– an argument to improve our national education system by restoring values in our teachers
Joensuu, 13th of July 2013.
When I was a child, I dreamed of studying abroad. Maybe one day, I told myself. My father was a student back then in the UK and US and he frequently sent pictures along with postcards. I was stunned by the pictures of his pale-face-and-bright-hair friends, the snowman he made and the glorious supper time he had there. I did not understand it was hard for him to leave his family in Indonesia and to fight for his degrees abroad. All I know was he was pretty fit and he always wore his smile in those pictures.
It was noon in September 2011, I paid a visit to my supervisor’s room. I was nervous yet excited. The last time he sent me an email, he said he had information about master program opportunity. I might not the brightest student in his class; however, as I showed hard work and deep interest in his field, he agreed to guide me finding a graduate school. To cut a long story short, with his support, in February 2012, I got electronic letters saying I was accepted in some master programs.
I share those two stories above with you to show how teachers inspire me to dream and how big their influences are in my life so I can be confident of my capability. What I’m thinking is; Indonesia needs these figures in all our education institutions. We need those who say to the young, like a teacher of mine once said,
“I am a teacher. To educate is my job, it is my passion. I know it would be easier if I could just feed you up with the lessons we have in the books. But it’s not what I desire. Nor it is my call. I am called to educate.”
Now I am here, in a country where people go to the sauna because the day is way too hot. What do I know about Finland? Well, it has the best education system in the world. It is impressive and I take pride as someone who studies here. Regardless all “The Finland Phenomenon” we have heard lately, this success story is actually created through decades of steady progress. Though it established its independence from Soviet Union in 1917, Finland began to rebuild and modernize the education system in the 1950s. The initiate situation was pretty much a mess. Orphans of the war, poor health care, poverty and no solid state systems pushed the Finnish government to find a way out to these problems.
In the case of education, the school commission launched the first Finnish syllabus in 1945. The move they took was risky, considering how they refused to adopt the popular Germanic education system and formulated their own strategy. The fruit of Finnish anti mainstream path was slow and unrecognized in the first decades. In 1990s, the country was struck by economic recession. Finland overcame the challenge by transforming its economy from natural resources reliance into one based on information and technology. The developed education system was found to work well. Through their stable education system, schools were able to provide graduates carried out their knowledge as the solution to the crisis.
Driven by curiosity, I did a little research on Finnish education system and I found out there are too many “secrets” to achieve the best education system. Moreover, there are some drawbacks that make this system cannot be implemented purely in our beloved country, Indonesia. So I think to myself, if the culture of my country, the number of population we have and the situation we are facing now; do not intersect with the Finnish’s, what kind of lesson can we draw from them?
I can’t spend too much money in one time. It has been my economy fashion. My parents taught me it is not easy to get money so then don’t be too easy to lose it. There was a story my father told me once. When he was already in Indonesia and had started working as a teacher in Universitas Sumatera Utara, we had no more money to buy gas. So my father came to the gas station owner, asking for gas for his car and promised he would pay him off the next month.
As a daughter of a teacher, I know what a simple life means; well, more likely, what live in needs means. Nevertheless, I shuddered to read the news about an elementary schoolteacher that involved in a drug trafficking. The reason was pretty obvious: he didn’t get enough salary as a teacher.
The only extensive thing the world can learn from Finnish education system is how they treat their teachers. The education assessment system, which relies on trustworthiness, is related to their society value and we can’t copy it as it is. Free education up to the university level is also impossible for us to implement at least for now. Managing the quality equality of all schools in all levels is worth to try; however, it is not the critical point that needs to be revolutionized.
I know all these system components have to work together in order to get the best result. But let’s hit our nail on the head this time. Let’s dig deep in the core of the education itself. Let’s pay attention to the engines that keep the education system alive. Let’s talk about our teachers and have the Finnish system as the paragon.
The teacher education background is the first parameter I would like to discuss. The more one spends time to learn, the more knowledge one has; the more one is capable to influence others. To educate is more than just to teach; it is more than to share your knowledge in a classroom. To educate means to influence, to inspire, to guide your disciple from a lower level of understanding to a higher one. How can we expect teachers to educate well when their academic background is inadequate and their access to improve themselves is closed?
