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SCHOOL

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I am kind of really proud of myself right now. I've been meaning to sit myself down and write a blog post about school since, like, my first day entering it. But now, with less than 30 days left in this country, I'm actually getting around to it. Huzzah!

School in Indonesia is different from school in America in basically every way possible, other than the fact that they are schools and they seem to be universally detested by the students who enter them. In Indonesia, the 'stay one class while teachers move around' system is used and there are two tracks of study rather than different classes that students choose individually.







Me, on my last day in school at Smala
The tracks are Science and Social: both have core subjects like math and Indonesian language, but where Science takes Biology, Physics, and Chemistry, Social takes Economy, Sociology, Geography, and History.

I chose to enter Social class due to the fact that I am utterly incapable of science even when the classes are in English.The thing I really love about staying in one class is that you end up becoming like a kind of family. And it really is like a family, in that many people with radically different personalities, who might never have become friends under any other circumstances, end up squished up together for extended periods of time, all bound together by one unchangeable circumstance.

It also means that the classroom is a comfortable home base, and slogging around through the halls isn't something to deal with often. Sometimes teachers can't come to class, meaning there's free time ('jam kosong') where everyone can finish homework, browse the internet, or play heated games of UNO in the front of the class. Jam kosong itu emang indah, it's one of my favorite parts of school in Indonesia.


If there's no class, my friends and I usually scoot off to the cantin to buy meals, pre-packaged snacks, and drinks. The cantin can be visited any time of day, with different sellers and a decent variety of food to buy, and I'm sure I'll miss it very much in America where the cafeteria is only open for an hour a day.

Classes are scheduled in one-two hour blocks, each class taking place on a certain day, with two breaks for eating and praying. There can be anywhere from three to six classes in one day. Friday is always the shortest, with only three classes, due to the important Jum'atan prayer at noon - half the school disappears as all of the boys have to pray together in the school mosque. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are always the longest with six two-hour classes each.

Indonesian teachers tend to have a different approach to education than I'm used to, in that they mostly prefer to sit at the front of the class and lecture out of government-approved textbooks and give only the assignments in those textbooks. While presentations and other vaguely creative methods are in use, students don't have much room to exercise creativity or make choices in what they learn. Sometimes the students even have to teach themselves material, and then teach the rest of the class by way of a PowerPoint slideshow.

The cantin

The school system is outdated, a relic from the age of Dutch occupation, with a huge focus on rigorous national exams that take place in senior year, and it's sadly famous for it's inefficiency. This is an issue I'm still exploring myself, and having the opportunity to talk to my classmates about the similarities and differences between our education is an awesome one. At some points I've been made glad that I received an American education, and at others I've realized how similarly bad both systems are for students.
Climbing wall by the cantin


I attend the best public school in Surabaya, and one of the best in the country, SMA Negeri 5 Surabaya. Students have to take exams to get in, the quality of teachers is high, and the building is a historic monument left over from the Dutch. Seriously, this place is cool. It's even got peacocks! Which are stuck in a concrete and metal cage in the middle of the school, and have their tails cut, but eh.

SMA 5's nickname is Smala, which is taken from SMA and 5 - which in Indonesian is 'lima'. Thus, Smala. The students here have immense pride in their school, which shows in their endless support for the sports teams, their willingness to travel all over the country to represent their school in competitions, and their overall school spirit. Twitter bios, car bumpers, and T-shirts all proudly emblazon 'Smala' or whatever abbreviation they've made up for their class/team/etc.


School basically consumes everything in an Indonesian teenagers' life, up until they graduate university, which is more of a time of intensive study than a time to discover oneself and party it up like it is in America. At the end of high school, students have two tries to get into university, and if they fail, they have to retest and reapply.

In fact, there are only around 60,000 PhD holders in this nation of 240 million people. Indonesia's university system fails its students just as badly as the high school system. In a nation bogged down by poverty but swiftly gaining its footing in the global economy, education is something which very badly needs attention in order to create a generation of well-educated, creative, and ambitious people ready to lead their country.

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I'm Sara, the freckled bule, one out of eight of the coolest people in the world. I spent a year in Indonesia as a KL/YES Abroad student but now I live in Boise, Idaho. Welcome to my bloggity blog.

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