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Reaching Indonesian students during COVID-19 closures

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Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, schools in Indonesia were closed, and ‘Learning From Home’ (LFH) began all over the country in mid-March 2020. The government of Indonesia strongly promoted student online learning as soon as schools were closed. The Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC) has recommended utilising e-learning programmes, such as the House for Learning (Rumah Belajar) website, and has encouraged schools and households to establish the LFH environment to support student learning continuity. MOEC and TV Republic of Indonesia (TVRI) commenced a collaboration to broadcast daily education programmes that were in line with the curricular of all educational levels, from the kindergarten to the senior high school level, to reach all students across the country.

At the same time, there has been great concern that the shift to online learning for students will not be so smoothly achieved. Newspaper articles have reported that quite a number of students have neither equipment nor internet access, revealing huge gaps among student households in terms of such resources, depending on their geographical and economic situation.[1] Such students usually do not even have personal smart phones. At this point, there is a significant number of students who are unreached by the central government’s efforts through online or TV programmes and cannot continue learning the school curriculum on their own.

In order to overcome the current obstacles noted above, we strongly suggest applying a powerful practice for this state of emergency based on previous, rich experiences in Indonesia: the distance learning programme equivalent to the schooling education programme. The distance learning programme is known as the Package A, B and C Learning Programmes (Paket A, B and C). We believe there is a strong potential for these programmes to serve the schooling education cohorts who are facing difficulties with making the transition to online learning due to the pandemic.

The Package Programmes made a great contribution towards achieving universal nine-year basic education in Indonesia in the early 1980s for primary level and the early 2000s for junior secondary level as well.

The contents of the Package A, B, and C Learning Programmes are equivalent to the primary, lower secondary and upper secondary curricula respectively. The original form of the distance learning programme, as part of the community education programme, has been significantly successful since around the time of the country’s independence.[2] The Indonesian government started the Package A Learning Programme as a literacy and equity programme for communities then and added the Package B and C Learning Programmes in later decades. The Indonesian government has improved and revised the community education programme to meet both national education policies and community demands from time to time. The Package Programmes made a great contribution towards achieving universal nine-year basic education in Indonesia in the early 1980s for primary level and the early 2000s for junior secondary level as well.

The strengths of the Package Programmes are: (1) they are contextually and functionally organised to allow for a large flexibility for both entry and exit, (2) they emphasise group learning with local tutors’ support at Community Learning Centres, (3) they allow for various modes of learning, such as face-to-face, radio, TV, and online, and (4) they are delivered to unreached populations in collaboration with local communities. Large numbers of participants are learning through the Package A, B and C programmes, such as the cohorts of 2019-2020 which are 80,797 persons, 291,200 persons, 553,003 persons respectively, for a total of 925,000 persons (Harian Nasional Newspaper, 2020). Community Learning Centres have been established at 9,511 locations across the country.

In this way, the Package Programme is a timely and alternative means to support students’ immediate shift to online programmes to continue learning, even though it is implemented as a non-formal education programme today.

MOEC has announced to the public that the Package Programme is no longer a substitute or complementary programme to formal education, but an alternative in the new paradigm of formal education that enables students to continue schooling. The contents of the Package A, B and C Learning Programmes have already been updated to be in line with the 2013 Curriculum (currently called K-13 in Indonesia). In this way, the Package Programme is a timely and alternative means to support students’ immediate shift to online programmes to continue learning, even though it is implemented as a non-formal education programme today. It would be ideal for principals and teachers of regular schools and local supervisors and tutors of the Package Programmes to collaborate in order to support students who have difficulties accessing online learning. Local communities and parents should also support such educators’ efforts to teach students.

Finally, it should be noted that there is one urgent obstacle within the Package Programme, which is the availability of internet facilities. As of April 2020, only 1,015 out of 9,511 Community Learning Activity Centres were equipped with online learning facilities (Harian Nasional Newspaper, 2020). Economic and other immediate resources are necessary to overcome the shortcomings at Community Learning Centres to make resources available to needy students. Hard copies of all modules for the Package Programmes should therefore be available to any learners at the Community Learning Centres, which are located in every area across the country. The programmes will be significantly more effective if school students can also access and use the facilities and systems for continuous learning.

Brief Outline of the Package Programmes (Paket A, B and C) in Indonesia

The Indonesian government has been implementing the Package A, B and C Learning Programmes as a part of non-formal education, using distance learning to address educational inequity. The Package Programmes are carried out through collaboration between the government and local communities. Many learners of the Package Programmes are people who cannot complete their formal education at schools or continue learning at the next level due to diverse reasons. Many of the learners have jobs while participating in the Package Programmes.

The average learning duration ranges from two to three hours per day, and learners meet and complete activities with their tutors at the Community Learning Activity Centres two to three days a week. Learning schedules are  flexible and can be determined by both learners and tutors. There are 55 modules for the Package A Learning Programme, 98 for the Package B Learning Programme and 161 for the Package C Learning Programme . All of these modules are both available online and as hard copies, and are equivalent to the 2013 curriculum, which is currently implemented at regular schools. The Package Programmes provide not only academic content but also practical life skills that are useful in the labour market.

The Community Learning Centres vary in scale, from larger ones called Pusat Kegiatan Belajar Masyarakat (PKBM) or Community Learning Activity Centre to smaller ones called Sanggar Kegiatan Belajar (SKB) or Learning Activity Workshop. The Package Programmes can be arranged to be conducted at local residences as well. Presently, the number of Community Learning Centres is increasing inside and outside of Indonesia. Indonesian overseas labourers  also have the opportunity to continue learning at Community Learning Centres in foreign countries.

 

Naomi Takasawa is a Senior Researcher at the International Development Center of Japan (IDCJ).
Rie Takahashi is a Freelance Consultant a based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Eisuke Saito is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, Australia.

 

Sources

[1] Source: The Jakarta Post on April 11, 2020 (same as Footnote 4 above), May 2, 2020 (https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/05/02/life-without-internet-bornean-students-learn-by-radio-during-pandemic.html), May 15, 2020 (https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/05/15/home-learning-hindered-by-technology-gap-nadiem-acknowledges.html), June 3, 2020 (https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2020/06/03/stick-to-remote-learning.html) and Kompas on May 29, 2020 (https://edukasi.kompas.com/read/2020/05/29/113239571/surat-siswa-untuk-mendikbud-perjuangan-cari-internet-dan-rindu-sekolah?page=all)

[2] Lima Puluh Tahun Perkembangan Pendidikan Indonesia (1996) Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, Indonesia: Halaman 94 – 125, 187 – 219, 454 – 475, 587 – 598

The HEAD Foundation Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views expressed by the authors are solely their own and do not reflect opinions of The HEAD Foundation.

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Mr Ho Swee Huat

Mr Ho Swee Huat is the Founder and Managing Director of Abacus Assets Advisors Pte Ltd. Before starting the company, he had an established career in the banking industry, with 20 years of experience in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.

He was an Independent Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of CapitaCommercial Trust Management LTD from 2004 to 2013.

He is the current Chairman of Autism Association (Singapore) which he co-founded with a group of parents in 1992. He is also Vice-Chairman of Eden School, a special school for children with autism.

Mr Ho holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Liberal Arts degree in Economics from Hamilton College, USA.

He has been a member of the Board of the Foundation since its incorporation.