Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Toward a Holistic Teacher Competency Test

By: Afrianto Daud
(This article was initially written for The Jakarta Post)

As a part of public accountability and quality control, the government through the Ministry of Culture and Primary and Secondary Education (Kemenbuddikdasmen) has been conducting Teacher Competency Test (UKG) to nearly 3 million teachers across Indonesia since 2013. This program is not only intended as a means of mapping the quality and competence of teachers nationally, but will also be a basis for the government to formulate a training plan for quality improvement and professional development of teachers nationwide in the future.

As stated by the Director General of Teachers and Education Personnel of the Ministry of Education and Culture Sumarna Surapranata, the UKG will be routinely done every year. Although there is no term 'pass and faill, the government is targeting a constant growth in the teachers’ scores from year to year. This year, for example, of 60-100 questions prepared and performed for 120 minutes, the government is targeting the mean score of teachers’ knowledge competency is 5.5. It is expected to increase by 6.5 next year. And at the end of 2019, it is targetted  to be 8.0 (Kompas, 11/3/2015).
In one side, the government's efforts to conduct the competency test needs to be highly appreciated. The government should indeed ensure that our teachers’ quality is well monitored and their competency is continously developed. As a nation we must be very concerned with the quality of our educators as the quality of the teachers have a direct impact on improving the quality of our national education.

This is especially a case if it is linked with the teacher certification program that has spent a large amount of our national budget. The improvement and control of the  quality of teachers become mandatory. The UKG is then important and relevant, so that the certification which has used up the state budget for almost 80 trillion rupiah every year had a significant impact on increasing the professionalism of the educators. In short, a certified teacher is a professional teacher. A professional teacher is a qualified teacher. The qualified teacher is the main player in our efforts to increase the quality of national education with its all complexed problem.

But on the other hand, it is important to look more closely at the technical implementation of this UKG. It needs to be evaluated whether the test is valid and trusted as a means of measuring the competence of a teacher. Could this test really measure what is supposed to measure (validity). This question is important, because an unreliable test will result in incorrect data. The inaccurate data certainly can not be the basis for making important decisions, such as teacher training programs.
The most crucial points of the current model of the UKG is in the aspect of the test models used. As explained in the manual published by Kemendibud, the UKG will measure and map the competence of teachers in their field of study (subject matter) and teaching (pedagogic). The test is conducted in the form of multiple choice questions (60-100 for 120 minutes). From the perspective of test validity, this kind of test can not fully answer the initial objectives of the UKG, to obtain information and map the pedagogical competence and professional of the teachers.

Not only because the test does not asssess the four aspects of teachers’ competency as mandated by the Law on teachers (the UKG does not assess the social competence and personal competence of the teachers), this test also leaves a lot of questions related to its realibility to accurately depict the competence of teachers. Teachers’ professional competence are in fact a very complex notion. From the aspect of pedagogic competence, for example, it is questionable how the test is able to obtain valid information about the ability of the teachers in planning the lesson, effectively starting their classes, and managing the class. Can the test assess their competency in terms of creating a live dynamic and conducive class, or in explaining a complex material in order to be easily understood by students. How the multiple choice questions can provide accurate information about the ability of teachers to ask, answer questions, to anticipate unexpected things in the classroom, or how the teachers motivate the students.

Even if the current UKG has tested things such details above, how to ensure that the cognitive knowledge of teachers in the answer sheet is in line with what he is doing in the classroom. What often happens is that a person can understand a concept in the level of theory, but he or she may not practice what s/he knows in the classroom. Thus, a teacher with a high score in the UKG may not necessarily mean that he or she is an eminent pedagogue in the field. Because the world of practices usually have their own space and art. This is why the validity of the UKG test result does really matter.

Not to mention potential technical problems which may hinder particular goup of teachers to perform well during the test. As majority of teachers take the computer-based UKG, some senior teachers who are not too familiar with the use of IT devices are likely to feel uncomfortable with this kind of test models. They are not troubled by the content of the test, but more on the technical aspects of how to operate the computer and the device. As a result, their test results can be worse than their actual ability. In the field, they are infact senior teachers with may be more with 20 years of eperience. They may have sucesfully educated and inspired thousands of their pupils before.

Considering some issues as mentioned before, it is urgent and necessary to find  alternative models of assessments with a more holistic instrument in assessing teachers’ competence in the future time. This is certainly not an easy job given the broad scope and complexity of teachers’ competence as discussed above. Even in some developed countries like America which has carried out this kind of test for a long time, many reports indicate that the teacher competency test failed to provide the necessary information as a basis to help teachers grow and develop their competencies. Therefore most teachers in America just consider the test as 'a joke', because they do not feel a direct impact of the test on improving their performance as teachers (Lucy Steiner, 2010).

