Education and the Indonesian Revolution | Indonesia | Colonialism

Education and the Indonesian Revolution: Education and Bureaucracy in the Establishment of a United and Independent Indonesia Scott

Abel During the latter years of colonial rule in the Dutch East Indies, the colonial education system incubated nationalist ideology that exploded into violence at the end of World War II. The Dutch East Indies state education system prior to the occupation by Imperial Japanese forces perpetuated an unequal society and oppressive bureaucratic system by maintaining the power of colonialists, the traditional aristocracy, and sympathizers at the expense of the common peasant. Dutch policymakers maintained authority through an oppressive colonialist and aristocratic bureaucracy that applied education for their nation’s economic advancement in the East Indies. Many indigenous families sacrificed great hardships for a child’s education within a social hierarchy that remained relatively fixed. The education system increased the labor supply for more complex positions that required basic knowledge in sustenance of the colonial state. Ultimately, contrary to the objectives of Dutch colonialists, the education system fostered an independence movement in the future Indonesia through uniting the humiliated and suffering colony against Dutch authority despite its role as a principle element of the bureaucracy and preserver of the status quo. After the Indonesian Revolution, education became a core component for an independent and united Indonesia, but the failure to accept its limitations by the Indonesian leadership led to future hardship and strife because a unitary state imposed a new identity on a diverse population. The education system of the Dutch colonial period contributed in three major ways to the loss of the Netherlands’ colonies in East Asia. First, the schools unwillingly


facilitated the spread of nationalist ideas through official and unofficial groups of students that provided them with contacts from throughout the archipelago. Second, the strains caused by the cost and the limits of who obtained an education exacerbated class tensions between the social groups. Elements of discontent who received an education employed their knowledge in the cause of independence. Third, the inadequate education in particular fields of native administrators created an environment of inflexibility that hampered their ability to effectively respond in crises. The combination of these three factors accelerated the independence movement in Indonesia and made education an important cause for the revolution and the development of a sovereign Indonesia. The relationship between education, society stratification, and an aristocratic support of imperial powers convinced the Javanese and Sumatran public of the necessity for a social revolution that virtually annihilated much of the old authority in particular regions, along with its supportive bureaucracy. Demand for economic efficiency for the colony through native education strengthened the Indonesian nationalist and independence movements for a united Indonesia in the long-run. The leadership of a sovereign Indonesia recognized the significance of education and its role within the nationalist movement. However, the reformed education system failed to undo the damage left by the political and social revolutions. The social revolution resulted in severe damage to Java’s middle classes, which stalled economic recovery after the revolution. The colonial education system contributed to a socially divided colony and the subsequent violence of the general populace toward merchants and the educated classes, usually the Chinese and Eurasians, made the functioning of an economy more difficult after independence. Leaders such as Sukarno pushed for a


Javanese-centric approach to unifying the country under a unitary government because their educational experiences created the false impression of unity throughout the archipelago. The failure to adjust for the significant ethnic differences between the populations of the archipelago resulted in violence and political strife for decades. The secondary source historiography of education policy in the colonial Dutch East Indies and independent Indonesia usually focused on specific topics within the colonial era or as a minor topic within the context of the Indonesian Revolution. Takashi Shiraishi explored the context of education within revolutionary movements in An Age in Motion, Popular Radicalism in Java, 1912-1926 but focused his attention on the prewar era of the East Indies rather than the direct effect of the colonial era education system in the wartime and postwar era. Kees Groeneboer’s Gateway to the West: The Dutch Language in Colonial Indonesia 1600-1950 focused on Dutch language policy in the colonial education system but not significantly in regard to its impact on revolutionary movements within the colony. Indonesian National Revolution 1945-1950 by Anthony Reid and One Soul, One Struggle: Region and Revolution by Anton Lucas focused on education as significant topics, but dedicated little content regard to it as part of the overall revolution. Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities placed a framework for understanding the development of nationalism as an idea, but focused only a little attention on the details of Dutch colonial and Indonesian education policy.1 J. D. Legge in Sukarno emphasized the “all-important advantage of a Dutch education” for Sukarno


Takashi Shiraishi, An Age in Motion: Popular Radicalism in Java, 1912-1926, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Kees Groeneboer, Gateway to the West: The Dutch Language Policy in Colonial Indonesia, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University, 1998); Anthony Reid, Indonesian National Revolution 1945-1950, (Hawthorn, Australia: Longman, 1974); Anton Lucas, One Soul One Struggle: Region and Revolution in Indonesia, (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1991); Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, (New York: Verso, 1991).


but scarcely for the rest of the Indonesian independence movement leadership.2 Historians generally acknowledged the importance of education particularly in regard to the formation of the intellectual basis of the Indonesian state but neglected the physical transmission of nationalist ideas and how education policies untied Indonesia together after independence. Dutch colonial policy regarding the East Indies changed around the turn-of-the century with a greater emphasis on education as part of an overall trend in patriarchal and progressive policies. Only a small proportion of the entire population of the Dutch East Indies spoke Dutch fluently around 1900 with only 42,000 Dutch speakers out of 35 million inhabitants. Although schools taught Dutch to native elites since the 1860s, the speaking of Indo-Dutch resulted from inadequate teaching. The colony needed native administrators for the colonial government because of their cost effectiveness over European administrators.3 In The Hague, Colonial Minister Idenburg proclaimed the slogan “Education, Irrigation, Emigration,” as the tenants of his new policies. The colonial government dedicated its efforts for the improvement of the education for the elites and not the peasants.4 Also, the integration of the native elites with the Dutch colonialists within the political structure of the colony legitimized Dutch rule to a large extent, but also made the two groups political partners. By 1900, the Dutch East Indies risked losing their “Dutch” character particularly in regard to the speaking of Dutch as an important language in the region and therefore required a greater emphasis on education within the archipelago. Furthermore, the ethical policy fit within a general movement

2 3

J. D. Legge, Sukarno: A Political Biography, (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2003), 31. Kees Groeneboer, Gateway to the West: The Dutch Language Policy in Colonial Indonesia, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University, 1998), 153-154. 4 Legge, Sukarno, 49.


toward a progressive political economy throughout much of the world in the early 20th century. Education was an aspect of the colonial bureaucracy for a long period of time, but it ultimately took until the 20th century before it truly became an important part of the lives of indigenous students. The origins of the relationship between the Dutch East Indies civil service and the education system started as late as 1830 when the Chief Commissioner of Education hired European students who completed European Primary School or ELS (Europeesche Lagere Scholen) as government clerks to limit the number of dropouts in schools.5 By 1900, 10.4% of the ELS students were non-European, 30% of whom attended special training schools in preparation for the civil service exam as part of a new “ethical policy” in the Indies. Once a student completed ELS, he or she advanced to the HBS (Hogere Burgerscholen) the equivalent to an American high school education.6 The education system provided by the Dutch colonial powers created opportunities particularly for European advancement in colonial society, but a growing percentage of non-Europeans desired an education for their children. The education system permitted some native students with exceptional bright prospects academic advancement in more challenging settings. After Europeans, the school services focused on Eurasians, then indigenous populations, and finally the ethnic Chinese.7 The percentage of non-Europeans in ELS level rose to 22% by 1905 even with more rigorous standards for indigenous students. The demand for education by nonEuropeans led to the development of Dutch-Native Schools or HIS and Dutch-Chinese

5 6

Groeneboer, Gateway to the West, 81. Takashi Shiraishi, An Age in Motion: Popular Radicalism in Java, 1912-1926, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990), 29; Legge, Sukarno, 40. 7 Groeneboer, Gateway to the West, 153-155.


