Education in the 21st Century

Education. A word with a deep meaning and commitment attached.

Few days ago, I had a chance to volunteer at one of the local schools in the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia. The school was a public junior high, opened for all students, and FREE of tuition fees. The school was surrounded by many factories, which affected the population of the students, who were mostly the children from the factory workers, whom the parents had low level of education themselves.

The first time I got there, I had a feeling that the school was somehow under privileged, and it did not meet the 21st century criteria. Despite the feeling, I was fortunate enough to have a chance to educate the students on “Going Green Campaign and Waste Management” partnering with an expatriate. During the ice breaking period, we asked the students what their dreams were and what they wanted to become when they grew up. Some of the answers were real simple, like a factory worker, teacher, and driver. It kind of sadden me. Their dreams were supposed to be big, although there is nothing wrong with being a teacher, but the fact that they only wanted to be a factory worker, was not quiet an achievement.

During the class, we encouraged the students to participate in group discussion and class presentation. What we found common was that students were passive, group discussion did not occur interactively, only a number of students actively participated in discussion, the questions they asked each other were not intellectually engaging, and class presentation turned out more into a group presentation, where students said and used same words and sentences, it seemed there was no originality in them. This finding reflected a lot about the portrait of our education system, especially in rural areas.

However, on the other hand if we see the education system in the urban cities, most of the schools have adopted international learning system, such as the International Baccalaurete (iB) or Cambridge, A level. Students who have a chance to study with an iB curriculum of course will have better technical knowledge, higher self confidence, and better skills in general compare to the ones adopting a local curriculum. This truth broke my heart because schools with international curriculum are expensive and it is impossible for the lower income workers to register their kids in an international school.

It seems that education has been a real business in the 21st century. The better the school curriculum is, the more money we have to spend on it. The question is then, is this fair? Because I think education is the only foundation for all human being to succeed in life. Every Indonesian is entitled to be educated, but how are we going to maintain the equality when the most basic necessity has a price tag on it.

It is time that we, as an individual, do something about it. We can’t completely rely to our government to fix our education system. We have to acknowledge that this is also our problem, because we are Indonesians, and we are one. If not us, then who else will be doing the greater good for our own country. This is the time that we take action to improve our education system.

I hope that by reading this blog, it will make you realise we could do something towards our education system. I hope  we all can start doing something to support the children, our future leaders. I encourage you to spend a day to volunteer teaching the kids in the rural areas. Transfer our knowledge, and train them to be a successful grown-up, I know that a day may not be enough, however a day can make a difference.