Me, in the eyes of my father

July 30, 2008



            I was born 11 December 2001. My father didn’t have to wait too long to have me. I am his son and the first child in my family. I was named Sentforth Faizulhub. My father gave me that name because he is proud to teach English at an Islamic tertiary education and my name is a combination of Arabic and English. It’s to tell that English is his specification and Arabic is the symbol of Islamic world. Besides, he often tells other that this name also means “being sent by Allah in the front row to win love”. He expected that by giving me that name he could give me more love, even bigger than what I expect and he also wishes that everyone will get to know me because they love me. My father named me and surely he never knew what will happen to me in the journey of my life.  

            My father said to everyone that I had fever; my temperature reached 40 degree Celsius when I was only 32 days and it was too hard for me to handle. I was fainted. I was in comma for twelve days. The doctors said there was a very little thing my father could expect about me because they said my life expectancy was 10 percent only and the 90 percent was the possibility that I was going to die at any minutes sooner or later. My father did not let me go, he asked everyone to pray for me, and he also asked his friend who was about to go to hajj pilgrimage to pray for my cure.

            My father likes to tell everyone that I was then awake from my comma and he is also proud to himself to decide that I had to undergo that brain surgery when I was still 2 months old. My father always included in his story the reason why he let the doctor did the surgery. Before the operation, the leading doctor showed to my father many spots in my brain and said “these are all blood. Your son is alive and awake now but if we don’t do the surgery, this blood in his head will give him severe paint that he may not be able to endure; he may be death because of the damage in his brain. But you have to know as well that we will never know what may happen to his mental development after the surgery. He may survive and grow like a normal child or he may not be able to do things like the other children do. I have to say it because the operation is the procedure to save his life, let’s pray to God for that. You may discuss it with your wife now and if you give your permission we will do the surgery the day after”. My father repeats this line of words very often as if he doesn’t care whether they, who are listening to my father story about me, take too much information about my brain surgery “Of course, I had to do the best as I could to save my son’s life, my first child’s life, and I said yes to the doctors. At that time, it was the best decision to make, and I know I am right to do that”.

            Now I am on my bedroom and alive. I just cannot control my whole body. My mind cannot tell my body to do things. I cannot walk, I cannot talk, I cannot even sit on my own. I can listen to voices but I do not know that those voices are different one another and they have meaning. My father and I once visited an eye specialist to ensure if I can watch or I cannot. My father asked the specialist “why he doesn’t not even smile when I make funny face and he never look at things I show him for long?” My father then knows that my eyes react to light, my pupils go wider or smaller when exposed to light but the doctor didn’t say more about why I do not smile to my father funny face whenever he wants to play with me. My father has his own theory that I may look at things with my eyes but all things I see move so fast and make me dizzy and that’s why I cannot look at things for long and I cannot sit. I cannot keep my balance and I am not able to reach and grab things with my hands because I never know the positions of those things. My father knows more what I cannot do with these eyes than what I can do with these eyes.

            My father likes to go with me and my mother at least once in a week to town or to other lovely places. He is in agreement with my mother that I must go out and see things outside my bedroom and my house as my father thinks that I may feel so boring just to lie down on my bed. My father always puts my head on his shoulder, left or right in turn and walks quite slow because he has to save his energy and he will not take me home before he is sure that I have seen enough. He never feels ashamed of being the subject of people’s questions on how old I am now and what is wrong with me, he sometimes gets so enthusiastic when someone says that a kid like me may have something different, a kind of supernatural things, he thinks about this possibility but he is assured more with the promise that I may help him before Allah and asks Allah to forgive all his sins and to give him His Eden.           

My father often looked at me with a feeling of despair. It happened all the times after he had strong disputes with my mother upon his desire to have another child. My mother always said that I needed extra attentions and she felt she might not be able to give me enough cares if she had to raise another child. My father insisted that having another child would be good for everyone, it would be good for me also because he said ”Look, we have done lots of things because we expect Faiz to make some changes, some developments on his motoric or cognitive ability, but he makes no changes whatsoever. We have to live and accept him the way he is now. I am tired; I want to be like other parents. I want to see my child smile widely or call me when I am home from the office and soothe me from any workloads. Maybe when we have another child, we are not so afraid of our future, maybe our second child will be so caring with Faiz and likes to take care of him when we are old”. Then as often, my mother said more other things to convince him that the time was just not right for having another child. My father looked at me as if asking me “when?”.