Schools or HCS for speakers of Dutch as a second language.8 Education became a critical part of colonial administration because it trained future government employees, but the majority of the indigenous population a western education was not a possibility regardless of merit. Native students fluent in Dutch and who passed examinations of the highest standards attended MULO or intermediate level schools, where they learned about technology. Native students from throughout the archipelago graduated from MULO level schools and higher during the 1920s and eventually became the leaders of the revolution in the 1940s.9 Other types of schools contributed to the growth of an Indonesian intelligentsia such as training professionals for government service and private enterprise, along with the Native Doctors Training School (STOVIA) and Training School for Native Officials (OSVIA). The schools became the basis of native entry into the emerging middle class of the Dutch East Indies.10 The rigorous standards of the Dutch education system and the exposure to western ideas to intelligent students initiated their role as dissidents. The colonial government lacked a monopoly on education, however, as native private institutions filled the demand for education for the native population. Although natives distrusted the colonial education system at first, many changed their minds and saw institutionalized education as a means for advancement in society. Schools set up by natives, though threatening to Dutch authority, offered a basic education for entrance into the lower or mid-levels of the civil service. Students learned literacy and basic arithmetic for five years an elementary education but little on scientific or cultural subjects.11 The private native schools, known as “wild schools,” educated students with a political slant
8 9

Groeneboer, Gateway to the West, 160-161. Anthony Reid, Indonesian National Revolution 1945-1950, (Hawthorn, Australia: Longman, 1974), 3. 10 Shiraishi, An Age in Motion, 29-30. 11 S. Takdir Alisjahbana, Indonesia: Social and Cultural Revolution, (London: Oxford UP, 1966), 27.


in regard to Islamic, Marxist, or cultural-nationalist parties by the 1920s. By 1936, 1,663 wild schools accounted for 114,000 pupils of whom girls composed almost a third. Just one year later, an estimated 2,000 wild schools taught over 140,000 pupils often with inadequately trained teachers and outdated teaching materials. Dutch authorities observed private schools for fear of the creation of a semi-educated class of students incapable of passing civil service exams and with political affiliations that threatened the status quo.12 Private schools offered an education of dubious quality at times for natives who found themselves unable to attend public ones, but the schools offered an education that countered the ideal Dutch notions of native obedience to colonial authority. A Dutch education offered opportunities for native elites for finding a career that proved otherwise virtually impossible. Shortages of staff within the colonial bureaucracy and the private sector, along with the realization that education opened doors to new opportunities for natives with elevated self-respect as graduates of schools with ideas about justice and freedom. Colonial authorities realized that educating natives weakened their political position but continued the system because of the demand for skilled labor. The increased standards of living from a modern education allowed a level of modernity for many elites brought greater demand for education and required much sacrifice. The more prestigious the school, often the farther away students went from their families.13 The possibility through social advancement created an incentive for families to send their children far away from home for an education. The vast separation between students in the official education system and the rest of the population created a uniform bubble within the schools that bled out cultural

12 13

Groeneboer, Gateway to the West, 233-236. Takdir Alisjahbana, Indonesia: Social and Cultural Revolution, 25, 28-29.


differences between the East Indies numerous ethnic groups, which also created its impression of greater cultural unity to the student groups. The priyayi, particularly in the upper echelons developed western tendencies with their education in Dutch language schools or in the Netherlands itself, became disconnected with much of the indigenous population. The regency or major administrative towns modernized with running water and electric lamps, while urban residents spoke Dutch on the streets.14 The emergence of a new elite culture through education came at an enormous cost in finance, which meant the limitations of who attained a Dutch education. Therefore, wealthy and elite members of Javanese society usually received colonial government positions. The urban center, the location of the most reputable schools, limited the physical contacts between the future elites and the rest of the native population. The relative cultural homogenization of the new elite through an education system represented an aspect of modernity that altered the consciousness and identities of native students. Within the classrooms students saw Mercator maps delineating territorial boundaries unlike previous maps in Southeast Asia. They distinguished colonial territories through color logos for each European colony. The distinctions between territories convinced Indonesian nationalists that the colonies contained a single national identity.15 The young educated elite or kaum muda acquired western habits with the formation of salaried middle class, along with understanding the Dutch language. They contributed to a national consciousness with their modern education that permitted them to enter modernity with other ethnicities under the Dutch flag. The modern education of the first generation of the nationalist movement differed from previous generations

Anton Lucas, One Soul One Struggle: Region and Revolution in Indonesia, (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1991), 2-3. 15 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, (New York: Verso, 1991), 171-178.


because of the state efforts for the creation of a secular education system where as previous education systems generally involved religious elements.16 The development of a modern education system resulted in a collective national consciousness for the nationalist movement under Dutch language and an Indo-Dutch culture. The development of a collective national identity required the loss of considerable traditional aspects regarding ethnicity such as language and culture from throughout the Dutch East Indies diverse archipelago. Children of elites from islands faraway from Java required two weeks to sail to their schools making returning home for vacation extremely difficult. Despite the immense sacrifices by families through sending half their income or more to support a child or two, their children often returned home a stranger to their own families. The students often married on other islands or at schools, which made the blood relatives even more foreign. The successful students who found a career in Java usually became less interested in returning home to help their families or complete their traditional obligations for their families and communities. The distances between family members created by the education system resulted in separate spheres for the modern nationalists’ consciousness and the traditional family structure.17 The separation from traditional political structures and the mixture of students from various locations from throughout the East Indies in schools consolidated a new national identity based on Dutch colonialism. The students synthesized a new Indonesian identity that fused the identity influenced by the Dutch and their traditional backgrounds. However, the severing from their traditional backgrounds created a sense of unity with the rest of the natives from

16 17

Shiraishi, An Age in Motion, 29-32. Alisjahbana, Indonesia: Social and Cultural Revolution, 28-31.


throughout the archipelago as the students weakened their connections to their birthplaces. The rise of a modern education system coincided with the shuffling and expansion of the Dutch East Indies colonial bureaucracy. In 1905, the Dutch established municipalities as an administrative unit in an attempt toward political decentralization. Populations throughout the Dutch East Indies experienced physical and social separation from other groups in a pluralistic society based on ancestry, economic status, and language. Municipal councils received representatives from various ethnic groups but the Dutch always possessed a majority, thus continuing discrimination along ethnic lines within the government administration. Municipal councils educated the future leadership of Indonesia particularly when they participated in colony-wide proceedings in Batavia in republican procedures.18 Indigenous leaders learned about statesmanship outside the classroom, which may was not apart of the formal education bureaucracy but rather a portion of the educational system as a whole. Colonial administration in the early 20th century within the Dutch East Indies adapted to the new century through limited liberalization exemplifying superficial republicanism. Taxation supported the colonial bureaucracy and social structure, which abused the peasants of the archipelago in favor of the elites. High taxation angered peasants more than any other government activity because of its unfairness toward the poor and generosity toward the wealthy. Local administrators or village headmen called lurahs, based taxation on estimations of crop yields rather than counting them. With relatively flat tax rates, poor farmers paid the same rate as wealthy landowners, which increased