Hence my point is how we can keep thinking of a more appropriate way to assess our teachers’ competency and minimise potential  bias due to inaccuracies in test instruments. We can use the current model as a starting point to develop a more holistic examination. In addition to assessing teachers’ mastery on their subject matter thorugh existing multiple choice, consideration may also be given to the use of other assessment instruments. Referring to the teacher assessment framework in some other countries like in the UK, Mexico, Canda and Singapore, assessments through classroom observation, self-assessment, or teachers’ portfolio are amongst other instruments that could be developed.

Equally important is how to involve the principal, school superintendent, or even the public in assessing the performance of these teachers. Especially for their social competence and personality that can only be assessed by asking or observing directly into the field of how teachers behave and act in the school and surrounding community. Furthermore, feedback from the 'relevant customers' of teachers like parents and students also need to be considered. Consequently, the assessment process can be no longer fully implemented by the central government, as is the case now. Decentralization of the assessment process is important to think about.

With such a holistic assessment tools, we can hope to get a more reliable picture related to the competence of our teachers. It will result in more accurate data to be used by the government as the basis of teachers’ career development and teacher training and professional development programs in the future. Otherwise, we are concerned that this UKG is only going to be another 'joke' among teachers, or simply be a new land for new projects in Kemendikdasmen, as feared by some people.

*The writer is teaching at the Faculty of Education of Riau University. He has just completed his doctoral degree from Monash University in Australia.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pauline Hanson, among Islam, Racism and Reclaim Australia

By. Afrianto Daud
(This article was first written for The Australian)

Australian public was rather shocked of a rally by a group of people with a theme of Reclaim Australia on Saturday, 04/04/2015. It was conducted simultaneously in all states of Australia, including Victoria. The movement is strongly supported by a liberal party politician Pauline Hanson. Messages delivered in the rally filled with nuances of hatred against Islam as one of important religions in Australia. Among the themes presented by the protesters were a rejection of the tax for halal certification, the refusal of practice of Islamic law, and a reminder for the phenomenon of Islamization in Australia. The demonstrators even specifically chanted with "no more mosques', or 'no more burqa'.

According to the 2006 census, there are at least five million (24%) of Australians are immigrants with different cultural and religious backgrounds. Approximately 450,000 of them are Muslims from various countries, including Indonesia. So far, all communities can live in harmony. They live with mutual respect for each other's culture under the principle of multiculturalism that becomes an important value of the Australian community.

As a politician, Pauline Hanson seemed to be trying to propitiate the Australian community through this movement. Islam and terrorism is indeed currently becoming a hot topic across the globe. Massive coverage of Islamic state movement (ISIS) has got a special attention from international community. Therefore, the issue on terrorism can be a good commodity for sales in the political market. Pauline's statement that also attacked Abbott’s administrative for not doing any necessary action regarding the potential dominance of the Muslim community in Australia is an indication that what she did is a clear political movement.

Having looked at the track record of this politician, the Reclaim Australia is not the first controversial action undertaken and supported by Pauline Hanson. In a political statement during a campaign season to become a member of the Federal Parliament in 1996, for example, she has been harshly criticized the Australian government's immigration policy. She mentioned that the idea of multiculturalism is risky for the future of Australia. Therefore, the multiculturalism policy should be resisted. She argued that why Australia is filled by many immigrants from Asia was because the idea of the multiculturalism. In the eyes of Pauline, many immigrants cannot be assimilated well with Australian culture. In short, in her stance, these immigrants are only a source of problems.
In 2006, Pauline returned outspoken about the dangers of these immigrants. At that time she was specifically concerned about immigrants from Africa who could be carrying the disease from the country of origin, including the possibility of suffering from AIDS. Pauline mentioned that African immigrants had absolutely no benefit to Australia.

Pauline herself refused to call herself as a racist. She said that what she did was only a way she expressed her criticism for the sake of Australia in the future. However, for those who think sane, Pauline's criticism is very clear that the substance contains racism. This is because she spreads hatred and discrimination against certain groups of people. For this reason, quite a lot of Australians themselves oppose the idea of the Reclaim Australia movement. Some of those who oppose the idea even involved in physical fights with demonstrators last Saturday.

Although Pauline Hanson's racism does not get a proper place in the mainstream of Australian politic, it does not necessarily mean that the idea is without support. Hundreds of people demonstrating simultaneously at a rally last Saturday proved that this racism is not completely dead. They continue to multiply and consolidate themselves.

The idea of 'Reclaim Australia' movement itself does sound strange and was impressed to be silly. There are many loop holes within the idea of this movement. First, the theme has been biased from the beginning. The selection of the word 'reclaim' (retake) does not only mislead as if Australia had been taken over by a particular group politically, culturally, and economically (which is certainly not true), it also spread a wrong message saying that Islam and the Muslims have occupied Australia in many aspects of life. The selection of this word has indirectly put Islam and the Australian Muslims on more powerful and more hegemonic than the actual facts. This is indeed an exaggeration.

