International education: Are we really getting it?

Masih menyambung Surat Pembaca yang saya posting sebelumnya, ini ada artikel yang juga diterbitkan oleh The Jakarta Post pada tanggal 07/06/08, dituliskan oleh Iqbal Widastomo.

Tidak ada niat untuk menjatuhkan atau merasa tersaingi dengan sekolah-sekolah internasional maupun sekolah besar lain, karena Bintang Bangsaku tidak berfokus pada pasar yang sama.  Kami hanya sekelompok idealis yang masih belajar untuk dapat membantu bangsa ini untuk menjadi lebih baik.

Semoga artikel ini dapat menjadi pertimbangan bagi kita semua.

International education: Are we really getting it?

International is a word that is being bandied about a lot in reference to education in Indonesia nowadays. It is often attached to the names of schools and courses of study at universities, however it does not always imply an international approach to education.

Some years ago I was taking a class of students approaching their final year of school. We were looking at persuasive language; analyzing the words and phrases that are commonly used to persuade and to therefore influence judgment. As part of this we began to consider products that they as teenagers liked and used.

The conversation turned to sports shoes and it quickly became apparent that there were favored brand names but what became more obvious was that there was preference for shoes that were foreign-made. Quality and brand aside, if the shoe was not “international” it was not favored.

The students were young and so perhaps easily led, but parents too can it seems be easily led. By simply adding the word international to a school or course it is possible to plant certain preconceptions in people’s minds. We should, however, be careful about such preconceptions because the expectations they encourage are not always met.

Many schools are opening up that use the word international in their name and make claims of international education but we should take a careful look at what these schools really offer. There is an increasing need to do this following the recent closure of a school using the international tag, forcing parents to find an alternative school for their children.

We have to ask whether these schools really provide an education of international standards. The use of the word international becomes just a name tag when schools are not managed professionally.

For example, truly international schools will follow an international curriculum such as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education or IGCSE but this is not sufficient evidence that they really are international schools. Of course, the central component of any school is its teaching staff and so we need to be reassured that such staff is capable of delivering the curriculum.

Such staff also needs support and guidance from the school management and administration. There should be systems for monitoring and maintaining standards but this does not always happen.

A good friend from Canada once decided to take up a job with a so-called international school but was soon disappointed by what he found. He too had preconceived ideas about the use of the word international and was therefore expecting the school to meet certain standards, be subject to monitoring and also provide training. He was wrong.

There was no monitoring of his teaching, he received no training nor had any hope of development as an educator and the standards that existed within the school were individual to each teacher. In effect, each teacher was left to do whatever he or she wanted. This meant that standards and methods varied within the school and this proved difficult for the students.

Having teachers coming from different nations around the world does create an international flavor but they need to be brought together to work in line with the school philosophy and a philosophy and approach to education that is embedded in an international curriculum.

If this kind of overview and supervision is not in place, then standards will be varied and inconsistent. In the same school that this Canadian was working in there were teachers from England, Australia, the United States, the Philippines and India. This may be good for a cultural mix but what about international standards?

The Canadian teacher explained that he did things in classes that he had learned to do in Canada but nobody checked what he was doing. Other teachers in the school did the same thing and so very different methods and attitudes to education were being faced by the students in a single school day.

Students notice these things and respond to them. If a school is not managing its teaching staff, then we have to wonder whether it really is a school with any kind of philosophy or goals for education. There is the criticism and concern that schools are being managed solely for monetary gain.

There are people who can be caught out in such situations and left to suffer. A school’s closing can cause immediate problems and suffering for the children and parents but teachers suffer too. Dedicated teachers who lose their jobs can be in a bad situation but working in a school that is mismanaged is also bad.

Through no fault of their own teachers can be caught in a situation that leaves them unable to properly educate and they may not have opportunities to develop as educators. We have to recognize the importance of teachers and respect and support them.

This respect and support really should be coming from the development of international education in Indonesia. The students who opted for familiar “international” brands of sports shoes were in a sense right, if their expectations were that “international” connoted better standards.

This should apply to international education too. If it truly is international, it should be professionally run. We should also demand that the relevant authorities monitor and enforce standards too.

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