Robert Cribb, Gangsters and Revolutionaries: The Jakarta People’s Militia and the Indonesian Revolution 1945-1949, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991), 13, 14.


popular aggravation. To make up for revenue shortfalls, lurahs unofficially acquired crops through dubious means to fill quotas. The bureaucracy supported the commercial export sector, while the government elite or priyayi benefited from the political structure of society to large extent. The political, bureaucratic, and trading elite often received a Dutch education that adapted them to western culture.19 In the eyes of many peasants, the colonial bureaucracy perpetuated unfairness and economic disparity that caused immense suffering for the poor. The association between the indigenous members of the bureaucracy with corruption and the colonial oppressors eventually weakened the bureaucracy’s position. The Dutch controlled Java through the native elite that solidified its power through great social stratification and therefore made advancement of most indigenous Javanese virtually impossible. The native regents or bupatis worked for the Dutch under the promise of a de facto hereditary succession. Various irrigation projects channeled water purposively to all farmers but wealthy landowners bribed officials for more water. Lurahs leased communal land for their own profit and remained in office for life, which allowed them to accumulate significant quantities of wealth. In addition to taxes, peasants labored on public works projects in supplement to taxation that forced cycles of indebtedness nearly impossible to escape. When peasants possessed no ability to pay, Arab, Chinese, and Javanese creditors often appropriated their property.20 The bureaucratic administration throughout much of rural Java made life extraordinarily difficult for small landowners with the perpetuation and widening of economic disparity. Obtaining positions in the bureaucracy through passing an examination or using an

19 20

Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 2, 5-6. Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 3-7.


education in the private sector often offered much better prospects than alternative careers. The Dutch East Indies oriented its economy toward exporting materials for sale abroad, which also financed the government but also increased the repression of rural peasantry. Until 1920, Java was the second largest exporter of sugar, which benefitted both Europeans and the native elite, the latter of whom received a percentage of the profits at the expense of the peasantry. Peasants received little recourse for complaints because even when Dutch authorities addressed their issues, the local native authorities often simply ignored them. The collective interests of the colonialists and native elite required cheap land and labor for the sugar fields, mills, and infrastructure at the expense of the peasants. The religious elite or kyai also benefitted from the sugar industry through its finance of construction projects such as mosques and prayer houses. Particularly in the Pekalongan Regency, the seventeen sugar mills placed great pressures on the peasantry that only became worse with the Great Depression. Drops in demand caused falls in wages and community investment with the closure of thirteen mills. Even by 1937 with the reopening of some mills, wages remained stagnant while the authorities took the peasant’s blame.21 The alliance between economic, political, and spiritual authorities brought misery to much of the native population and made reforms in their interest extremely difficult. The colonial government possessed a variety of means of repression and maintaining power. The secret police and informants were the more conventional instruments paid for by Dutch colonial authorities, but often native authorities


Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 8, 10, 11.


supplemented with their funding with their own money.22 Another instrument of authority, albeit more benign than the secret police, was the colonial education system that perpetuated society’s stratification and colonial rule. Education offered children a potential career in the civil service and in private enterprise, but only a few entered schools because of the immense cost and high academic standards. One student, Sutan Melaju, entered elementary school created for the sons of the elite through the sacrifice of his entire family who spent pikuls23 of rice for his education. When students took an examination to go to King’s College, their entire families gave the event great significance.24 The education system favored the children of priyayi for the maintenance of the colonial social structure and to keep the financial burden on the state low, but individuals who eventually opposed the colonial system entered anyway through the sacrifice of their families and their own determination. During the early years of the 20th century, the development of a modern education system based on the western models reframed anti-Dutch movements throughout the Dutch East Indies particularly in regard to the education of future pro-independence leaders. The first generation of active proponents of what became Indonesia possessed backgrounds in the finest western-style education available in the colonies. Early revolutionary leaders such as Tirtoadhisoerjo and Soewardi received an education from ELS, HBS, and eventually onto professional schools such as OSVIA and STOVIA for a system developed for them to fill positions within the civil service and Dutch private enterprise as Dutch-speaking native elites. Umar Sayed Tjokroaminoto born into a priyayi family of high status in 1882 graduated from OSVIA of Magelang and joined the
22 23

Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 11. One Pikul equals roughly 62.5 kilograms, Barbara Watson Andaya and Leonard Y. Andaya, A History of Malaysia, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001), 374. 24 Alisjahbana, Indonesia: Social and Cultural Revolution, 25.


pangreh pradja until he resign from the bureaucracy 1907.25 The first generation that pushed for an independent modern state learned from the colonial Dutch education system that exposed them to modernity and the West in an attempt to place them within the colonial structure. The effect of urban elites educated in the western style from the top echelons of the society possessed a limited reach without an extensive network that stretched into the rural areas. However, the expansion of the colonial state and private enterprise further into the rural heart of Java ultimately permitted greater integration with the urban centers and created a sense of modernity. The towns of Java before independence possessed relatively few inhabitants in comparison to the rural areas, but were the homes of the traditional aristocracy and royalty. The establishment of agricultural estates along with the extension bureaucracy included not only administration and tax collection, but also the education and public health systems that brought natives into contact with the global agricultural export market without much opportunity to benefit from such integration. Towns became the incubators of Indonesian nationalism because of greater access to education and the wider world. Suspicion toward westernization slowed most peasants’ conversion toward nationalism but eventually forced attendance in schools came with modernization of rural villages.26 Although nationalism developed mostly in East Indies towns, access to education and connectedness with the global markets arrived in rural areas that eventually became important to the independence movement and national unity.

25 26

Shiraishi, An Age in Motion, 53, 81. Justus M. Van Der Kroef, “Society and Culture in Indonesian Nationalism,” American Journal of Sociology 58, No. 1 (1952), 12-13.


