Sun, 25 May 2003

Al Azhar students have fun with hybrid program

Syamsir Alam, Contributor, Jakarta,

It's almost 4 p.m. and most students have gone home already, but the second-year students of class 2D at Al Azhar high school in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, were still busy doing the math assignment they had just received from their teacher.

"It's hard to stay at school this late but it's fun anyway," said Gita Prambandhari, one of the students. "Of course, we have to spend extra hours if we want to join this program. But at least we experience something that students from other classes don't."

"We know now how the curriculum of internationally recognized schools work," Gita said.

Another student, Amelia Hayati said, "The things that make us even luckier and happier is that at the end of the day we will get two academic recognitions: a national-based certificate and an internationally recognized certificate from the Cambridge Examination Center."

Both Gita and Amelia were commenting on the "hybrid program" in which Al Azhar, a privately run Islamic school, is combining the national curriculum and an adopted curriculum from the Cambridge Examination Center, under Cambridge University in Cambridge, England.

Students were selected to take part in the program during their first year. Only 21 were able to pass the test they are required to take before being allowed into the program. They study five prioritized subjects -- mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics and English as a second language (ESL) -- in English, while other subjects are taught in Bahasa Indonesia. The teaching process emphasizes a moderate school system that maintains Islamic values and atmosphere.

The students of class 2D have already been in the program for almost two years, and are expected to complete the O Level syllabus in June. The O Level, which stands for Ordinary Level, is meant for students aged 16 or in their second year of high school.

Just like other students, they will take exams in June before going on to the third year. But the O Level test from the Cambridge Examination Center will be given in November, according to the Cambridge curriculum.

By the time the students are in their third year, they will only need to focus their attention on final exams.

By introducing the program, Al Azhar is preparing its graduates to compete at university or in the workforce here and overseas.

Another student of class 2D, Nabil, said one of the advantages of the program was that he could access a website for class members that allows them to share and discuss school problems among themselves and with their teachers.

Aldini said the O Level had helped students improve their oral and written English skills.

"It's of great value to us. Although we don't go overseas to study we can use our English to get jobs in the future," Amalia said.

So far, the hybrid program looks promising. However, the program still faces challenges, especially in how to effectively accommodate the core contents and domain skills of both curriculums to produce high school graduates with excellence in skills and knowledge, while observing the Islamic value system.