Joanne Dowling and Teagan Hood - Oct 04 2019
World Teachers' Day: Improving Education Starts with Supporting Teachers

To mark World Teachers' Day on 05 October, Palladium's Joanne Dowling and Teagan Hood explore Indonesia's approach to teacher professional development in religious schools.

Indonesia is home to 264 million people – the 4th most populous country in the world – and 70% of its population will be working-age adults by 2030. They will need to have the skills and capabilities necessary for a globalised economy and to live up to the country's full economic potential. To do this, Indonesia’s government is focusing on education.

Twenty percent of Indonesia's students are educated in the religious school system, typically in madrasah – Islamic education – and often at private schools. Madrasah education, while following the national curriculum, includes additional content focused on religious education.

To ensure the equity of education received for this 20% of the country’s students, Indonesia is building an approach to better support its teachers in religious schools, so they can best equip this large population of students for the future.

Teachers Need Continuing Professional Development

Indonesia has recognised the need for regular and standardised Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs for its teachers. In December 2018 the Religious Affairs Minister issued a regulation that provides the legal basis for more than one million madrasah teachers and around 250,000 teachers of Indonesia's six recognised religions in public schools to access CPD programs.

The CPD system is being designed to deliver professional development specifically tailored for teachers from predominantly private madrasah, who have limited or no access to other government-provided professional development activities. The system is intended to be implemented at local levels in teacher peer working groups.

Masfufah, a teacher who participated in a Continuing Professional Development pilot program.
Masfufah, a teacher who participated in a Continuing Professional Development pilot program.

Masfufah is a teacher in Indonesia's East Java province, which was one of the Ministry's pilot areas for the new professional development program in 2018/19.

"The program really helped us expand our knowledge to teach effectively and efficiently," she explained. "During the activities we learned many new approaches and teaching methods. For example, we learned how to develop IT-based learning media; how we can use Google Forms as means of communicating to our students and parents; and how we can create online learning or e-learning by creating meeting points in cyberspace. When we practice in the classroom the learning process becomes more fun and the teacher and student interactions are more fluid."

Dr Suyitno, Director of Teachers and Education Personnel at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, was also positive about the new CPD program for teachers.

"The Ministry of Religious Affairs hopes we can socialise smart practices carried out by East Java so that it can be replicated in other regions in Indonesia. Improving the quality of education in Indonesia must start from improving the quality of teachers."

In the 2020 school year, it's expected the program will be scaled up nationally for all teachers in religious schools, and teachers of religious subjects. When fully operational, the system will have its own regulatory framework, budget and financing, and delivery and evaluation systems.

The Education 2030 Agenda

Globally, countries have signed commitments to The UN Sustainable Development Goal on education. One of this goal’s dedicated targets recognises teachers as key to achieving the Education 2030 Agenda. According to the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action, the goal is to "ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated, and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems."

For Indonesia, President-elect Joko Widodo has proclaimed that his second term will focus on developing human capital for a productive and competitive workforce. By improving the support to teachers, they can improve the quality of education and help students to acquire the capabilities they will need in a rapidly changing world.

Palladium implements the Technical Assistance for Education Systems Strengthening (TASS) program, funded by DFAT, which supports the Ministry of Religious Affairs' CPD system through advisory support and system design.