World War II placed the Dutch East Indies under immense duress during the occupation by Imperial Japanese forces from 1942 to 1945. After the raid on Pearl Harbor, the colonial government mobilized the Dutch male population under 45, including a teacher named Johannes Vadenbroek, along with his colleagues in preparation for war. Without aerial or naval support resistance was essentially ineffective resulting in the colony’s quick surrender, which meant the Dutch population, including administrators and teachers, endured three years of internment camps if they survived.27 The Japanese taxed the natives heavily with the distribution of rations focused on the urban centers rather than the countryside. The quality of rice decreased dramatically because suppliers mixed it with sand and gravel up to a quarter of the overall quantity, which destroyed the teeth of many peasants.28 The Javanese bureaucracy became the enforcers of harsh Japanese policies earning the hatred of the local populace, although Nine Brothers, a group of sons of government officials with degrees from HIS and some experience in MULO resisted Japanese rule quite successfully.29 The war purged the Dutch, including teachers and law enforcement from the East Indies, tainted much of the leadership, and brought a population eager for independence. In the closing months of World War II, the Japanese Empire realized the weakness of their position and initiated procedures for an independent Indonesia. On May 28, 1945, the Japanese government permitted the sixty-two Indonesian leaders with a particular emphasis toward Sukarno’s Javanese secular nationalists at the expense of the outer islands and Islamic-leaning representatives. The “1945 Constitution” outlined a

Johannes Vandenbroek, “A Teacher Turned Soldier and Imprisoned by the Japanese,” The Defining Years of the Dutch East Indies, 1942-1949, ed. by Jan A. Krancher, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1996), 64-70. 28 Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 33-35. 29 Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 49-50, 60, 64.


unitary republic over a monarchial or federal system with Hatta and a few others in the opposition. The few Indonesians born outside Java opposed such measures in vain as the Javanese outvoted attempts for decentralized authority and the rights of the rest of the archipelago. A bad harvest exacerbated wartime shortages and led to immense misery and political discontent that led to anti-Japanese violence. Educated pemuda groups worked with an overall anger at the Japanese resulted in immense pressure on Sukarno and Hatta for independence. On August 17, 1945, Sukarno and Hatta declared Indonesia’s independence from the old British Consulate under Japanese supervision.30 The declaration of independence was hardly the end of the issue, but rather one step in a long road to freedom from foreign rule. Also, the Javanese-centric approach to governance created problems for the future of the Republic of Indonesia. The training, education, and culture of the East Indies administrators in Java slowed their response particularly with the weakness of the government in the aftermath of World War II. Javanese administrators responded cautiously with news of Japan’s surrender expecting the return of Allied troops and were uncertain toward the reaction of Japanese soldiers with the flying of Indonesian flags while the Japanese remained nominally in control. The pemuda groups perceived the hesitation of the elite with disappointment, particularly when local officials stalled in announcing the declaration of independence.31 Local magistrates retained rice paddy stock despite the hunger of the general population throughout Java because orders failed to reach them from their superiors fast enough from October to November 1945. The magistrates followed their training and education by the Dutch to wait for their orders or superiors before

30 31

Reid, The Indonesian National Revolution, 19-28, Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 69-77, 83.


distributing the food. The hesitation led to peasants destroying the old bureaucratic system in the countryside, resulting in the deaths of many officials.32 The education the administrators received revolved around the basic knowledge of literacy without any or sparse official education in the humanities and social sciences. The strictness and inflexibility created for the colonial system for the maintenance of colonial power ultimately broke under the frustration of Indonesians demanding fairness. The new bureaucratic system emerged from the ashes of the old order that rewarded some with an education but punished others deemed too collaborative with the old order. Aside from attacking government officials, peasants attacked Chinese merchants, along with plundering their stores and seizing their sugar mills.33 Eurasians in particular suffered under the new system because they benefitted under the colonial system with their education and wealth from more complicated tasks in the sugar mills. Teachers, including nationalists and Islamists often benefitted from the change in political fortunes accounting for 28% of new government positions in elections.34 Chinese and Eurasian misfortunes from the revolution damaged the Indonesian middle class because they often provided services that required a particular education and commercial connections. Restarting the Indonesian economy with a weakened middle class meant a loss in skilled worked that took years to replace. The leadership behind the Indonesian Revolution usually emerged from the colonial education system with grievances against the colonial state. The initial wave of radicals emerged from well-off backgrounds that deceived the Dutch into inaction. The founder of a western-educated radical was Dr. Tjipto Magoenkoesoemo, an exceptionally
32 33

Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 103, 112. Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 106, 111, 113. 34 Lucas, One Soul One Struggle, 118, 137.


brilliant and brave son of a government school teacher. Born in 1886, he graduated from ELS and then STOVIA in 1905. After school he worked for the government as a medical doctor, earning the Knight’s Cross during an epidemic for his bravery. He displayed moral fortitude higher than the priyayi earned the respect of the Javanese people. His revolutionary proposition for native progress through political liberation eventually resulted in his exile to Holland in 1913.35 Magoenkoesoemo set a trend for discontent intellectuals seeking to improve the lives of fellow natives through political power, becoming the first among many graduates of a western education to express a desire for radical change. Tan Malaka recounted how his experiences in the Dutch education system in the Netherlands and elsewhere affected his commitment to the nationalist movement in the Dutch East Indies. The same year Magoenkoesoemo departed for the Netherlands, Malaka left for the Netherlands to study in Rijksweekschool, a government teachers’ training school with a loan to pay for food, insurance, and housing. When Malaka became ill and missed class, he took the missed tests and passed them both. Malaka expressed his frustration with the two year program as it was accomplishable in three months for him. Malaka was one of three accepted from the MULO level in his school at Bukit Tinggi, which had two to three hundred applicants for the government education in Europe. While in the Netherlands, school exposed him to new subjects such as Dutch history, world history, algebra, mechanics, and trigonometry. He felt an advantage only in chemistry and agriculture, but was at a similar level in fields such as pedagogy, geometry, and geography.36 In the Netherlands, school exposed Malaka to new ideas

35 36

Shiraishi, An Age in Motion, 117-119. Tan Malaka, From Jail to Jail, (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1991), 18-22.


regarding history, but also revealed the brilliance of those lucky enough to go to school abroad and the volume of students who remained in Indonesia with less of chance to implement their education fully. Tan Malaka felt the sting of racism during his years in the Netherlands as being treated differently from other students, along with the difficulty as being poor in a different climate. The school constantly moved him around from class to class, making it difficult to learn, which required Malaka to memorize as much as possible. He impressed a mathematics teacher who previously thought Indonesians incapable of learning mathematics, which helped Malaka’s circumstances. Being miserable with the same wretched food everyday and the difficulties he faced, Malaka resented his goal of becoming a Dutch teacher. Snouk Hurgronje, a teacher Malaka respected, told him that because he was not raised Dutch, he never fully understand the Dutch children’s spirit.37 The buildup of resentment toward the Netherlands and his misery there contributed to his eventual struggle against the kingdom. Malaka’s political conscious grew after he moved to a working class attic in the Netherlands, where he learned about radical politics. The exposure to books in the Netherlands and the witnessing of colonial soldiers fighting in World War I, along with the Russian Revolution prompted his desire to learn more about Marx and Engels. Malaka received a scholarship in the form of a loan from van Heutsz the former Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, which allowed Malaka’s move to a middle class home where he recovered his health with good food and doctors’ visit. His improved lifestyle only reinforced revolutionary beliefs and he wanted to return to Indonesia to teach his people even if it led to conflict with colonial policies. Malaka

Malaka, From Jail to Jail, 23-24.


