Are we going too global? (by Yitzha Sarwono)

Some people fear that in the race to make Indonesian students more global, they may be losing the sense of what it means to be part of the Indonesian nation.

August 17th is Independence Day in Indonesia. Just like other countries, on this day we celebrate the history of how Indonesia became a nation. When I was a student, I felt like I was drowning in nationalism, even when it wasn’t anywhere near Independence Day.

Most Indonesians my age can recite the preamble of the Constitution of Indonesia and the Indonesian Proclamation. In school, we also had to memorize the names of all of our heroes along with National songs. Our government back then made sure that all children appreciated Indonesian history. We were proud of memorizing all the dates and tiny details about the battles of our heroes in their fight to form this country.

Time changes things, including governments and education policies. In hope of preparing future generations for the so-called Global Era, most schools nowadays try to be more international, which means they use English in school with more world-based lessons. People hope that this will make our children ready for the world.

But, people are also concerned that perhaps children have become too global and are forgetting their roots. Not many students can recite what I and my generation could. Not all remember Pancasila or can sing national songs. It somehow brings a sad feeling to many knowing that with their new curriculum, that was supposed to make them able to compete with the rest of the world, Indonesian children are in jeopardy of losing their identity.

I too became concerned about it, especially since the media also sometimes like to exaggerate things by saying that the current generation has lost itself. But I realize that there are actually many ways for our students to connect with the world while staying true to who they are.

One of the things we can do is to take students to museums. Here in Indonesia we have ‘Taman Mini Indonesia Indah’ or the Indonesian mini garden, a place where all our rich cultures are shown. Students can walk through real-sized traditional houses from all over Indonesia as well as touch traditional clothing. It’s not a boring museum where they exhibits are all in glass boxes.

Traditional Javanese house

Here we can ‘travel’ all over Indonesia because each province has its own mini garden and we walk from garden to garden to travel to each province. When I took a class, we actually found it hard to visit each province during our visit there.

Another way is by including it in our curriculum. Lucky for us, lessons about Indonesia are already in included in a week-long thematic unit in our curriculum. We talk about Indonesian clothes and food in English, and sing Indonesian songs. It may not be enough time, but we always try hard to make sure we include things that will help students build a sense of pride about being Indonesian. It is actually kind of funny to teach about  Indonesia in English, but then again it’s not about the language but how they feel  when they learn it.

Another fun and effective way to build national pride is by celebrating our important holidays; such as Independence Day, Heroes Day, and Kartini’s Day. We actually have plenty of national days but these three are the most popular ones celebrated in Indonesia. Here are ways we celebrate:

• On Independence Day, we celebrate by having a formal ceremony of saluting our Flag and singing our anthem. We also have many traditional competitions, such as moving the flag, carrying marbles in a spoon, and so on. The aim is to make students realize that to win something we have to fight for it. Both children and adults can participate.

• On Heroes Day, we usually ask students to dress up like one of our famous heroes. The goal is obvious, to introduce students to our heroes and hopefully have them learn a thing or two about the fight for Indonesian freedom. We also read or let students watch movies about Indonesian heroes.

• On Kartini’s Day, we celebrate the diversity of our culture by asking students to dress up in traditional costumes. You have no idea how it feels to see students looking all gorgeous and handsome in our national costumes. As this is an annual celebration throughout Indonesia, many places that rent the traditional costume having a hard time keeping up with the demand. Sometimes students have to be satisfied wearing whatever is available rather than their first choice because they have no other option. We usually celebrate the day by having parades and fashion show competitions. It’s always exciting to see not only the students but also the parents taking part in this. Many parents take a day off from work on the day just to be able to accompany their children to school.

Kartini's Day

Dressing up for Kartini’s Day

With all these opportunities available, and the fact that many people still care about Indonesian culture and traditions, I’m not too worried about children forgetting their roots. It’s true that many of our children may not feel as much pride or understand our history in as much detail as we did when we were their age. But things evolve.

We cannot really hold back globalization, even if we wanted to. But then again, it may not be a bad idea for children to have parts of them belonging to the world while the other parts are still carrying their Indonesian roost. I mean it will make us all feel as part of one big happy world. And it’s good thing, because when we feel like we share this world with others, we may be able to stop prejudice and hate. I’m an optimist. As long as we continue to introduce Indonesia to our students, I’m not worried about them becoming too global.

Note: This article by Yitzha Sarwono originally appeared on Teaching Village, and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.

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15 Responses

  1. Barbara says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Icha!

    Students are lucky to have such a compassionate teacher watching out for them. I’m sure that teachers in other countries face the same challenge of balancing globalization and national identify. I hope we’ll hear from some of them in the comments.