To be a teacher in Finland, though it’s only an elementary teacher, you have to be in the top 10% high school graduate to take education as your major in the university. You have to gain your master degree and then get trained before you are allowed to teach in school. This pre-teaching education and training series equip Finnish teachers with the academic knowledge, technical ability and, more importantly, the dignity they deserve. By fulfilling a series of education and training, the teachers will gain confident and take dignity of what they’ve accomplished.
A fine teacher takes time before he is ready to work; nevertheless, the investment of time will provide multiple benefits as he starts multiplying his knowledge and encouragement in his students. In my point of view, this parameter is essential to be embedded in Indonesia’s teacher education and training system.
Secondly, to develop teaching as a progressive career, teachers should be trusted to do more than just to teach. Every teacher is capable to involve into more strategic work in education and it is their right to take part to benefit the teaching society. By introducing our educators to a larger scale of responsibility, they will be provided with the sense of satisfaction and prominence of their role.
The teaching hours in Finland stands among the lowest in comparison to other countries. Uniquely, they spend their time mostly to develop teaching strategies, revise the syllabus and investigate the students’ performance. They also have a periodic discussion board meeting to brainstorm new ideas for the purpose of improving the school system. This facilitates teachers to implement their own method and curriculum to be in line with the needs of the students in their particular school. This is a continuous task, considering good is never enough while better can always be achieved.
The absent of variation in teaching process and the lack of educating role are often a frustrating condition which makes the teaching process dull and stagnant. They are the engines of our education system, so it is not excessive to engage them with the system itself. We give them access to tackle curriculum problems they may find in their school. We provide them opportunity to perform the education research and implement it straight away in their schools. The idea is to give the teachers room to be in charge in a larger area of responsibility and, in the same time, to develop our national schools in unit scale. The availability of small scale evaluating board will help to boost the generation of teachers’ potential to contribute in our education system in larger scale.
The last one, perhaps the most important parameter, is the teacher’s welfare and social status. The assurance of a steady living and a well social status of a teacher will attract bright minds in Indonesia to consider teaching as their career path. By saying so, this parameter is too crucial to be ignored.
Referring to the UNESCO statistic 2013, Finnish teacher salary is not as much as what people have assumed. It is not true that the teacher’s income in Finland is equal to the doctor’s. However, Finnish government does pay a good amount of money to their teachers. Beside the support from the government, the society acknowledgement is the biggest contribution to strengthen the teacher social status. In Finland, teachers have the same status and respect as the doctors do. These two main variables, a good welfare and high social status, are the driving force to the high competitiveness of teaching career in Finland. With the high competitiveness of teaching career, it’s possible for the country to pick the best students into their teacher education and training. In return, these excellent teachers perform excellent education system.
On top of that, this strategy restores what they truly deserved. Think about how many teachers we can save from unnecessary debt. It breaks my heart every time I remember my father’s gas station story. He spent years abroad away from his family to serve Indonesia and then was unable to pay for gas. Likewise, think about how many teachers we can support to focus to educate. How can we let a teacher sell drugs because he live in poverty and without dignity? Straightforwardly, raising their income and social status are the fixed price we have to deal with.
Based on my references, there are many other ways to a better education system. In my opinion; the school curriculum, Research and Development funding rate, schooling accessibility to everyone, the equality of national education institutions and many other issues need to have serious actions. Despite all those additional needs, I unshakably believe in the power of teacher’s personal approach to benefit our generations. I do have a strong confident, due to the experiences I had with my teachers, good teachers have a divine influence to our national future in general. If ever there was a golden way to accelerate our education system, this is it.
There is a life path for every person. We will forever be indebted to our teachers along the way. They shape our future and they are our future. Therefore, we need to provide them with the proper education and training. It is pretty obvious we should give them room to implement their idea to take a bigger part in the education development. Last but not least, they need to be acknowledged for the social status they deserve and to be entitled to a decent standard of living.
I deliver this simple idea as a sincere opinion of mine for my better Indonesia. To end this essay, I quote a saying from Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in the knowledge pays the best interests.” By transforming the face of our education system and serving the people involved in the system, we can see the major growth in every part of our society. Hopefully, in a near future, we will step forward from where we are to where we suppose to be.