supported the idea that all Indonesians should receive a state education from primary to high school so that Indonesian could transform itself from a poor to a wealthy nation.38 Malaka’s education in the Netherlands convinced him of the importance for a Marxist system in Indonesia to raise it from poverty. Though Malaka failed to become an important leader in an independent Indonesia, his ideas symbolize the disillusionment with the Dutch colonial rule and the faith in education as means to improve ordinary people’s lives. Tan Malaka’s return to the Dutch East Indies brought him into direct contact with the established system, but he decided to be apart of a plantation in Deli to repay his debts and earn a living. He became an assistant supervisor for children at a plantation with a fair amount of resources to teach them and lived in relative comfort from 1919 to 1921. Europeans treated him better than other natives because he was western educated and picked up western culture. Despite their relative kindness, he gave the plantation children an education, but came into conflict with his co-workers in regard to the direction of the education system he issued. Malaka taught the children how to sharpen their intelligence and strengthen their will, which contradicted the concept that the plantation children should learn obedience. A strong education would only create more malcontents who opposed the colonial system despite the long-term payoff.39 The plantation placed limits on what Malaka could set up for his students, pushing him more toward radical means to educate. Upon the invitation of Dr. Janssen, a sympathizer for improving the East Indies education system for the masses, Malaka moved to Semarang to mold the minds of pupils

38 39

Malaka, From Jail to Jail, 25-30, 33. Malaka, From Jail to Jail, 35-56.


as if they were raw materials. Malaka’s old mentor Horensma became the Inspector of Dutch East Indies Primary Schools encouraged his endeavor to spread education in Java. Malaka worked with Tjokroaminoto of Sarekat Islam to establish a radical school in Semarang. Using the headquarters of Sarekat Islam, Malaka established a classroom with blackboards and benches to teach fifty pupils, not to become government clerks, but to learn without the colonial obstruction regarding politics. The students learned about the creation of mass movements that harmonized interests and the avoidance of oppressing others. The pupils were children of mostly the poor, particularly peasants, laborers, and small traders. Although Sarekat Islam lacked the resources to fund the schools properly, the amount of pupils grew to two hundred and educators volunteered to teach there. With funding from wealthy donors, Sarekat Islam constructed a new school in Bandung that housed two to three hundred students. The movement hoped to set up trade unions and people’s cooperatives to further the goals of the movement. Malaka hoped that the students from his schools would eventually become the heroes that liberated his people.40 The establishment of a school as the first step in Malaka’s life as a professional radical revealed the importance that an education system had on the development of a nationalist movement in the Dutch East Indies. Education spread ideas to the masses that otherwise languished in the heads of revolutionaries like Malaka. During the Indonesian Revolution, the military officers often received a respectable education in the East Indies and the Netherlands. The military played a critical role in keeping the cause alive after a series of disastrous setbacks for the Republic of Indonesia. Hidajat Martaamadja, born 1916 in West Java, attended the Royal Military Academy in Breda, the Netherlands before joining the Royal Dutch East Indies

Malaka, From Jail to Jail, 63-65.


Army (KNIL) in 1938 as a Second Lieutenant. He became the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Indonesian Army. Sukardu Bratamenggala, born 1917 in West Java graduated from a teachers’ college and eventually became the Depute Chief of Staff of the Java Command. Colonel A. H. Nasution of Java Command, born in 1918, graduated from the Teacher’s College in Bandung in 1939 and entered the Royal Military Academy at Bandung in 1940. Nasution became the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Army. When the Royal Dutch Army assaulted Yogyakarta, the capital of the republic, it captured President Sukarno and Vice President Hatta in the shock of the attack. The cause of independence relied on the Indonesian National Army to continue the war.41 The education of the military officers like those mentioned above employed their knowledge from civilian and military schools to continue the fight. Some graduated from teacher’s colleges and possessed the ability to share the tenets of nationalism even with much of the leadership captured. The disastrous fall of the capital in December 1948 and the eventual fall of all major cities in Java to the Dutch Royal Army, along with the capture of the cabinet meant little strategically. The government focused on using diplomacy to defeat the Dutch rather than military force. Republicans remained in the rebellion’s ranks rather than defecting to the Dutch, while the United Nation turned against the Netherlands. The United States suspended its Marshall Aid to the Netherlands for its military actions against previous agreements. The Dutch risked losing out in the establishment of NATO if they continued the conflict. The military resistance of the guerrillas drained resources and manpower for the war. Large swaths of Sumatra resisted Dutch armed forces after


Tahi B. Simatupang, Report from Banaran: Experiences During the People’s War, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972), 14, 19, 25.


eliminating the bureaucracy that supported colonial rule. The republic resumed control in Yogyakarta on July 6, 1949 with its sultan acting as Indonesia’s representative until then. The Republic of Indonesia, a unitary state, successfully emerged as a sovereign and united country on August 17, 1950.42 The overall speed in which the nationalist movement emerged and attained its independence was astonishing particularly given the disparity between the modernity of Dutch and Indonesian societies. Many of the Indonesian government officials and other influential people received an education through the official Dutch system. Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX of Yogyakarta, born in 1912, sailed to the Netherlands for his education and enrolled in Leiden University, but he returned because of his father’s illness. In his strong support for the Republic of Indonesia, he represented it during the occupation of the capital revealing his willingness to contribute to the cause and he later became Minister of Defense under Hatta. Simatupang graduated from Salemba Christian Senior High School of Jakarta before becoming a participant in the revolution. Chaenrul Saleh from West Sumatra studied at the Law Faculty of Jakarta in the 1930s around the same time as the future Prime Minister of East Indonesia Anak Agung Dge Agung, the son of a ruler in Bali. Saleh entered radical politics and later coerced Sukarno and Hatta to declare independence in 1945. Maria Ulfah Santoso Wirodihardjo from Serang became a women cabinet member as Minister of Social Affair under some of the Sjahrir cabinets.43 The future government officials had a diversity of backgrounds but usually were part of the elite and possessed some formal education.

42 43

Reid, The Indonesian National Revolution, 150-168. Simatupang, Report from Banaran, 20-21, 25, 34, 40.


Mohammad Hatta represented the counter to the Sukarno and the Javanese-centric approach to independence. Born in Bukit Tinggi of Minangkabau, Sumatra in August 1902, Hatta received a more religious education than his counterparts in the first decades of the twentieth century, which perpetuated his devoutness to Islam. He believed Islam was compatible with modernity through reforming social structure to uplift the masses through humanitarianism. Hatta became a leader in the Union of Young Sumatrans, a pemuda group and expressed a willingness to help his people as a Muslim. To advance his education, Hatta enrolled in Prins Hendrik School, a senior commercial school in the Netherlands. Although a socialist, Hatta disliked the communism emanating from the Soviet Union because it infringed upon religion and democratic ideals. He based his politics on Islam, traditional Javanese communalism, and democratic principles from western nations.44 His experience in Europe cautioned him against the empty promises of contemporary Marxism and Soviet-style governance, while other intellectuals such as Tjokroaminoto shared beliefs in the parallels between Islam and socialism.45 Hatta’s ideas regarding the future structure of Indonesia, particularly regarding decentralization of the government. Religion was more of a reason for helping the poor of Indonesia rather than consolidating clerical power because his beliefs fused with democratic ideals with Islam. Hatta also believed in the importance of education for the native people of the Dutch East Indies as a means to uplift them. Seeing himself more as a teacher than a politician, Hatta gave lectures to students at the Gadjah Mada University of Jogjakarta, along with the Army Command and Staff College of Bandung. As a politician and
44 45