            My father didn’t give up though. He persuades my mother at any possible times to stop using contraception. One day my mother told him that she didn’t have her period. She went to ask the doctor whether she was expecting a baby and the doctor said “it is positive”. My father was of course very happy with this information. Only two months of my mother’s expectancy, my father was listed as a candidate for three months teacher training in Bali and another three months in Australia. My father knew it was too good opportunity to deny but he wouldn’t dare to talk it openly with my mother. My father thought leaving my mother for six months was a kind of betrayal to his commitment to change our life through having another child in the family. He knew that he had to do his best to ensure that this second child born safely and grew healthy and leaving my mother on her own during her expectancy was not the best thing he could do. It was on my mother’s thoughtfulness that he then went to Bali. My mother assured him to go since she was aware how important this training for my father carrier.   Before going, my father looked at me, at my eyes, for long as though he was speaking to me with his eyes. He advised me to be good and not to make my mother tired. He cried and it showed that he was serious. Every tear dropped from his eyes filled with pictures of me. One showed a situation where my father had to carry me a whole night from 9 o’clock pm to 4.30 am in and outside the house trying to calm me and persuaded me to stop crying. He asked me so many questions of what I felt, what’s wrong with me, and how he could help me to ease the pain. Then, he talked to Allah by words and by heart, till after he heard the voice of Athan and he was not aware that I had gone to sleep in his arms.

            Things went even more silent for me when my father was away. There was no quarrel of my mother and my father upon my clothes. My mother always thought that I always felt cold, as she knew that I could not stop salivating and my neck layer was always wet. She puts on me three or four layers of clothes but then she complained when I urinated very often during the day. She usually asked my father to change all my clothes and put on some other four layers clothes. Two or three times doing this, my father didn’t say anything; but the fourth times he started asking why I should wear so many layers and this was the thing that triggered my mother’s temper. “if you do not want to do it, say so. I will not let him sick again” my mother answered abruptly in a loud voice to end the conversation.

            Six months had gone and my father was back from his training. He went to my room directly and on the door, he sat still. He burst into tears and again I saw very clearly in his eyes his longing to us, to my mother, especially to me. I saw in his tears he was writing his diary everyday expressing how lonely he was without us. On one of the pages he wrote “I will be back soon my son. I’ll huge you and kiss you whenever I want because you always make me feel peaceful. Your eyes are my mirror. I did not need anyone to tell me how sometimes I was so inquisitive on God will upon us and became so fragile that I no longer had the courage to imagine our future, your future, in this worldly life; Your eyes are so full of serenity that I stop questioning. My son, Faiz, please be with me, with your mother, with your younger brother or sister, always. I know we learn so much from you how precious life is”. I told you all from my father eyes. Believe me, eyes don’t lie.  



kabar burung Indonesia

July 30, 2008


       Tiba-tiba terasa ada yang lain. Meski semuanya masih sama. Padang rumput yang luas di kampus La Trobe, pepohonan gum yang barusan menghijau selepas winter, danau-danau kecil dan sebagian mereka yang berebut menikmati cuilan-cuilan santap siang dari tangan mahasiswa-mahasiswi. Agak sepi sih memang tawaran muffin atau kebab atau pizza hari ini karena sepertinya mahasiswa-mahasiswi kali ini lebih senang buru-buru menyantap makan siang, lalu kembali ke perpustakaan untuk mengejar due date tugas kuliah atau kalau sedang ditemani kekasih, memilih beradu ciuman untuk mengimbangi hangatnya mentari awal summer ini. Tapi ini juga bukan hal baru. Hanya burung dara yang terkenal pamer kemesraan yang merasa tersaingi melihat kompaknya muda-mudi dalam menjadikan padang rumput di awal bulan November arena ritual percintaan mereka.

       Tak ada gerombolan gagak disana. Tak satu gagak pun terlihat. Rupanya mereka sedang punya acara sendiri. Ada tamu dari Indonesia. Si tamu, gagak hitam, terlihat sangat lelah tapi dia teruskan cerita tentang dirinya. Dia merasa banyak hal yang perlu dia bagi. Paling tidak itu akan membuat beban dalam dirinya berkurang.

