How my dislike towards Indonesian education started (in Bali)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an outsider who is trying to underestimate Indonesian education. In fact, I’ve spent 7 years of my life enrolling in Indonesian private schools, namely Don Bosco Primary in Pondok Indah district of Southern Jakarta (for grade 3-6), Don Bosco Secondary (grade 7), Santo Yosef (1st semester of grade 8) and Cipta Dharma Secondary in Denpasar, Bali (2nd semester of grade 8 till grade 9). I’ve never enrolled in any international schools in my entire life, and have no intention to matriculate in one anytime soon.

Hence, as you can see now, I’m commenting as an insider here, not as an outside observer who talks like smartass. Anyway, let me begin.

Wanna know why I don’t have that high a regard for Indonesian education?

Its mainly due to the discriminatorily obliging educational system. While in SMU(Sekolah Menengah Umum, or High School) the students are allowed to major between 2 or 3 fields of study, namely IPA (Natural Sciences), IPS (Social Sciences), and sometimes Bahasa (Languages), its system for SD (Sekolah Dasar or Primary School) and SLTP (Sekolah Lanjutan Tingkat Pertama or Secondary School) compels the students to take ALL the subjects offered by the school, regardless of their religious or linguistic background. Hence, a largely discriminatory system is enforced.

Such a system had freaked me out more than once when I firstly moved from Jakarta to Bali 6 years ago.

Let me explain further.

In regions (i.e. provinces outside of Jakarta), students are compelled to take whatever native language the province concerned endorse. In comparison, it’s as if American students in the Northwestern USA are compelled to study Cheyenne Indian language, or Chinese PRC students in Shanghai compelled to take Shanghainese Wu, or Japanese in Hokkaido obliged to learn Ainu.

How asinine of them. I –as a transfer student from Jakarta who didn’t even know how to say “Thank You” in Balinese Language— was obligated to take that subject notwithstanding. I asked my school in Bali to give compensation for me as to drop the 8th grade Balinese, yet they did not even consider giving me some compensation. It’s the ministry regulation, they said.

Try to talk regulation, it’s as if the ministry is filled with holy saints, bah!

Indeed, several teachers showed some mercy toward me as I was the only transfer student for my level that time. Nonetheless, they were still powerless to oppose the regulation.

Hence, I had to learn the language from naught to novice with an intensive course. Eventually, I passed the subject most of the time by relying on the help of cheat notes and “examination camaraderie” teamworks (or Kerja Sama Ulangan, as we said it).

There are 3 other subjects which are uniquely Balinese yet I was forced to take, namely Tembang Bali (Balinese traditional vocal art), Organisasi Sosial dan Adat-Istiadat (The Study of Traditional and Social Balinese Organisation), and Painting. I don’t mind taking Tembang and OSA, as no contextual Balinese cultural knowledge was needed to study the subjects at an equal par with other pupils. However, it was the Painting subject that I dreaded most.

If you readers out there don’t know what Balinese paintings look like, then I’d suggest you to google them or try visiting museums and see such paintings for yourself. They were horribly fiendish!

No, I don’t mean “terrifyingly fiendish” in a negative sense. Instead, it is a positive sense of being tooooooo artistic that makes Balinese people –and the Island of Bali as a whole— famous at an equal par with Maldives, Pattaya, and Hawaii.

I failed the subject numerous times, and barely passed my final examinations. My Balinese art teacher had a standard for art so high that I ranked among the bottom lowest-score in class. How fortunate for me that I ranked among the highest for my level in subjects like English, Biology, and Maths that I managed to help my Balinese friends in those subjects, and asked them to help me in painting on canvass in return.

Gee, it’s kinda painfully silly for me to be reminiscing those days.

Nevertheless, till this day I don’t feel that I’ve gained any benefits in learning the Balinese language. Almost nobody really speak Balinese these days, even those of my friends who are of the highest caste in Hinduism (those named Ida Bagus, etc) are largely reluctant to speak the language.

Some people may argue for cultural keepsake preservation by compelling pupils to learn Balinese, but such arguments are irrelevant if even the Balinese themselves don’t normally speak the language at home!!!

Really, when are the education officials gonna accept this dire truth, huh? Instead of putting uniquely cultural languages like Sundanese, Javanese, Madurese, etc as compulsory school subjects, they should’ve made it an elective instead.

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