Mohammad Hatta, Portrait of a Patriot, (Paris: Mouton Publishers, 1972), 5-8. Moerdiono, “A Reflection of Indonesian National Revolution,” The Heartbeat of the Indonesian Revolution, ed. Taurik Abdullah, (Jakarta: PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 1997), 7.


educator, he denounced the transfer of wealth from the Dutch East Indies to the Netherlands as sapping his people’s land and labor in exchange for misery. To improve the lives of his people, the economy needed restructuring.46 Hatta attributed the organizational birth of the Indonesian independence movement with the establishment of Boedi Oetomo in the STOVIA in Jakarta in 1908. The independence movement grew, adopting the name “Indonesia” from European ethnographies, stemming from a common sense of inferiority and the shame of being secondary to Europeans. Hatta emphasized the importance of education to release people from fear and the feeling of inferiority.47 Hatta attained a western-style education and a political consciousness, which permitted him to educate others politically. Education became a remedy for the grievances against colonialism, mainly the feeling of shame and subordination that radiated from it. The youth movement emerged from the elite as education became a means to end colonialism and end the humiliation of subservience. The children of the elite often believed their parents lied about the colonial system to them as those such as Hatta discovered that the education system furthered colonialism through the spread of utilitarian concepts that reinforced subservience to the colonial order. As a result, youth movements or pemuda groups emerged in resistance to the notion that a western education drained their originality and spirit of initiative. Hatta supported education as a means to reverse the backwardness of society through the employment of knowledge. He called upon the educated youth to liberate their people from the intellectual shackles of colonialism that forced them into fear and humiliation. Although Hatta proclaimed that Indonesians will eventually free themselves, the return of the educated to their homes

46 47

Hatta, Portrait of a Patriot, 10-12, 32-33. Hatta, Portrait of a Patriot, 104-134.


would enhance the Indonesians’ willpower for the revolution.48 Students versed in a western-style education strengthened the independence movement as leaders, allowing the solidification of the movement’s objectives. Sukarno, a national movement leader, advanced through the education system because of his family sacrificed for him to earn an engineering degree. Born in 1901, Sukarno claimed royal descent as the son of Raden or Lord Sukemi Soosrodinardjo, an employee of the Department of Education in Surabaya, Java. Sukarno’s father emphasized education from an early age as a teacher and pushed his son from HIS to ELS by the fifth grade because native students could only advance in government with a Dutch education.49 Furthermore, advancing through ELS schools required less time than the HIS and Indies residents considered ELS first class schools.50 While in the ELS at Mojokerto, he became fluent in Dutch allowing him to continue his education through the Dutch system. Colonial policymakers ensured parity in the quality of high-level of schools in the East Indies and in the Netherlands in regard to the curriculum.51 The colonial education system was sufficiently advanced in the Dutch East Indies to provide the education necessary for the development of nationalistic ideas and train future leaders in the Republic of Indonesia. Even with the personality and intelligence of Sukarno, the future elite of the country needed fluency in Dutch for personal and political advancement. Although the formal education system contributed much to the development of nationalist ideology, informal and unofficial aspects of the colonial system such as libraries and clubs created an atmosphere of nationalistic learning. Sukarno read at the
48 49

Hatta, Portrait of a Patriot, 416-420. Sukarno, Sukarno: An Autobiography, (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1965), 17, 19, 21, 22, 28, 29. 50 Groeneboer, Gateway to the West, 195. 51 Legge, Sukarno, 37-39.


Theosophical Society Library with the reading skills he learned at school about a variety of historical figures from patriots in the American Revolution to Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, which provided anti-colonial materials unavailable from schools. Books on European history particularly of the French Revolution inspired him and he admired liberal statesmen such as William Gladstone and Danton. The transfer of wealth from the Indies to the Netherlands angered him as did the oppressive colonial system. Sukarno became apart of the Study Club where he practiced his oratory and speechmaking ability from age 16 as an extracurricular activity.52 The colonial education system failed in the control of information available to students and ensuring the loyalty of native students during the years of ethical policy even with the restrictive entrance policies. Despite the merits of Sukarno’s academic achievements he never became an equal to his fellow Dutch students throughout his academic career, which was indicative of the entire colonial system. In his autobiography, Sukarno recalled how Dutch boys treated natives as second class citizens and called them “dumb natives.” He also recalled a Dutch boy slapping him for no reason other than he was a native at age 15.53 The colonial authorities enforced segregation that kept even the descendants of Javanese kings separate from whites, which utterly humiliated native elites.54 The Dutch education system lacked any direction or ultimate plan for the development of employment for the vast native elite. The results left elites underemployed with abilities from education outweighing the tasks the colonial state issued them. As a result the Javanese elites became inferior members of the bureaucracy with favor granted to Europeans. The gross disturbances to the traditional power structure of Java created tension and distrust in the
52 53

Sukarno, Sukarno: An Autobiography, 39-42. Sukarno, Autobiography, 6, 42. 54 Legge, Sukarno, 63.


20th century between a significant proportion of the traditional elite and the Dutch colonial authorities.55 A western education gave the elite a framework to create a new state that united a great number of ethnicities throughout the archipelago, along with the knowledge and abilities to create such a large unified state. Sukarno’s adherence to the colonial education system permitted his advancement to the highest levels of the system even under the tutelage of Indonesia’s nationalist movement leader. After graduating from ELS, Sukarno moved to the port of Surabaya for his education at the HBS level in 1916 while living with Umar Sayed Tjokroaminoto the chairman of Sarekat Islam as Sukarno’s mentor.56 Tjokroaminoto became Sukarno’s idol and teacher by instructing him on the importance of independence, along with imparting Sukarno with his values and books. According to one of Sukarno’s memories’ Tjokroaminoto and Alimin explained to Sukarno their grievances against the colonial system, the Netherlands absorbed much of the East Indies’ income while peasants lived in poverty and the role of Sarekat Islam was the improvement conditions for natives. Sukarno learned that the disunity of the archipelago allowed the Dutch to conquer such a vast area. He inherited the humiliation that the nationalists felt from his mentors.57 During his HBS years he trained his writing abilities through his political writings that condemned colonialism.58 Sukarno’s mentorship with Tjokroaminoto influenced his movement toward nationalism and the importance of the synthesis of a new nation. Rather than working with Sarekat Islam, Sukarno left Tjokroaminoto’s care for his education because completing a degree was more important than politics at that time. In 1921, Sukarno graduated from HBS and began university studies in Bandung to
55 56

Legge, Sukarno, 51-53. Legge, Sukarno, 40. 57 Sukarno, Autobiography, 38-41. 58 Sukarno, Autobiography, 49-50.