       “Aku lelah bersembunyi. Aku sungguh iri dengan kalian disini. Kalian terbang kemana saja kalian suka, hinggap dimana saja kalian mau, bahkan sering kulihat kalian berbagi santapan dengan mereka” jelas dia tidak sedang berbasa-basi.

       “Aku simbol kematian. Aku tidak melakukan apapun yang kalian tidak lakukan tetapi setiap kali aku terbang, aku hinggap, aku bersuara ‘frak, frak, frak’ seperti juga suara kalian aku melihat mereka cemas, aku melihat mereka bertanya-tanya siapa kiranya yang akan mati. Kalau aku memaksakan berdiam diri sekedar melepas lelah, aku melihat ketakutan dimata mereka, semenjak lahir aku dibayang-bayangi dengan suasana mencekam itu, pandangan tidak bersahabat dari mereka, aku segera terbang, bukan untuk menghindar dari kekonyolan mereka, tetapi untuk menyudahi ketidaknyamanan karena kehadiranku. Anehnya mereka semakin meyakini aku ada sebagai pembawa berita petaka karena kemudian ada yang mati, satu dua tetangga sekitar yang sudah tua, atau yang sakit, kalau nggak, yang mati kerabatnya yang tinggal jauh dari tempat aku hinggap, tetapi tetap saja aku lah yang jadi pertanda, mereka banyak jumlahnya, mereka terhubung satu sama lain karena darah, tempat tinggal, atau kerja, dan diantara mereka ada yang mati, setiap hari, aku dan etnisku tetap menjadi pertanda kematian” lanjut si tamu. Yakin dirinya masih disimak, dia teruskan …

       “Sedikit sekali yang mereka ketahui tentang aku, mereka nggak ngerti apa yang aku makan, mereka kira aku hidup dari jiwa-jiwa yang lepas dari raga mereka, aku ada tetapi keberadaanku ditiadakan, aku heran bagaimana mereka bisa begitu bersahabat dengan kalian disini, tidak terganggu dengan suara kalian yang parau, bahkan terdengar seperti umpatan sumpah serapah mereka ‘frak, frak, frak’ (dalam otaknya ada huruf ‘u’, ‘u’,” si tamu tersenyum geli mencoba sedikit mencairkan forum yang mulai tegang.

       “Apa yang akan kusampaikan selanjutnya ada hubungannya dengan etnis yang lain disini, so kalau nggak keberatan, mohon undang mereka” si tamu yakin akan kontribusinya di negeri baru ini maka dia menginginkan ajang yang lebih besar.

       Serempak, seolah-olah menunjukkan kebebasan bersuara dan kepercayaan diri, semua gagak di La Trobe berteriak “frak, frak, frak” dan etnis yang lain pun berdatangan, dalam penyambutan parakit hijau lebih senang dipanggil ‘sahabat’, para jalak minta disapa ‘kawan’, kakatua raja akrab dengan sebutan ‘ikhwan’ burung dara dengan ‘saudara’ dan sebutan lain untuk etnis yang lain.    

       “Begini ‘semua’ (itulah panggilan yang akhirnya si tamu pilih, kawatir kalau menggunakan salah satu sapaan tadi dianggap berpihak, atau bahkan kurang nggerti audien dan tidak multikulturalis) aku gagak hitam dari Indonesia, simbol kematian” sekejap si tamu melihat keterkejutan di mata para hadirin

       “jangan berlebihan dan jangan berprasangka, simbol seringkali menyesatkan dan jelas simbol diciptakan dan dipahami oleh mereka yang sepakat saja” si tamu mulai berbicara akademis untuk menjaga jarak dirinya dengan apa yang akan dia omongkan.

       “Aku terbang jauh dari negeriku kesini pertama karena aku sumpek dengan yang kuhadapi di negeriku, kedua karena fasilitas yang kalian berikan kepadaku memungkinkanku untuk melakukan perjalanan ini, terimakasih (si tamu membiasakan diri mengucapkan kata sakti itu disini, meski di negerinya dia diajarkan perasaan hutang budi lebih penting dari kata itu) ketiga, karena aku juga punya sesuatu yang bisa kuberikan kepada kalian (si tamu yakin betul, keseimbangan take and give inilah yang menjiwai semua interaksi di dunia yang pragmatis ini), dan pada kesempatan inilah aku ingin bagikan apa yang kupunya”.

