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Indonesian vs American Education By Marsha Sugana

Posted July 29th, 2011 | education THIS IS THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THE ARTICLE THAT WAS PUBLISHED BY THE JAKARTA POST ON MAY 14th. Link: -vs-us-education-systems.html

As a student who has attended three different high schools with European, American, and Indonesian curriculums, I have concluded that I have benefited the most from the American curriculum. While President Obama and many Americans are unsatisfied with the American quality of education especially in the natural sciences and mathematics, I shall give a further explanation about the distinctions between American and Indonesian high school curriculums and defend why I believe Americans is best. First of all, the American curriculum awards high school students the autonomy to decide their courses of study. While Indonesians do have the option to focus their last two years of high school on Natural Science or Social Science track depending on their desired future major in the undergraduate level, Americans have the option to design their own course schedules every single year based on their interests and needs. This could be done as long as they fulfill certain graduation requirements that usually comprise of: 4 years of English, 3 years of social and natural sciences, 2 years of foreign language, and 3 years of mathematics (High school in the United States is 4 years instead of 3). In addition, American high school students have the option to select the level of difficulty of their courses, depending whether their school offers Honors or Advanced Level courses (in which students are able to gain college credits). Despite these advantages, however, the academic offerings of an American curriculum do not necessarily mean that it is the ideal system of education for Indonesian high school students today. The current Indonesian curriculum is designed to suit the needs of Indonesian high school students. Similar with most countries around the world including England and Australia but excluding Canada, Indonesian students have to apply specifically for the major and undergraduate institutions that they are interested in to pursue by taking sitin examinations. A highly focused high school curriculum, therefore, is ideal in order to help students score well on the examinations. In the United States, however, American students do not have to declare their majors until their 2nd year of college. For example, as a second year undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, I still have one year to decide whether I would be double majoring in Economics and Political Science or just one of them (with the intention of going to Law School). To be admitted, high school students need to meet the academic standards of the American institution they wish to attend by showing their transcripts, standard test scores, teacher recommendations, and essays (yes, there is no such thing as sit in entrance examinations) without having to commit to one specific major. 1

The best curriculum certainly also depends upon the preferences of students themselves. The Indonesian curriculum is highly focused on specific areas while American curriculums more broad and general. Students who know for sure what their passions and interests are may prefer Indonesias curriculum. Personally, however, I find that it would be for the benefit of the quality of Indonesian education system as a whole, to change the current curriculum in order to give students more options to pursue their passions and interests. Many young students are still indecisive about what types of careers or subjects they would like to spend their lives focusing on, and giving them the power to experiment in different subject areas will assist them in finding the right path. Before I moved to the United States for high school four years ago, for example, I was certain that I would like to study architecture in college. After taking a required class in the social sciences at the American high school I attended, however, I decided that law/politics/economics seems like the more ideal path for me. Most importantly, however, the broad-based curriculum of American education encourages students to take courses in a variety of subjects. This gives them a wide-range of background knowledge in subjects that the student is not concentrating or planning to concentrate on. I am aware of the difficulty of changing the current educational system, especially with the lack of funding provided by Indonesian the government to even support our entire population with public education. The priority of the Indonesian government currently shall remain, which is to increase the nations overall literacy rate and to enable the youth to at least graduate high school. Perhaps in the future, however, it would be for our nations advantage to improve the quality of our education by providing a more broad and interest based curriculum to assist our future leaders. While specialization is crucial, the more knowledgeable we are in various subjects, the more competitive we will be in the global market.