become an engineer at Technishe Hogeschool (THS) or Technical Institute. Though Sukarno dressed in nationalist garb at school, he focused mostly on completing school over political radicalism.59 Despite a brief departure from school to help Tjokroaminoto’s family after the former’s arrest, he returned to Bandung and graduated in 1926 as an engineer after writing a thesis on harbor design under the mentorship of Professor Wolf Schoemaker.60 After graduating he taught history and mathematics at the Ksatriya Institute School, but lost his job after an inspector from the Dutch East Indies Department of Education inspected his class while he lectured on the topic of imperialism.61 He dropped the title “Raden” from his name for equality’s sake and advocated bahasa Indonesia as the main language for the archipelago.62 Sukarno recognized the impact of education on his own development and the importance of a strong education system for the development of a new nation. The significance of a new education system based on Indonesian nationalism rather than Dutch colonialism emerged in the post-independence era. In Under the Banner of Revolution, President Sukarno of the Republic of Indonesia reserved the final chapter for “Being a Teacher in an Epoch of Awakening” and proclaimed all leaders must also be teachers during such an epoch. Rather than just soaring rhetoric, Sukarno expected that leaders in all important professions teach their subordinates as a school teacher instructs students. School teachers were especially important because they molded the minds of children who later made decisions for the future. Teachers earned Sukarno’s respect teachers because they chose the education of the youth as their

59 60

Legge, Sukarno, 82; Sukarno, Autobiography, 51-52. Sukarno, Autobiography, 54-55, 66-69. 61 Legge, Sukarno, 89; Sukarno, Autobiography, 70. 62 Sukarno, Autobiography, 72-73.


profession over other equally accessible careers.63 The recognition of the importance for an education system in the modern nation-state proved a positive step for the unity of Indonesia and was a legacy of the colonial system in some sense because the national leadership learned of the importance of education in their development in Dutch schools. The existence of radical wild schools during the colonial era played a role in the construction of Sukarno’s national consciousness. He reflected on the importance of the colonial era wild schools such as Taman Siswa, Muhammadiyah¸ Nadatful Ulama, and Perguru Rakjat for the development of a national education system after independence. Teachers were “Apostles of Awakening” who solely possessed the power to mobilize the youth as role moles almost as if they were the children’s parents. The teachers spread new ideas to students as the vanguard of movements to improve the lives of the masses. Unlike the colonial system, however, an independent education system possessed more than simply literacy training and arithmetic, but the spread of a culture and national spirit.64 The development of a new education system based on Indonesian nationalism rather than Dutch colonialism focused around the construction of a national consciousness with teachers at the forefront of the national movement. Sukarno glorified teachers as critical builders of a new nation who provided the knowledge for the next generation to maintain the state for which so many sacrificed their labor and lives. He likened teachers as soldiers, proclaiming them heroes of the republic, but unlike the system when he taught, he supported the right of teachers’ freedom of speech as an important function of democracy and an independent Indonesia. According to Sukarno, a strong education system was the most important element in a democracy.65
63 64

Sukarno, Under the Banner of Revolution, Vol. I, (Jakarta: Publication Committee, 1966), 581. Sukarno, Under the Banner, 582-583. 65 Sukarno, Under the Banner, 584.


Without a national education system, a united independent Indonesia would likely never exist because of the sheer size and diversity of the archipelago. Sukarno recognized the importance of a strong education system as a unifying factor for his nation through his own personal experiences. The development of the new education system possessed a critical flaw in Sukarno’s vision of it as it largely neglected the ethnic diversity of his nation. Although he approved teaching “ancient” history as he respect it, Sukarno pronounced the unhelpfulness much of history because the world progressed too much for it to matter. Progress and dynamism made history obsolete according to him,66 despite how history helped him achieve his own position of power. Sukarno’s decision to neglect certain aspects of the past, namely the diversity of the history and culture of his nation created long-term problems for Indonesia. Despite Sukarno’s beliefs, the weakness of the state prevented the sweeping away the traditions and identities created over the centuries throughout the archipelago. The failure to recognize the diverse composition of Indonesia and the lack of respect for differences within the archipelago plagued Indonesia for decades to come. The development of a national education system in the post-war era, among other bureaucratic institutions held together Indonesia during years of immense hardship. The Indonesian nationalist movement had little chance of seizing the smaller inhabited islands of the archipelago during the revolution resulting in a disconnection between the independence movement and the islanders for a decade. To foster a national identity the Indonesian Ministry of Education commissioned paintings of events throughout the people’s history with one set dedicated to Borobudur, the ninth-century Hindu-Javanese

Sukarno, Under the Banner, 584-585, 587-588.


stupa with a plethora of religious sculptures. The print reproductions distributed throughout the public school system lacked the sculptures and the jungle that surrounded it.67 The sanitized prints of Borobudur revealed insecurity about the Indonesian national consciousness, because it imposed an identity on people lacking any previous understanding of Borobudur’s history or its context within a new Indonesian nationalism. The Indonesian government enacted policies that emphasized the creation of a national identity in schools usually with a Javanese-centric approach. Key to the development of united nation, Jakarta needed a plan to bring the vast Indonesian archipelago under its rule. The east of the archipelago included important islands such as Sulawesi, Ambon, and islands of Maluku, along with many others that witnessed the devastation of World War II that made transportation and communication between the islands difficult if not impossible. The war cut off the Babar islands from the central government until 1949, leaving the populace completely unaware of the declaration of independence. The islanders even celebrated the birthday of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands in Marsela for years after 1945. The annihilation of interisland trade for over decade meant the eastern islands lacked commodities from around the world until the years of the Korean War (1950-53) with the reestablishment of the Royal Dutch Shipping Company (KPM) in the region.68 The Republic of Indonesia possessed the difficult task of bringing in a vast archipelago of islands often ravaged by war and without infrastructure. The Indonesian government brought in the necessary materials and people for the spread of modernity to the populated islands of the republic to reestablish regular contact
67 68

Anderson, Imagined Communities, 183-184. Abe L. Kelabora, “Post Independence Life in East Indonesia,” Indonesian Nationalism: Six First Hand Accounts, (Victoria: Monash Univesrity, 1969), 26, 27.


between the islanders and the outside world. The Republic of Indonesia dispatched an Assistant Administrator or Kepala Pemerintah Setempat (KPS) to the Barbar Islands from Ambon to set up an office for modernizing its society. The government sent a police force and nurse who trained locals to operate a small clinic in consolidation the government’s control over the islands.69 The government’s strategy to provide some basic services to people cut off from the rest of the world brought islanders closer to the Indonesian state. However, such services of insufficient means by themselves were less effective in creating a truly national consciousness. The most important aspect of government authority for most of those children living on the smaller islands of the archipelago was the development of a modern education system. The Dutch colonial education system neglected most of the islands in the archipelago. Although the system extended to a privileged few in places such as Makassar and Ambon, even these schools shut down during the war. The national education system took time to establish itself throughout the archipelago especially with the immense cost of the war and revolution. Christian schools remained in the area and filled the void until the establishment of an official state education system. Kelabora recalled his first teacher from 1948 to 1952, Mr. Maelisa, who also conducted religious services taught hundred to one hundred-fifty students of various ages in the local church of Lawawang, Marsela with only a chalkboard and a few books. The students only received notebooks three years into the establishment of the program and the teacher worked between ninety and a hundred hours per week with irregular pay. The community appreciated his work enough to supply him with water and fuel.70 The

69 70

Kelabora, “Post Independence Life in East Indonesia,” 27. Kelabora, “Post Independence Life in East Indonesia,” 27-28.