Secondly, the theme is also against common sense. Paulin's statement mentioning that the halal food certification in Australia as a way to finance international terrorist is full of ignorance. The halal certification itself is not a dark business because they are easily monitored by the Australian government. Halal certification is growing in Australia along with the increasing demand for halal food because of the increasing number of Muslim communities in Australia (mostly immigrants). Among their main motivation is a purely from a business drive. Therefore do not be surprised if many non-Muslim owned companies also provide halal certificate. Again, the process is transparent. Therefore, the explanation from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) one day after the rally regarding the transparency and certification process could clarify that the allegations by Paulin Hanson is like a fairy tale story in broad daylight.

Third, the attacks and discrimination against Muslims in Australia can be easily understood as an action which is contrary to the principles of multiculturalism as important values of Australians, as discussed above. Australia is a country which was built on the basis of respect for this diversity. Thus, the racism movement by Paulin, if left unchecked, will not only spoil the harmony of life of the plurality of the Australian society, it can also tarnish the Australian culture in the eyes of the international community. Although the number of supporters today is not significant, the core message is very dangerous.

Considering the potential serious side effects, I think the Australian government and the community need to perform special measures in dealing with the issue of racism. Sentiment towards Islam could develop into sentiment against other immigrants. Today they are targeting Muslim community; it is highly likely that they are also targeting the existence of other groups in the near future. Therefore, it is reasonable if the vice president of the African Community Association of Australia, Edward Solo, said that the yesterday's rally as something painful. "It is really a fearful message," he said as quoted by The Guardian (06/04/2015).

Politically, the Abbott’s government needs to make an official statement that the government cannot allow the attitude and behaviour of racism to happen. Abbott needs to make clear that the government is committed to respecting all forms of cultural uniqueness of its citizens, including by providing a protection to the Australian Muslim community. Otherwise, what is feared by the secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Ghaith Krayem, who called Abbott government's silence on the racial acts as a form of injustice shown by Abbott’s administrative in dealing with racial attacks and extremism is true (The Age, 04/07/2015).

At the same time, the Muslim community and all immigrant groups have to think of better ways that promote a more intensive and effective activities to build mutual understanding among all groups who live in Australia. This is because the racism is likely happen due to lack of communication and interaction between these diverse groups. Pauline Hanson's statement saying that Muslims do not need the halal certification, because whole foods can be permissible only by reciting a prayer (bismillah) is a crystal clear example that Pauline does not really understand what Islam and Muslims are.

* The writer is a scholar at Monash University, former president of Monash Indonesian Islamic Society - MIIS.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

From Curriculum Revision to LPTK Regulation

By: Afrianto Daud*
(This article was first written for The Jakarta Post)

In our rush to reform education, we have forgotten a simple truth: reform will never be achieved by renewing appropriations, restructuring schools, rewriting curricula, and revising texts, if we continue to demean and dishearten the human resource called the teacher on whom so much depends (Palmer, 1998)

In the last few months or so the education in Indonesia again stuck on the old debate on curriculum, especially when the new government decided to stop the implementation of Curriculum 2013 (K13) which has just launched at the end of the SBY administration. Although the implementation of the pilot program of the new curriculum in 6221 schools still continues, the dismissal of the implementation in all non pilot schools still trigger wide polemics.

Some deplore the attitude of the Ministry of Basic Education and Culture who seemed to be in hurry in making such a big decision; but on the other hand, the government argues that many schools and teachers seem to have a lack of preparation to run the K13. In addition, there has been no comprehensive study on why Curriculum 2006 should be replaced. Therefore, the new government assumed that the Curriculum 2006 was still fit for use.

I do not intend to continue the debate on whether to continue K-13 or re-use the 2006 curriuclum, as the decision has been taken place. This article is intended to remind the government and education policy makers in Indonesia not to spend too much energy on the debate about what kind of curriculum that we shall use.

Polemics about the curriculum should not make us forget one important thing to be taken seriously in order to improve the quality of national education, which is how we could constantly prepare qualified prospective teachers. At the end, we have to admit that, as the strong quote from Palmer (1998) on the epigraphs, education reform will never succeed if we only focused on techincal issues such as school restructuring program or rewrite the curriculum. No matter how great the curriculum, it will never run well in the field if it is not supported by qualified teachers. Yes, because the the teachers are indeed the keys and the major players for successful implementation of a curriculum.
In regard to our endeavor on preparing qualified teachers, there is a good point left by the previous government. Along the enactment of Law No.14 / 2005 on teachers and lecturers, some programs of SBY administration as a part of restoration of the teacher as an honorable profession in community deserve to be continued and improved.