    I really appreciate a chance to hear more about teaching in Indonesia!


  2. The pleasure is all mine Barb ^^

    Really, honored to be able to put some thoughts inside my head here.
    It’s a challenge indeed to try to put both world in to a child’s education and to hope for them to be able to absorb all ,but we who care about education must try and give our best shot right?

    I shall try to put more about Indonesian education here.

    aza aza fighting!


  3. The issues you raised here are important for people all over. The world IS becoming a global village and we must not deny our children the chance to be part of it, as you said.
    Your description highlighted how teachers can combine the need to prepare the children for the modern world (by teaching English, for example!) while emphasizing their heritage. Teaching English doesn’t dictate a culture!
    Great post!

  4. Hi Icha, Barbara and Naomi!

    I totally agree with all previous comments! Icha’s optimism expressed though her writing should be shared by each one of the members of the teaching community.

    Teaching is supposed to be multifaceted and unexpectedly creative, which does not by any means affect the cultural roots and history of a nation. Instead, broadening the students’ horizons will contribute to their recognizing the importance of each aspect of their identity, also seeing it as a piece of a much bigger global ‘puzzle’.

    So good to raise issues like this one! Can’t wait for more fruitful discussions!


  5. Dear Naomi and Christina
    Thank you so much for the your support here. I guess for developing country like Indonesia, it is still hard for us in trying to balance the educational system here.
    Being school teacher has helped me to see this and try to do something about it.

    Love you guys

  6. Nobody should be allowed to forget their history and their heritage because that is what makes them what they are, but as countries become more multi-cultural, this can be lost in the fight to integrate.

    There is a way to do it without moving into the field of racialism (as we in the UK are finding, eventually) but that is very difficult (again as we in the UK are finding)

    But at least you are aware of the problem and I wish you luck with your ‘fight’.

    • Hi Jason
      Well As I am living in south east Asia where we are now trying so hard to cope with the pace of the world as English isn’t our 1st language,that is what we’re facing. You see,part of teaching English is also introducing about the culture. Because language isn’t merely about grammar but how well they can communicate in it,right? Well, that’s where most of our young generation lost their path,as The western culture is somehow easier to absorb for them and closer to their daily life (meaning going to school where English is used on the daily basis)
      Lucky for us,racism is never the issues as we are Asian and my country has around 33 province with their own native language and culture,so we are pretty much solid there ^_^

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post here. I really appreciate it ^_^


  7. Anna Loseva says:

    Hi, Icha

    I’m once again expressing my respect and amazement at your positive outlook! which I totally share=)

    Concerning globalization – that IS a stick which cuts both ends/ways
    Russia is also a developing country (no matter how huge), but attitude towards foreigners can still be rather like towards..aliens?..adults who remember the Soviet times and those who were born in the USSR (which I was myself by the way=)) can very often be skeptical, hesitant, cautious..there’s still a long way for our country to go towards complete acceptance of our place in the “global village”, in my opinion. And teachers of English (teachers 21st century minded!) are definitely the ones who can break old stereotypes and cut the path through the trees.
    I hope I don’t sound too blaming of my country, I have had no intention to) but that question is in the air!

    Global is great!=)

    • Hi Anna

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I really feel lucky to have you and the rest of iTDi team supporting me all the time ^_^

      Well, I think us, as countries that have just tried to apply English as our 2nd language in term to keep up with the development, would share the same kind of problems.
      And yes, we have one tough job in our hands, but I know that we will make it. Otherwise we would’ve given up long ago ,right?

      So, Think Global but Act Local,would be the key I think ^_*



  8. Trika Simanjuntak says:

    Hi Icha,

    I really like your spirit and optimism. It is true that we can not hold back the globalization and we should walk along with it without regretting the history of our own country.

    And I believe that with present-teacher generation we can make a stronger Indonesian. I am too an Indonesian teacher *greetings…

    Keep up the positivity!

    Let’s rock Indonesia 😉

    Hakuna Matata

    • Hi Trika ^^
      Apa kabar?
      Senang sekali bisa bertemu sesama guru Indonesia disini 🙂

      Well, I think you know well enough about how Education in Indonesia is, so I know that you share my point of view. Where do you teach?

      Let’s keep in touch!


      • Trika Simanjuntak says:

        Hi Icha,

        I’m doing good and love to know you more. I teach kindergarten in Jakarta.
        Please follow my twitter 😉

        Hakuna Matata

  9. Muna says:

    may I share this great post??? 🙂

  10. yitzha sarwono (@yitzha_sarwono) says:

    Hi there Muna

    Thank you so much for stopping by and read this, really ^^
    I’d be honored if you want to share this, of course.
    I’m sure Barb will think the same way too ^_^

    Aza aza Sharing!


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