Indonesian government lacked resources in the early years of its existence but the people from throughout the archipelago appreciated the importance of education even without the sufficient materials. As the Indonesian government gained its strength, a new education system developed with goals of molding nationalistic youth. Kelabora relocateded to a betterequipped school in town Tepa in the Barbar Islands as the school system underwent changes. A new teacher training school opened that later reorganized as a Primary Teachers’ Training School or SGB that took students from the Tepa primary school and gave them a government scholarship under the promise that the student would work for the government upon graduation. As a result, the parents of Tepa’s children wanted them to graduate from SGB and crowded the school system. The school ordered that students dress like the teachers, along with replacing the title of “Tuan” or “Sir” for “Bapak” or “Father” in creation of greater equality between the two. The teachers were usually young and nationalistic adults from Java who graduated from their own SGB program often in Surabaya.71 The Indonesian government dispatched teachers with radically different notions of teaching methods than in the old system throughout the archipelago to convey the revolutionary spirit. The new teachers from Java spread the new nationalistic fervor to the youth throughout the archipelago. They tapped into the long history of Javanese civilization to foment nationalist feelings through the Hindu epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Teachers proclaimed with great emphasis how Dutch colonialism suppressed the greatness of the Indonesia’s past for three hundred-fifty years. The schools imparted national unity through classes on bahasa Indonesia as the national language, geography,

Kelabora, “Post Independence Life in East Indonesia,”28-29.


and the history of Indonesia. The teachers’ glorification of Indonesia’s past created feelings of nationalism for the students. When Kelabora continued his education in a SGB program in Ambon, he experienced only a bit more subtle form of nationalism from teachers who usually graduated from universities in Jakarta and Surabaya on the island of Java. Students read the literature of radical Indonesians from the 1920s and the revolutionaries of 1945. Kelabora concluded that his generation of students grew up on “romantic nationalism” based on a sense of “Indonesianess.”72 Kelabora and his fellow students learned from a Javanese-centric approach toward Indonesian nationalism as Java was the center of the revolution and home to ancient civilizations that predated colonialism by centuries. The Javanese-centric approach to Indonesian nationalism worked sufficiently on the first generation of students as the government invested money in schools throughout the archipelago. When Kelabora moved to Manado, Sulawesi in 1960 for a university, he met students from Timor, Maluku, and Borneo who were also nationalistic Indonesians desiring the socio-economic development of their nation. The government established schools of all levels throughout the archipelago, including a Junior High School (SMP) in Lawawang and a high school in Tepa. The establishment of schools throughout the archipelago became symbols and engines of progress as students learned more about their wider world.73 The education system provided an opportunity for careers people never possessed before the establishment of new schools. Although the schools benefitted the general populace and created the enduring foundation for the Republic of Indonesia, the Javanese-centric model failed to fully address the diversity of the new republic. In the

72 73

Kelabora, “Post Independence Life in East Indonesia,” 29. Kelabora, “Post Independence Life in East Indonesia,” 29-30.


future, not all islands or regions fully accepted the imposition of such a model by the central government. Ultimately, Dutch authorities in their quest to unite the East Indies under their rule created an economically, politically, and socially unsustainable system with the development of a modern education system for the native elites. Even when a descendent of royalty achieved academic greatness on par with his Dutch colleagues, he was still inferior because of his race and possessed little or no chance of truly living up to his or her potential. The education system churned out thousands of graduates, though a small percentage of the overall population and the Dutch often left them to market forces rather than incorporating all educated individuals into the system effectively. The students represented the inadequacies of the colonial system because a significant number felt oppressed by the colonial system. Rapant Dutch racism and bigotry toward even the wealthiest of natives created hatred and resentment. The colonial government failed in the observation of radicals, especially those who took on students to perpetuate their cause and halt the development of radical schools. The Dutch colonial government instituted a modern education system in a police state that ultimately failed in the containment the ideas it perpetuated. The colonial education system provided the basis for radicals to meet, formulate, and disseminate ideas regarding the establishment of a united and independent Indonesia to the chagrin of Dutch officials. Their collective education created a sense of unity for the children of elites from throughout the archipelago, despite their distinct ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. The schools inadvertently became creators of a new national consciousness as resistors of Dutch colonialism employed instruments of imperialism


against their own masters. The graduates of a modern education overthrew the colonial system with their knowledge through skilled diplomacy and the ability to hold the cause together under immense duress until international pressure forced the Dutch out of Indonesia. In the post independence era, a new education system forged the shards of the former colony together as the most important aspect in the creation of a collective national consciousness that ultimately unified the state. In the postwar era, the creation of a national consciousness was critical because otherwise Indonesia risked becoming a new Javanese empire. The colonial and post-independence education system permitted the existence of a unitary republic in Indonesia through the establishment of a collective national identity. Although the education system largely succeeded in the development of a national consciousness, the system failed to account for the development of various other identities. The failure to account for such differences within the Indonesian national construct compounded problems with various groups in the future because discrepancies with national and ethnic identities.


Works Cited: Primary Sources: Hatta, Mohammad. Portrait of a Patriot. Paris: Mouton Publishers, 1972. Kelabora, Abe L. “Post Independence Life in East Indonesia.” In Indonesian Nationalism: Six First Hand Accounts. Victoria: Monash Univesrity, 1969). Malaka, Tan. From Jail to Jail. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1991. Moerdiono. “A Reflection of Indonesian National Revolution.” In The Heartbeat of the Indonesian Revolution. Edited by Taurik Abdullah. Jakarta: PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 1997. Simatupang, Tahi B. Report from Banaran: Experiences During the People’s War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972. Sukarno, Sukarno: An Autobiography. New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1965, Sukarno, Under the Banner of Revolution, Vol. I. Jakarta: Publication Committee, 1966. Vandenbroek, Johannes. “A Teacher Turned Soldier and Imprisoned by the Japanese.” In The Defining Years of the Dutch East Indies, 1942-1949. Edited by Jan A. Krancher. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1996). Secondary Sources: Alisjahbana, Takdir. Indonesia: Social and Cultural Revolution. London: Oxford University Press, 1966. Andaya, Barbara Watson and Andaya, Leonard Y. A History of Malaysia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. New York: Verso, 1991. Cribb, Robert. Gangsters and Revolutionaries: The Jakarta People’s Militia and the Indonesian Revolution 1945-1949. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991. Groeneboer, Kees. Gateway to the West: The Dutch Language Policy in Colonial Indonesia. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University, 1998. Legge, J. D. Sukarno: A Political Biography. Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2003.


Lucas, Anton. One Soul One Struggle: Region and Revolution in Indonesia, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1991. Reid, Anthony. Indonesian National Revolution 1945-1950. Hawthorn, Australia: Longman, 1974. Shiraishi,Takashi. An Age in Motion: Popular Radicalism in Java, 1912-1926. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990. Van Der Kroef, Justus M. “Society and Culture in Indonesian Nationalism.” American Journal of Sociology 58, No. 1 (1952): 11-24.


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