       “bangsa kita, di negeriku, menderita” singkat kalimat si tamu tetapi ini cukup menjadi pengantar presentasi yang menarik.

       “Empat macam penderitaan, pertama, terperangkap dalam sangkar selamanya menunggu mati, kedua, dalam pelarian dari satu pohon ke pohon lainnya di bawah ancaman senapan angin, ketapel atau pulut perangkap dan saat naas tiba mati tertembus peluru, terhantam batu atau berakhir ke penderitaan nomor satu, masuk sangkar sampai mati, ketiga, kebebasan semu, kamu boleh terbang kemanapun kamu suka, tetapi saat ada mereka yang lapar atau menginginkan menu baru, kamu mati di piring mereka, keempat, terpanggang dihidup-hidup di hutan” si tamu mengutarakan poin-poin pembicaraannya.

       “Derkuku, jalak, muray, cucak rawa, cendrawasih, kakatua raja, semua parakit, dan yang lain, keindahan suara, dan warna bulu-bulu kalian akan membuat kalian berakhir di sangkar-sangkar kecil di rumah mereka, atau sangkar besar di kebun binatang” hadirin yang disapa si tamu mulai merinding membayangkan dirinya sebagai pelakon cerita.

       “Semua dari kita, yang kebetulan terlahir di luar sangkar, dari ayah-bunda kita yang pejuang dan bernasib baik setidaknya sampai kita lahir, setiap hari selalu dibekali nasehat ‘berhati-hatilah nak, perhatikan sekelilingmu, jangan rakus menikmati santapanmu sehingga lupa dibawah sana mereka membidikmu, jangan hinggap di satu tempat terlalu lama dan jangan pamerkan suaramu, bahkan untuk menyapa kami ayah-bundamu, dan kalau kita tidak lagi bertemu sore nanti, jangan cari kami, perhatikan saja keselamatan kalian” masih ada tangis juga di mata si tamu meski dia berusaha keras menahannya, sekarang malah lebih deras dari biasanya karena para hadirin menunjukkan empatinya dan tidak kuasa juga membendung airmata.   

       “kalian burung dara, dijadikan teman mereka, dibikinkan tempat berteduh dan disediakan makanan kesukaan kalian, kalian boleh terbang kemana saja tetapi pasti kalian akan kembali kepada mereka karena itu lebih baik bagi kalian daripada menjadi burung liar. Mereka suka melihat kalian bercumbu, kalian punya anak, kalian bercumbu lagi, punya anak lagi, lalu mereka datang kepadamu suatu petang, mengambil seberapa banyak dari kalian yang mereka butuhkan, menyisakan sepasang dua pasang dari kalian yang masih muda untuk bercumbu dan beranak lagi, kalian tidak sempat berpamitan pada anak cucu kalian karena kalian terlena dengan kebebasan semu yang mereka tawarkan” si tamu, gagak hitam, seolah ingin menasehati kawanan burung dara, dia lupa burung dara disini beda dengan di negerinya. Burung dara disini buuanyaak sekali, bahkan mereka ada di stasiun-stasiun tanpa rasa takut berakhir mati di piring-piring.

       “diantara yang terlahir di hutan, kakatua raja, cendrawasih, dan yang lainnya, dari ayah-bunda yang lugu, yang tidak tahu seperti apa sesungguhnya mereka itu, tumbuh dengan nyanyian kasih sayang, yang terlalu indah untuk disimpan saja di telinga, semua menyanyikannya, semua menari, semua pamerkan warna-warni bajunya, dan tiba-tiba saja panas dimana-mana, api mengejar, memanggang semuanya” rupanya untuk poin yang keempat ini, si tamu kurang banyak punya data, observasi dan researchnya tidak begitu menunjang dan terlebih lagi dirinya terlahir di kebun kelapa, dekat dengan desa, sekali waktu ke kota tetapi hutan belum pernah disinggahinya.

