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Pandemic and Children’s Education in Indonesia

A Reminder for Us, Adults and Parents

for Bahasa version, please click here.

Happy Indonesian Children’s Day 2020!

[Jakarta, LTTW] This July is quite a special month for us; not only because we celebrated Saraswati Day (the Balinese’s day of knowledge) on the 4th, but today is Indonesia’s Children’s Day, and also the first time the editorial team at initiated a thematic system, of which “Source of Knowledge” was the 1st issue to be raised. To make it even more special, this time of the pandemic can also be seen as a time to reflect on how well we really grasp the meaning of education for our beloved children; our future leaders.

Saraswati Day teaches us that knowledge is dynamic like a neverending flowing river. It is so dynamic that its form can be in the guise of anything; from nature, arts, stories, books and holy manuscripts, and even games. If knowledge is fluid and dynamic, education should directly correspond to this – as it is one of the most vital ways to acquire knowledge after all.


Looking back throughout history, since the first event of Hari Anak Nasional (HAN) was championed by Indonesia’s second President in 1984 up until today, education in many parts of Indonesia is popularly viewed as a rigid system, in direct contrast to the Balinese interpretation.

Generation of adults, including parents and teachers, still believe that formal education is the main system that must be prioritized at all cost, especially in big cities such as Jakarta. Meanwhile, the so-called informal education comes second – if not third (if we also count non-formal education). It is a “yes” if we are looking for good grades, degrees, and alma maters, but it is a “no” if we are looking beyond that. So, it all depends on how well we comprehend what the purpose of education is itself.

Though it’s arduous to briefly discuss the purpose of education due to the various dense layers of subject matter, we can at least narrow it down to a more focused area; in this case, education for children. For Sacred Bridge, education exists to equip children with basic skills that enable them to be self-reliant, not merely to enter “the real world”, but also to thrive above it. Such a well-rounded child perhaps could only grow up in an environment where both formal and informal education are proportionally encouraged.

Formal / Informal

Before we continue, we need to firstly clarify what formal and informal education/ learning exactly are. Both describe educational settings: formal settings often take place in established spaces such as schools and universities with rigid educational structures, whereas informal settings takes place everywhere else (nature, museum, home, surrounding environment) and with an experience-based learning method. Although both settings can facilitate the same syllabus (a learning subject), one thing needs to be well understood, in that different settings will consequently require different forms, methodologies and eventually learning outcomes. As a brief example, a child who learns about their roots in school will have a different impact when they learn it hands-on at, say, a Banjar, in Balinese culture. In short, when we talk about educational settings, we also indirectly talk about the other aforementioned elements.

In this day and age, if we have preferences over educational settings, unwanted implications may arise. If we expose our children to too much formal education, they can distance themselves from their roots or culture. Even more so in many cases, abnormal obsessions towards formal education pose a great threat to an existence of culture as a whole, because it often disrupts the social mechanism within. For instance, a formally-educated young generation in a traditional community tends to lose respect towards their elders and tradition. The reason is because, according to modern society’s “vocabulary”, a person without a formal educational background is regarded as uncivilized. Why? Unlike informal education, formal education is an accumulation of well-established knowledge across generations that have been theorized and standardized – much of which directly corresponds to the achievements of Western civilisation.

Informal education on the other hand, which Sacred Bridge refers to as Cultural Education, has its own role and function compared to formal practices. “Cultural” here is not limited to traditional ones, but culture in general. This education facilitates children to learn and to be proud of their roots; including ancestral knowledge and wisdom (norms, values, etc.) that are not inferior means of knowledge acquisition compared to formal practices. Even so, such education has proven to be better suited to certain extents – especially for traditional communities – due to the context-based and practical nature of the learning process.

Take the Mentawai tribe for example, many of the elders perhaps have no clue in reading and writing the modern alphabet – let alone understand science from the formal perspective. They have, however, a highly sophisticated knowledge that enables them to “read” a compositional structure of local jungles. With this knowledge, Mentawai people will know when to migrate from one region to another to sustain their life as well as the jungles’ ecosystem. The weakness is that the elders are unable to theorize the knowledge they have acquired, and thus cannot facilitate a well-grounded process of learning for the younger generation, with exception to oral and hands-on approaches. Moreover, these approaches cannot be standardized as a means of knowledge acquisition that can be learned by other youngsters in other regions of Indonesia. With such weaknesses, such knowledge will not be able to develop in congruence to global advancements, which means they can become neglected and eventually forgotten over time. This is where formal education fills the gap.

Formal + Informal

Since we have a more comprehensive understanding of the differences between both educations as well as their roles and function, it is safe to assume that formal and informal education are not meant to dominate, but rather, interconnect and enrich each other.

In practice, formal education provides a clue for parents to know when and what their children need to learn in correspondence to their age, thanks to grade classification systems and curricula. With such clues, parents can support their children by honing basic knowledge and skills they learned from school, with more informal and dynamic methods at home (such as using art as a vehicle).

In many parts of the world today, education is continuously explored and experimented and quite often – if not always – combining both formal and informal educational pedagogy to find a more fluidic and context-based form of education that could invigorate the full potential of our future leaders. Having been equipped with both of formal and informal educations, will undoubtedly broaden our children’s horizons, and consequently will provide them a better understanding of their surroundings. Therefore, in the future, they can choose a path they want without being limited by the lack of identity, capacity, perspective and wisdom. In this sense, according to Serrano G. Sianturi , education also facilitates children in exercising their rights – freedom of choice.

To start proportionally encouraging our children with both of these educational settings is of paramount importance, especially in these times of uncertainty where formal settings are restricted, resulting in a more intense and uncontrollable relationship between children and digital platforms such as social media. Thanks to social media, in direct contrast to their parents insistence of following school curricula, the children, are excessively exposed and thus “educate” themselves on new subjects that have demonstrably outpaced the curriculum at the swipe of a finger. This could result in further complications in the future if this remains unaddressed.

Being concerned with such uncontrollable virtual education, also decided to have a go at encouraging adults to keep check of their children’s activities by utilising today’s technology. Before then, however, we should revisit and dive deeper into the meaning of technology itself. In light of this final thought, our August issue will revolve around the question: what is technology?”



Author: Desk

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