subjects
which are the most general and thus the most useful for the vast majority of students—should be
This is not to say that there should be no specialized courses. Indeed, students at
vocational schools—directly oriented for entering the workforce—should be taught all the skills
necessary for those in their particular field, including information on tourist attractions for
students intending to work in tourism, or kitchen equipment for those intending to for students
who intend to enter the food industry. In such schools Indonesia’s curriculum performs
appropriately, though it is likely that reforms could be made.
However, it is best practice to remove some specialized courses at the senior high school
level, as not all will be used by students in their post-secondary careers. Simply dividing students
into separate programs is not enough: students who intend to be math teachers (a career path best
represented by the natural sciences program) will not require much of a background (if any,
indeed) in biology, just as students who intend to be literary critics or journalists will rarely have
use for mathematics or biology. As a result, students waste their time (and the system’s
resources) by taking subjects they do not need.
It is preferable instead to allow students at the senior high school level to choose courses
which they will need for the future, based on a set number of courses offered: students who
intend to go into information technology, for instance, could choose mathematics, information
technology, and mechanical sciences—subjects key to the field—instead of biology or history—
which will not be of much use to them. Aside from allowing students to explore the selected
subjects in greater detail (as they are taking fewer courses), this allows the schools to benefit
from smaller classes and more efficient use of class time and human resources. Such a system
may not require a drastic increase in the number of teachers, as educators could work at more
than one school owing to the reduced demands on their time owing to more specialized courses.
In order to ensure equal access to education, twelve years which is now required, the cost
of education must be reduced. Monthly fees at elementary schools continue to be charged for the
right to attend school and receive a basic education. Students from poor families, meanwhile, are
unable to afford the high entry costs at senior high schools, which are usually more than a
million rupiah and can (at favorite schools) cost more than university. As such, subsidized
education should be offered to students, allowing them to study without large fees—or,
preferably, any direct fees at all.
This subsidized education should not be extended to private schools, which are outside
the domain of the government, but limited to public schools and funded by taxation; though the
1945 constitution guarantees a right to an education, it does not stipulate what form this
education must take, and private schools (by definition) are separate from state-run schools.
Though this may ultimately lead to higher taxation, such increased taxes will be offset by the net
positive of all Indonesians receiving an education and thus becoming better able to compete in
the global market.
The position of “teacher” itself is in dire need of change, both in terms of requirements
and in terms of recognition. In the system in use in Ontario, teachers must have completed (at the
very minimum) a bachelor’s degree with an extra two years at a school especially for would-be
teachers, commonly known as a teachers’ college; only then may educators begin teaching. This
guarantees that teachers are well-versed in the various theories of education and the subject
material, thus promoting a high standard of education.
Though Indonesia has begun taking steps to enact a similar program, it has so far not
made significant inroads; and many schools continue to take fresh graduates from other
programs owing to a need for more educators. However, by strictly enforcing such a requirement
(perhaps with an accreditation program) and providing schools with the funding necessary to
send their teachers for further education—preferably with an emphasis on rural schools, ensuring
greater development in these generally ignored areas—the Indonesian government could ensure
a more equitable standard of education between various schools, be they in the city or the
Together with this increase in the standard of competence expected from teachers, greater
recognition of those in the profession is necessary. The greater cost of education necessary for
new teachers must be remunerated with increased wages, as recognition for their greater
investment. This should not be understood as a call for equal wages with teachers in Ontario; the
cost of living in Indonesia is not as high as that in Canada; indeed, even granting Indonesian
teachers the equivalent of 5 percent of Ontario teachers’ salaries would represent a significant
increase in teachers’ wages.
We have seen elements of the Ontario system which may be of use in Indonesia. What
then, can the Indonesian system offer Ontario? Based on the above summaries, there are two
major shortcomings in the system used in Ontario which may be addressed after considering the
Indonesian system, namely religious representation and the length of the school year.
First is the consideration of religious holidays for religious minorities. Islam is the fastest
growing religion in Ontario (and Canada in general), with almost 5 percent of the province’s
population self-declaring as Muslim; significant Hindu and Buddhist populations can also be
found in major cities. As such, though schools may be open to students of all religions, and may
grant individual holidays for religious celebrations where requested, there is decidedly an
impression of illegitimacy: there is no official government recognition of the holidays, whereas
everyone receives a day off for Christian holidays. Such an impression is not acceptable for the
largest province in a country which promotes itself as one of the most multicultural nations on
Earth and takes pride in its “multicultural mosaic” model.
As such, Ontario—and preferably Canada as a whole—can learn the importance of
officially recognizing holidays celebrated by religious minorities. Though Indonesia is the largest
majority Muslim nation, the government has given official recognition to various non-Muslim
religious holidays, including (but not limited to) Easter, Christmas, and Chinese New Year. For
these holidays all students are given the day off, which has the effect of indicating not only that
other religions exist, but that they are legitimate and worthy of recognition. This, in turn, allows
for a better integrated multicultural society.
Second is the issue of the length of the school year. Studies have shown that students who
take extensive holidays with little academic stimulation will suffer greatly upon returning to
school. In the US, studies have shown that “on average, all students lose about a month of
progress in math skills each summer, while low-income students slip as many as three months in
reading comprehension, compared with middle-income students” (Von Drehle, 2010), an
academic obstacle which means schools must spend at least a month reviewing previously
learned material before teaching students new things. As a result, the learning process is slowed,
particularly that of students from lower income brackets.
To ensure that Ontario’s children are not left behind their peers, a more staggered
approach—similar to that used in Indonesia—is necessary. As such, a schedule similar to that
used in Indonesia would be best. Perhaps the most useful would be a three to four week holiday
between each semester (as in Indonesia), with a fixed week-long holiday in the middle of the
semester. This would, naturally, be paired with religious and secular holidays as required. The
longer holidays would allow students and their families to travel, while the less lengthy holidays
would allow students time to recuperate their energy.
As has been shown above, a look at the educational system currently in use in Ontario, a
province of Canada, offers several potentials for the further reform of the Indonesian education
system. Indonesia can promote critical thinking by abandoning, at least partially, multiple-choice
centric tests—particularly in the humanities—and encouraging students to answer with their own
interpretations or opinions, which must be supported with their own arguments. Indonesia should
also promote a greater understanding of language—necessary for communications in every
field—through a greater emphasis on reading and writing in the curriculum. The Indonesian
government should also ensure greater enrolment by ensuring that its free education programs
are run in accordance with the legislation.
However, these aspects should not be assimilated without extensive testing and/or
adaptation, where necessary, in order to ensure that they are applicable in Indonesia’s dissimilar
cultural and sociological environment; at no time should the government (as the legal body
responsible for the education of the Indonesian people) automatically assume that a system
which works in one place will be just as efficient in another. As has been shown numerous times
throughout history, in such varied fields as biology, sociology, and literature, the effects of the
immense complexities of biological and sociological systems, different between each area,
cannot be predicted or equated with any accuracy.
Furthermore, it is our hope that partial reform of the education system in Ontario can be
affected based on elements of the Indonesian system which have been found to work more
efficiently. A more spread school schedule, with fewer lengthy holidays, should improve the
retention of knowledge gained during the preceding year, and better recognition of minority
holidays and other celebrations should promote greater integration in the “multicultural mosaic”
of modern Canada. By collaborating in the improvement of both systems, Indonesia and Canada
can strengthen the countries’ existing bonds and partnerships regarding education and, in the
long term, expedite much-needed social and development and show that developed nations can
still learn much from developing ones.
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