       “Aku pikir akan lebih baik kalau kemudian kita berdiskusi, sehingga aku tidak terjebak dalam fenomena teacher-centered dan kalian pun dapat mengembangkan critical thinking, percayalah aku mulai terbiasa dengan cara kalian disini” si tamu secara terbuka menghormati pendekatan keilmuan disini dan bersiap diri untuk tidak mengganggap pendapatnya sendiri yang benar.

       “Menurutmu apakah mereka jahat? Mengapa mereka begitu tega terhadap bangsa kita? Apakah kamu akan kembali ke negerimu? Atau kau juga akan menjadi warga baru kami?” langsung saja banyak pertanyaan kritis dilontarkan, si tamu tenang.

       “Aku jawab tidak urut. Aku mulai dari yang mendasar. Aku tidak akan menjadi warga baru kalian dan aku akan kembali ke negeriku” terdengar hadirin sedikit ribut dengan jawaban ini, ada yang menganggap si tamu sok nasionalis, tidak rasional, dan kolot karena takut dengan perubahan.

       “Aku meyakini mereka tidak jahat, aku melihat mereka sebagai korban juga. Setiap kali aku melihat anak-anak kecil dari mereka, aku merasakan persahabatan, aku merasakan kekaguman mereka, aku sering sempatkan tengok bangsa kita di kebun binatang, dan sumber kebahagiaan mereka yang tersisa adalah anak-anak kecil mereka itu. Mata mereka berbinar saat melihat warna-warni kita, nyanyian kita, kepakan sayap kita dan kalian pasti rasakan itu, ada energi disana, yang membuat kita pengin terus hidup meski terpenjara” kata si tamu antusias.

       “Aku juga mengerti ketika kemudian anak-anak kecil itu tumbuh besar, ada bayang-bayang di kepala mereka seperti juga yang terus ada dikepala-kepala bapak-ibu mereka, yang tiba-tiba saja mengubah mereka menjadi bengis saat mereka lapar, menjadi rakus saat kenal uang yang dihasilkan dari melombakan kita, atau menjadi dungu dengan apa yang mereka sendiri lakukan karena kalau bukan mereka yang menembak, atau memburu bangsa kita, ada mereka-mereka yang lain disana yang menembak dan memburu kita sehingga mereka tidak kebagian rejeki dari kita, mereka terlanjur masuk dalam perangkap kesalahan bersama yang tidak akan hilang sampai mereka sendiri secara bersama-sama menghancurkannya” si tamu lancar sekali mengatakannya selayaknya ahli dalam bidangya.                  

       “Nah, untuk itulah aku kembali. Ada perjuangan yang harus kumenangkan. Harus ada yang memberi mereka kesempatan untuk menyadari kesalahan mereka, harus ada yang mengingatkan mereka bahwa hidup ini tidak berpusat pada kepentingan mereka saja, aku ingin terus terlihat disekililing mereka meski sekejap dan terus berpindah dan bersuara, agar mereka perlahan sadar aku bukan berita kematian tetapi berita kehidupan, agar mereka mulai merindukan suaraku dan mendengar kepak sayapku, saat ini akulah yang paling punya kesempatan untuk itu karena yang lain ada disangkar-sangkar. Mungkin aku berlebihan meminta ini, tetapi lain kali kalianlah yang harus datang ketempatku, berikanlah fasilitas untuk sebanyak-banyak kalian berkunjung ke negeriku dan bersama-sama kita ramaikan langit Indonesia dengan kepakan sayap kita, dan nyanyian kita, nyanyian kehidupan untuk semua” tidak terdengar gemuruh applauses dari hadirin tetapi gagak hitam dari Indonesia yakin didada hadirin ada genderang, perasaan tertantang untuk berbuat lebih demi dunia”



The Teaching of Critical Thinking Skills

July 8, 2008

The teaching of critical thinking skills

Opinion and Editorial – August 14, 2007 The Jakarta Post

Hanung Triyoko, Melbourne

Indonesian students need to make some essential adaptations in order to succeed academically in Australian universities. These adaptations are not just about English proficiency but differences in academic culture.

There are more issues to address about our study in Australia universities beside our continuous effort to upgrade our English to a stage where we may be said to be competent users of English for academic purposes.

Australian universities, as part of the Anglo-Saxon university system, demand students, among other things, be able to exercise critical thinking, which is believed to be the most distinctive feature of the differences between the non-Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Saxon universities.

