Mon, 29 Aug 1994

Scholar laments poor English teaching methods in Indonesia

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia needs to revamp the way it teaches the English language because the present system produces a deplorable quality of English teachers and university graduates, a scholar says.

Director of Graduate Program at Atmajaya University Soenjono Dardjowidjojo particularly attacked the teaching method at the state teacher training institutes (IKIP) and pedagogic schools at various universities, because it is in their hands that the mastery of English lies.

The existing curriculum at these institutions emphasize irrelevant studies, such as redundant linguistic theories, which have no relevance to the language's application, Soenjono said at a seminar on teaching English in the industrialization era.

The seminar was organized by Yayasan Lia, a foundation which holds informal English courses. The foundation marks it 35th anniversary on Sept.7.

The present curriculum produces only graduates with very limited English skills, Soenjono said.

"Based on my experience, many graduates of English training institutes and universities do not master the language, not even at the elementary level," he said, "If they write a thesis, they cannot express themselves in a mature and sophisticated way."

The same problem is found among students taking their masters and doctoral degrees, he added.

Soenjono said the English teaching method at high schools should also be reviewed in order to meet the demands and goals of the teaching itself. "If we know the goals, we will be able to choose the most appropriate materials and teaching methods and also train teachers," he explained.

The current high school curriculum is now so overloaded that teachers cannot teach all the subjects in detail because they have to meet the fixed target, he said.

The size of language classes is also a factor in determining successful teaching. "Ideally, we should limit classes to 15 students, not 40 or 50 as we see at state schools now," he said.

Soenjono also calls for improvements in the salaries and incentives for English teachers to make them more dedicated in their profession.

"The educational world is no different than the business world now. You have to pay more to get qualified teachers," he said.

"We cannot ask for dedication, we have to develop it," he said to the applause of the participants.

Other speakers at the seminar included Hasnan Habib, ambassador at-large for Non-Aligned Movement country members, M. Djamil Ibrahim, head of Development Center for Curriculum and Education Materials of the Ministry of Education and Culture, and Tim Kirk of the British Council.(als)