Teacher certification program that has been going on for almost seven years gradually began to have a positive impact on our education, especially in the increased interest of Indonesian youths to choose the teaching profession as their career choice. Unlike what happneed in the past when student teachers were more those who failed to choose another field of study (non-educational), now many student teachers deliberateley chose education as their top choice. This occurs because the teaching profession began to be regarded as not only socially and culturally respectable, but also financially promising.

The rise interest can be tracked from the large number of applicants currently enrolled into the Institute of Teachers Training and Education (LPTK). As reported by Alhumami (2013), data from the Joint Selection State University (SBMPTN) in 2013, for example, showed that there were 407,000 (69.4%) out of 585.789 participants chose a course in LPTK. This figure increased significantly compared to 2012, which previously numbered about 350 thousand participants. The number of applicants for LPTKs through the National Selection of State University (SNMPTN) also increased sharply in 2013. It even reached 300% higher than the preceding year. This figure was the highest record in the history of LPTKs. This data did not include yet those who enrolled at private LPTKs which could be two to three times more than state LPTKs.

The growing interest of the younger generation of Indonesia to study at LPTK is certainly a good signal that the government's campaign to restore teaching as a respectable profession is significantly achieved. This certainly could be an entry point to improve the quality of teacher education. When there are more and more candidates, the competition to join with LPTKs will be harder. This competition then allows LPTKs (especially the state ones) to have better prospective teachers in terms of their academic quality. In the long term, good quality of teacher candidates is highly strategic in our efforts to advance the quality of national education through the provision of qualified teachers.

However, this recent booming could also be a dangerous 'ticking time bomb' if the government did not immediately impose a strict regulation and take control on the selection process as well as on the quality of a learning process in LPTKs. Of the main challenges are related to the ratio of the number of student teachers with our need for teachers in ten or fifteen years to come; and the quality of the learning process in LPTK itself.

According to data from Kemdikbud, currently there are at least 429 LPTKs with 1.440.770 students. It is estimated that each year there will be a minimum of 300,000 new undergraduates with Bachelor degree in education. In fact, we would need a new teacher only about 40,000 people per year. This means that every year there will be an excess supply of teachers as many as 260,000 people. Think of five or ten years to come, how many excess we are going to have. This figure is certainly potential to add to our unemployment rate as well as social problems.

Another serious challenge is how to monitor the quality of the educational process in the LPTKs, especially in many private LPTKs which currently grows in large numbers. As explained by Muchlis Samani (2013), there is even a few LPTKs operating before obtaining license from the Ministry of Higher Education. Some of these LPTK tend to accept students in large numbers, exceeding their capacity for qualified lecturers and necessary facilities.

Such conditions can certainly result in a lower quality of graduates. Therefore, the government’s plan to create a National Standard of Teacher Education (SNPG) certainly is the right step. This standardization is expected to minimize some potential problems as I mentioned above. The standardization is further expected to be not only as a reference for all LPTKs to play their roles as institutions for “teachers production’; but also as a selection to determine which LPTK deserves to be keept operating.

To be more specific, there are at least two issues that need to be clearly defined in this SNPG. First, the government must be firmed in setting up quota limits for the number of students to be accepted in each LPTK considering their available resources and capacity. The quota limit also needs to be applied in to student teachers for Professional Teacher Education program (PPG), which is already underway.

Furthermore, the government must make strict criteria in the selection process of prospective students. The criteria should enable the LPTKs to have students from the best high school graduates. In this context, we can have a look at how some developed countries, such as Finland, South Korea, and Singapore select their student teachers. These three countries consistently apply a very strict system in their student selection process in which they apply a merit based selection system. They only recruit students from highest-achieving (high) school graduates. So, they only accept student teachers with brilliant academic achievement.

In the Indonesian context, the strict criterion is not new. Since the era of independence until 1960s, the government used to apply strict criteria for accepting prospective students to be educated in teacher training institutions. To be accepted in the SGB (School Teacher B) and SGA (School of Higher Teachers), for example, candidates must be the best graduates from the School of the People (Sekolah Rakyat). The same pattern also applied when the government made a new institution, the School of Teacher Education (SPG), which also accepted students with the best academic background. I think there is no harm if the government re-adopts this strict recruitment system for todays teacher education.

In regard to the quality of learning process in LPTK, although article 9 of Regulation No.19/2005 on National Education Standards states that the each LPTK is given the freedom to develop their own curriculum system, I would argue that the national curriculum for teacher education which comprise  Content Standards and some basic competences is also important. Through this national curriculum the government enacts to make sure that every LPTK is on the right track in developing the four competencis as professional teacher mandated by laws; pedagogical competence, professional competence, personal competence and social competence. The dormitory system within teacher education and intensive training we used to have are also worth to be considered as an alternative model of the learning process for our teacher candidates.

* The writer teaches at the Faculty of Teachers Training and Education of Riau University, currently pursuing his doctoral degree in the Faculty of Education, Monash University Australia.