Universities in Australia have made critical thinking a focus in various bridging programs especially provided for international students. While it is expected that the explicit teaching of critical thinking and the acknowledging of our previous learning experiences may optimally upgrade Indonesian students’ study skills, it may also make some of us feel inferior.

Many of us may feel reluctant to actively get involved in discussions and debates not because we are afraid of using English but because we are not accustomed to the culture of discussion and debate in Australian universities. The fact that we are more familiar with memorizing tasks than the analyzing ones in our past studies can hinder inquiry and advocacy tasks in good discussions and debates.

We value group orientation more than the individual orientation and thus group harmony is more valuable than individual progress. Hence, it seems hard to us to adopt the different learning styles where individual knowledge development, not the group’s accumulation of knowledge, is emphasized.

For example, in Indonesia we are encouraged to receive as much information as we can from our teachers and store that in our mind as evidence of truth because we know that our teacher would not mislead us in seeking knowledge. Meanwhile, in Australia, students are expected to develop critical thinking by questioning and analyzing all the information they get from all sources including those from teachers.

Recently there is an increasing demand in universities in Australia to explicitly require students to work out their critical thinking in the assignment by putting it as an element of the grading. Critical thinking has been a compulsory subject in most universities’ bridging programs.

Australian universities provide bridging problems to ensure that we are aware of the different academic expectations and that we in certain degree have been exposed to these different practices before we really engage in our study.

A bridging program like the Introductory Academic Program (IAP), organized by many international universities in Australia, is also designed to facilitate us to develop various study skills necessary for our adaptations, including critical thinking skills.

It has been general knowledge for academics in Australia that due to the different practices of education in Indonesia, Indonesian students are treated as students who lack critical thinking skills and therefore need special training in it.

There are too many things to cover about critical thinking in the relatively short period of the IAP. To be able to apply critical thinking skills, we are required to exercise skills related to questioning, analyzing, debating, putting arguments, making issues, an so on, which are all dependent on our competency in English.

Indonesian students joining the IAP cannot be said to have the same level of English and if we do, the IAP is inclusive for the non-native students that make the IAP classes different to real classes in Australian universities. In IAP we may not be able to really experience real class situations. We may still find lots of surprises in the practices of critical thinking in real class situations.

We may find our exposure to critical thinking in IAP beneficial when we are aware that critical thinking is similar to computer skills and also driving skills in that the maximum benefit of these skills depends on certain proper situations.

We can perhaps avoid feeling inferior if we are able to negotiate with ourselves what cultural practices of the universities we should adopt. In addition, through comparing learning practices in Australia and Indonesia we may think that critical thinking is one technique among many ways of good science and see that the acquisition of critical thinking is necessary to gain academic success in Australian universities without feeling that our educational backgrounds are deficient.

Teaching critical thinking in the bridging programs is not an easy task because it may place students exercising different learning styles in a situation where we feel inferior.

However, weighing the benefits and the drawbacks of teaching critical thinking to Indonesian students as mentioned above, there should be more critical thinking practices introduced to our education system at any level so that there will be more Indonesian students who are ready to study in English speaking countries.

The writer is a lecturer at STAIN Salatiga and is now studying in the Master’s Program of Educational Leadership and Management at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

Readers’ comments

From Rey Edi

Hello Sir

I am surprised that obviously almost nothing has changed since 1981, when I studied Bahasa at Satya Wacana in Salatiga . I remeber very well how difficult if not impossible it was for me as a Westerner to really openly discuss topics. You are absolutely right. If Indonesian students want to be sucessful at overseas universities, they should be taught the skill of debate and how to defeend their opinion.

From Ibrahim Isa Alias Bramijn

You have made an inmportant remark.

Critical thinking for Indonesian students, are especially of utmost inmportant on the question of modern Indonesian history.

For more than 3 decades , during the entire period of the Orba, students were made to believe of the lies and manipulation by the regime of Indonesian modern history, as the only truth.

Students followed blindly the Orba scholars interpretation about  the  ‘bad governance’  during  the Sukarno era, and of the ‘excellent  economic policy’  of the the Orba, etc.

Critical thinking should be practiced by  Indonesian students, as well as (especially) by the professors and  lecturers themselves.

Sincerely yours,

Ibrahim Isa

14 August 2007

We have the right to change English

July 7, 2008

We have the right to change English

Hanung Triyoko , Salatiga | Sat, 05/31/2008 12:08 PM | Opinion

The upcoming Asia TEFL Conference in Bali is too important to overlook.
It will be held from Aug. 1-3, 2008, and this year’s theme is Globalizing Asia: The Role of ELT.
What intrigues me most is to what extent this conference will contribute to Indonesian non-native English teachers’ efforts to implement successful English language teaching in classrooms across the country.
Will the conference inspire us to apply new approaches and methodologies based on the belief that English evolves as it spreads, and so there is no more “English” but rather many localized “Englishes”? Are we going to follow up the conference with agreement on ways to help students become proficient in Indonesian English?
For many here, the relation between language and identity is summed up in the familiar Javanese adage, Ajining diri ono ing kedaling lathi (The words you speak determine who you are). Simply put, it’s the essence of the relationship between language and identity.
This conference will perhaps prompt us to seek answers to why very few people are convinced ELT (English Language Teaching) in Indonesia is successful. Many English teachers here base their lessons around strict, unbending ideals of the language, and expect students to conform to these ideals. This can create, whether intentionally or not, a hostile atmosphere that at its heart, threatens the students’ Indonesian identity.
For instance, how many Indonesian English teachers find it funny when students speak English with a marked accent? I’d say far too many. Anybody would be discouraged from speaking a foreign language if all it brings is ridicule and mockery.
As English teachers, the language forms an inextricable part of our social and personal lives, but the extent to which it identifies us varies. It depends on our day-to-day experiences with English and our understanding of the role of the language in our future. A similar model may be applied to our students. Do not expect all of them to want to know the intricacies of English grammar, because not all of them will grow up wanting to be English teachers.
Many teachers try to mold their students into competent English speakers with an ability approaching native English speakers. Some still teach this way, but others are beginning to think critically in light of the different circumstances students now face, and because the use of English in our society has now reached a level that earlier teachers could never have anticipated.
How many English learners in Indonesia face situations where the use of their mother tongue is restricted? The vast majority, one would think. Most students use English when speaking to their teachers or peers, or when reading English textbooks.
And yet they should be allowed the option of reverting to their native language if it’s too difficult for them to convey their message in English, assuming the meaning is not lost in the switch.
And they should be able to turn to a dictionary or friends or teachers or other sources whenever they find it too difficult to understand written English passages.
The need to establish and recognize a local English — Indonesian English or Indoglish — is not without basis. Malaysian English and Singaporean English (Singlish) are already taken for granted, and the debate on whether certain nations or communities can claim ownership of their local version of English is considered moot because of the seemingly unstoppable rise of localized English worldwide.
However, the realization of this dream should start with our willingness to stop prioritizing the “correctness” of pronunciations and accents even when the message remains intelligible and the meaning is not lost.
We should also stop limiting students’ vocabularies to what is published in ELT books, as long as words that make up the new lexicon are widely accepted by the students. Someday, for instance, when the time is right, we may even see abbreviations such as “OIC” for “Oh, I see” in textbooks.
Brutt-Griffler (1998, p. 387) defines non-native English teachers as “non-native speakers” with the “authority” to spread as well as to change English. However this authority to change the language does not mean we can do so whimsically.
It should be used to enable us to express ourselves more clearly when talking to others about our cultures and beliefs. English colloquialisms mean little from an Asian perspective, but the ability to construct our own colloquialisms opens up whole new opportunities for us.
Take for instance the English phrases “Excuse me” and “I am sorry”, which in Bahasa Indonesia both translate as maaf. To native English speakers, there is a world of difference between the two expressions, but for non-native speakers there is a distinct advantage in being able to use one expression to mean two different things.
Many native English speakers feel their language is sufficient for all situations, and hence don’t see the benefits of switching to a localized vernacular in cases like this.
Most of us would agree there are major differences between the English our students are speaking and the English we as teachers speak. However, the differences are subtle, and it’s not that easy to pinpoint any concrete examples of this gap.
This can happen because very often we regard what our students write or say as mistakes or a failure to properly grasp the grammar. We judge them as such because we’ve been trained to compare them to accepted forms which we believe will never change.
Alternatively, we could consider these mistakes part of an emerging localized version of English, a language molded and influenced by the students and their understanding of a foreign language. We should welcome these differences with the hope that our students will eventually speak a similar English to us. The problem is we seldom see these differences for what they really are: the seeds of our very own localized English.

