By: Setiono Sugiharto
As a logical consequence of the newly introduced 2013 Curriculum, school teachers are obliged to enroll in a 52-hour training course as mandated by the Education and Culture Ministry.
This government-sponsored training aims primarily at the teachers’ mastery of the concepts and principles underlying the new curriculum.
Because school teachers are assumed to have no prior knowledge of how the curriculum ought to be translated and realized in classroom settings, they are required to participate in the training, which will start in March 2013 this year.
That is, teachers are to theoretically understand the rationales behind the government’s policy on the implementation of the curriculum as well as the premises underlying the curricular designs — which differ from the previously used curricula.
The purpose of the training is not to equip teachers with the technical know-how related to the real application of curricular contents in the classroom.
We cannot expect teachers to gain practical knowledge about how, for example, the natural and social sciences can be extracted effectively when these subjects are merged within a single subject — Indonesian.
The training is highly likely to present more problems than solutions and more contradictions than symmetries.
In the country’s history of pedagogical paradigm shifts, it is not the first time that teacher training is sought and believed to offer a panacea to a myriad of problems faced by the country’s educational system. Teacher training — known locally as the PLPG (Program Latihan dan Pendidikan Guru) — became the apex when teachers failed the certification program.
There seems to be a developing myth that training in educational activities, more precisely teacher training, can fix the educational snags and offer ready-made solutions to them.
The current government’s move to train schoolteachers seems to perpetuate this myth.
Amid the educational problems and challenges we encounter, we often fail to address the intricacies of the relationship between curricula, teaching materials, teachers, students and other countless related factors.
The curriculum has often become an easy scapegoat every time problems occur. It has in other words been viewed as an educational straitjacket.
However, the changing nature of the above educational elements ineluctably requires a shifting orientation when we deal with the pertinent problems in our educational system and seek possible solutions to them.
This by no means suggests that teacher training is unnecessary and of little value. We first need to admit that all educational activities are always in disarray, convoluted, discursive and beset with conflicts and contradictions.
The implication is that we need to re-conceptualize the notions of teacher training and probably teacher education as a site of contestation, conflict and struggle where diverse perspectives on pedagogical knowledge may clash.
Like or not, this re-conceptualization stands in stark contrast to the commonly-held traditional normative sense, which carries the meaning of adherence to pedagogical prescriptions (by purported pedagogical pundits and teacher trainers) as a list of do’s and don’ts, so that teachers can teach successfully.
While in the former sense, teachers’ agencies, voices and subjectivities in knowledge participation are considered disruptive, downplayed and summarily dismissed, subjugated and even silenced, in the latter these are seen as important constructs that play a significant role in the process of knowledge construction.
The repositioning of ideas on teacher training as well as teacher education in the frameworks of agency and subjectivity provides room for teachers to exercise their authority as intellectuals (not as conformists) who have a voice to negotiate educational policies and agendas (including the frequent shifts of curricula) imposed on them by the government.
Thus, rather than asking teachers to uncritically conform to what has been prescribed by educational policymakers and pundits, teacher trainers and teacher educators need to take a bold step and inspire teachers to negotiate and even challenge the prescribed rules of the game by virtue of the latter’s pedagogical knowledge obtained from classroom teaching experiences.
If we do this, then we will nip the developing myth in the bud.
Footnote: This opinion article was displayed in an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Saturday, 23 February 2013; and in Paper Edition, it is available at page 6. Full article is also able to be searched at: www.thejakartapost.com [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 25 February 2013].
The writer is an Associate Professor at UNIKA (Atma Jaya Catholic University) in Jakarta. He is also Chief Editor of the Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching.