Education experts say that social skills and child psychology should be made mandatory in teacher-training courses as their absence has resulted in low teacher quality and education standards.
Head of research and development at the Indonesian Teachers Union (PGRI), M. Abdul Zen, said that teachers are currently only being trained to dictate to students rather than to create an atmosphere that encourages learning.
“Due to the lack of focus on what we want the teachers to be and the absence of knowledge on how to utilize social skills in the classroom, we are producing strict teachers who think they know everything and demand respect for it. It doesn’t matter how many teachers we have if they don’t know how to teach,” he told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday.
Abdul said it was important for teachers to be trained to recognize different student needs and that no universal method could be applied for all students.
A monotonous routine in the classroom could discourage students from partaking in class activities, he said.
According to the World Bank, the number of applicants for teacher-training programs increased from 200,000 in 2005 to one million in 2010 and is predicted to continuously increase in the future.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that there were 2.7 million civil servant and non-civil servant teachers nationwide during the 2012-2013 academic year.
The drastic increase in the number of applicants may have contributed to the large number of teacher-training institutions, as Indonesia currently has 32 state-owned teacher-training institutions and 342 private teacher-training institutions.
However, according to Education Sector Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership (ACDP) consultant Totok Amin Soefijanto, bureaucratic problems have hampered programs to improve teachers’ quality.
He said that there was little communication between the Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Ministry and teacher-training institutions, which mostly ran independently.
“Many of the teacher-training institutions are small-scale and unsupervised, which leads to accepting mediocre students and giving them low quality training. No matter what the curriculum is or what textbooks and technologies are available to us, we can’t improve our children’s education if the teachers themselves lack the resources,” he said.
Meanwhile, Atma Jaya University’s elementary teacher education program head Ivan Stevanus acknowledged that good grades were key to improving teachers’ quality.
Teacher-training colleges also needed to conduct interviews with would-be students to judge whether or not an applicant had the potential to gain the social skills needed to be an active teacher, he added.
“If someone is smart but they don’t have any social skills, they can still pass a written test. So, an interview is essential to suss out a candidate,” he said.
Ivan added that the teacher-training institutions must also make compulsory bonding time or group activities — such as extracurricular clubs and volunteer groups — as it would hone participants’ abilities to interact with people of different ages and backgrounds.
“Honestly, four years of undergraduate study and another year to get your teaching certification is not enough to train to be a teacher as there is a lot to learn. Being a teacher is a profession, not a job,” he said.
“If someone is smart but they don’t have any social skills, they can still pass a written test. So, an interview is essential to suss out a candidate.”