The writer is a lecturer at STAIN Salatiga and a student in the Master’s Program of Educational Leadership and Management, La Trobe University, Melbourne. He can be reached at

New Teaching Style Needed

July 7, 2008

Opinion and Editorial – November 10, 2007 The Jakarta Post

Hanung Triyoko, Melbourne
[The writer is a lecturer at STAIN Salatiga and a student in the Master’s Program of Educational Leadership and Management, La Trobe University, Melbourne. He can be reached at]

New teaching style needed

Many teachers and parents know children nowadays listen more to their iPods than to their words. Students have huge numbers of sources of information in this era of information technology. Teachers and parents are challenged by the attractiveness of computer-assisted information resources and their being more affordable for wider communities.
As a consequence, it is becoming harder and harder for the traditional approach of teaching to control student behavior since students share other values offered by the multimedia.
Take an example; teachers may need more than just words to ensure students read the recommended books for the following lessons. Students may spend most of their time after school utilizing advanced technology like the internet and cyber-gaming, and think that books are just out of character.
It does not mean that teachers can no longer refer to books as lesson materials, but merely depending on books in today’s classroom is like going out for dinner in a Padang restaurant with no intention of spending more money. We may satisfy our hunger but may not satisfy our appetite despite the variety of food available.
It is wiser to understand than to control students’ behavior. Teachers need to apply new methods of assessment that allow students to choose what they want to learn and to show in their own ways the results of their learning. Teachers also need to collaborate more with parents and other stakeholders in assuring the achievement of individual student learning objectives.
Tests as the traditional way of student assessments are limited in their capacity to cover all domains of students’ abilities. Tests generally measure the students’ cognitive ability, whereas the psychomotoric as well as the affective abilities remain unseen. The main purposes of assessments are to report, to guide and to diagnose student learning.
Therefore, considerations of sources of learning and preferred styles of learning are also very important in choosing appropriate kinds of assessments for students. All the high-tech stuff that students today are engaged with every day influences the development of their three skill domain sand assessing their cognitive skill only is unfair.
In his thesis “Continuous Assessment in Bhutan: Science Teachers’ Perspective”, Chewang (1999) defines continuous assessment, or authentic assessment, or alternative assessment, as a special method of assessment by which teachers at regular intervals assess students over the whole course.
Thus, things to assess can be diaries, videos, power point presentations, audio recordings, simulations of real-life problems and even parents’ notes and commentaries.
The application of this new method of assessment allows students to develop positive feelings of achievement by showing others what they can do rather than what they do not know. Very few students perform well in all subjects they are studying but all students deserve appreciation for what they are good at.
Imagine what opportunities this continuous assessment provides for students who are only average at many of their courses, but skillful in others.
Besides, continuous assessment enables teachers to diagnose the relevance of their curriculum and lesson materials to students’ life outside school. Students are also in control of what they are going to learn.
Students are expected to assess themselves in all stages prior to their final projects using all possible data like notations in group meetings, footage, photos and portfolios to see their progress toward the objective of their studies.
Parents and other students may take part in this process through parent and peer assessments. Teachers make themselves available for giving quality feedback to highlight each student’s strengths and weaknesses on continuous scheduled assessment days.
Students should clarify all commentaries given by teachers to remedy all their weaknesses and most importantly to spell out any misunderstanding of value judgment. Students are permitted to defend their own criteria of accomplishments based on their personal traits and background, and teachers should place more value on students’ critical thinking and move beyond the one-right-answer model.
Continuous assessment gives teachers more responsibilities in students’ learning progress and they may have to spend much more time preparing and doing the assessments.
Applying consistently the continuous assessment in one particular subject will eventually lead to students’ improving in other subjects as well. Indeed, all records of students’ performances may be retrieved for future use such as when students need to convince interviewers for job vacancies of their computer and interpersonal communication skills, as well as foreign language mastery.
No matter how complicated and problematical this continuous assessment may sound in the context of our education system, consensus should be made by educational leaders to give the continuous assessment a go.