Indonesia: Making English compulsory

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Aug 5 13:38:21 UTC 2007

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* August 05, 2007
    *Making English compulsory for kids *

Opinion News - Saturday, August 04, 2007

*Mochamad Subhan Zein*, Jakarta

Mastering the English language is a must, especially if the Indonesian
people want to be competitive globally. Sadly, it appears that the
Indonesian government does not seem well-prepared to equip children with the
skills and knowledge that are needed to take part in the global competition.

For decades, English has been taught as a compulsory subject at the
secondary level. Although some people may start to learn it at the primary
level, it is a supplementary subject rather than a compulsory one. This may
be one of the reasons why most teens regard English as difficult to learn
and simply impedes their motivation to learn the language.

Considering the importance of English in the global community and how
children learn a second language better when they start earlier, it is time
for the government to establish English as a compulsory subject in primary

Making it compulsory means ensuring children learn the language earlier in
order to acquire the language better. In the long term, the policy is a very
beneficial intellectual investment, because children today are leaders
tomorrow and educating children means preparing our future leaders with the
best skills and knowledge.

There are several considerations that should be taken into account in
implementing this policy, namely financial matters, the supply of teachers
and the curriculum.

Establishing English as a compulsory subject in approximately 100,000
Indonesian primary schools, of course, would require a lot of money. It is
obvious that implementing the policy across the country at once would cost a
huge amount of money, so it should take place in phases.

The teachers, both in terms of quantity and quality, are another issue to

Indonesian English teachers reportedly understand only about 36 percent of
their teaching materials. The government needs to provide continuous
training that can help them improve their knowledge, skills and

We also need a curriculum that can respond to the world's current challenges
and also fit in with children's needs and interests. Furthermore, the
curriculum should also consider the use of English as a medium of
instruction, leaving behind the out-of-date grammar-based curriculum.
Experts in English teaching and educational policy as well as child
psychologists and specialists would be expected to discuss in depth how to
draft it and offer the results to the government.

Again, educating children means educating future leaders and equipping them
with English is a necessary intellectual investment to compete in the global

Although it is difficult to cope with such issues as finance, teachers and
the curriculum, the government should have the courage and political will to
establish English as a compulsory subject in the country's primary schools.
Without this, the expectation of equipping children with the skills they
need to compete globally remains a utopian idea.

*The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Arts and Humanities at the
Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta. Now he is currently
enrolled in postgraduate study at the University of Canberra, Australia. He
can be reached at *freemark2twain at

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