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[Indonesia] Child Rearing Emphasizing on Discipline and Education in Jakarta--Current Situation Regarding Children's "Attitudes of Learning to Learn" (4)

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[About this series]
Recently, we are seeing increasing global interest in ECEC (early childhood education and care). Against such a backdrop, Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), which supports the operation of Child Research Net (CRN), has been conducting longitudinal research throughout Japan, focusing on children's "attitudes of learning to learn." BERD considers the "attitudes of learning to learn" as important social and emotional skills such as curiosity, cooperative skills, self-assertion, self-restraint and perseverance, all of which are lifelong skills that should preferably be developed starting from early childhood (for more details, please click here).

This time, BERD has decided to conduct a cross-national survey in order to examine the development process of the "attitudes of learning to learn (social and emotional skills)" and environments necessary to nurture such attitudes in early childhood. Prior to this survey, researchers from BERD and CRN have visited several ECEC facilities and families in Asia and Europe during the period between 2016 and 2017. They observed and interviewed the actual life-style of parents and children as well as the initiatives of facilities and families to develop the "attitudes of learning to learn."

The reports will be on the current conditions of early childhood education, parents and children, and interactions with children in each country through the eyes of the researchers. Please understand in advance that the examples of facilities and families they will describe in this series are meant to introduce the efforts and initiatives they observed during the survey visits and are for reference only.

Introduction: Social Conditions in Indonesia

The Republic of Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 17,500 islands scattered over a vast area of ocean. The country has a land area of around 1.89 million km2 with an estimated population of around 250 million. Today, Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous nation behind China, India, and the United States (Note 1). In contrast, Japan has a land area of around 380,000 km2 and a population of around 120 million with 6,852 islands. Therefore, Indonesia is nearly five times the size of Japan and has more than double the number of islands and population of Japan (Note 2).

Although it has a vast land area, about 70% of the Indonesian population reside on the small island of Java, which accounts for only 6% of the total national land area. Economic activities in western Indonesia (Sumatra, Java and Bali) account for about 82-83% of the national economy, indicating a certain development gap between western Indonesia and eastern Indonesia.

Indonesia is also a typical multi-ethnic country with more than 300 ethnic groups having different languages and religions. Its official and national language is Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), but more than 583 languages are currently spoken across the country. Although Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, the Indonesian government officially recognizes six religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism) (Note 3).

Considering the characteristics of Indonesia, a country of diversity in terms of geography, economy, culture and religion, it is not difficult to imagine that there are various environments and cultures for child-rearing practice rooted in the tradition of each local community. In this report, I will explain the actual conditions of families with young children (aged five) and their parent-child interactions in Jakarta, the capital and largest city of Indonesia. We visited some kindergartens and families in the city in November 2016 and obtained their opinions and thoughts through interviews with them.

Education and Personality Development: Two Main Themes of Child Rearing

In Indonesia, kindergartens have a regular Parent-teacher Consultation Day. On that day, parents can individually consult with a kindergarten teacher or a child development specialist regarding the development of their child, asking questions or receiving advice. The kindergarten we visited sets a Parent-teacher Consultation Day on a fixed day of each week. As mentioned in the previous report on child education facilities in Indonesia, parents are eager to engage in consultation regarding their child's education and personality.

The two families we visited were double-income upper-middle-class families in Indonesia where a large economic disparity exists. When we arrived at the door of the first Christian family, a young, teenager-like housemaid holding children in her arms greeted us. We had an interview with the mother of a five-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl. When we asked her, "What is important for you when bringing up your children?" she answered immediately, "To nurture a sense of independence and responsibility." She wants her children to be able to take care of themselves, and she was brought up in the same way as well when she was little. Then, we asked her "What kind of person do you want your children to become?" and she answered, "An independent person respecting God." We also showed her a list of multiple choices and she chose "A person caring for his/her own family," "A person showing great competence at work," and "A person devoting him/herself to society." The mother recognized the importance of studying to become an independent adult and earning a living. She provided small desks, chairs and scribbling whiteboards for children in the living room so as to encourage them to do whatever and whenever they want, sitting at their desk. In this way, she is trying to get them ready for elementary school.

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Children's study corner in the living room: small desks, chairs and whiteboards for childrenChildren's play corner next to the living room: brother and sister having fun with toys

The mother takes responsibility for child rearing, in particular, disciplining her children, while the housemaid mainly takes care of household duties. When the mother needs to go out to work, etc., she will ask their grandfather to come and take care of children together with the housemaid. She is very careful not to leave the children alone with the housemaid in the house.

Mother, Someone to Talk to and Supporter of Children, Emphasizes Discipline

The second family we visited was a Muslim family with an eight-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl, who attend an Islamic school (from kindergarten to high school) offering International Baccalaureate programs. Their mother studied in Australia in her student days. When we asked her "What is important for you when bringing up your children?" she answered "I want them to talk about anything to me and my husband openly. We try to spend time to chat with them at breakfast and dinner, on the way home from school and before they go to bed. We can see how they've grown up through talking." She also added "I want them to have a supple mind and care for the environment." We also asked her "What kind of person do you want your children to become?" and she earnestly answered, "They can be whatever they want to be, and I will support them." When we showed her a list of answer options, she chose a "Person caring for his/her own family," a "Person causing no trouble to others," and a "Person of wealth." She explained why she chose the answer of "Person causing no trouble to others" was because she wanted them to become an independent person." It is noteworthy that, in both families, we heard the word "independent."

The grandmother of the children and a housemaid are living together with the family, but it is their mother who takes care of children, including disciplining and supporting their daily activities. The housemaid attends to only household duties. Their grandmother will take care of children when the mother is not at home, they avoid leaving the children alone with the housemaid in the house, like the other family.

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The "playing house" corner in the large living roomChildren's toy storage corner

Focusing on Education Outside Home

The families we visited told us that they rely on kindergartens for their children's education in literacy and numeracy. Their children can learn reading, writing and numbers at kindergarten while they do homework and read picture books at home.

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The first family: A work sheet for numeracy on which their five-year-old son is working at kindergartenA work sheet for writing which the five-year-old son must finish as homework, filling up one line per day. He is currently learning how to write words in the senior kindergarten class.

Both families have their children take two or three enrichment lessons such as swimming, English language, futsal and piano classes. One of the mothers said that she wanted her children to learn piano because she thought "Piano lessons would improve their brain balance between the left and right hemispheres," which was quite impressive. We also heard that some Muslim children will start to learn reading the Koran when they reach kindergarten age.

It seemed that both families do not force children to actively acquire literacy and numeracy at home; instead, they are very careful about choosing kindergartens and enrichment lessons outside home. Like the second family that chose a kindergarten offering International Baccalaureate programs, the first family told us "We switched kindergartens because we thought the first kindergarten was not advantageous to our son's learning." This indicates that both families focus on the quality of "education" when choosing a kindergarten.

Over-Protective? A Tenuous Relationship? Diverse Parent-Child Relationships

In the previous report, we discussed the "over-protective" attitude of parents in recent years according to the opinions of kindergarten teachers. These teachers told us of some examples where parents felt they could not trust the kindergarten teachers, wanted to join in with the outdoor activities, and followed the kindergarten bus using their own car on an outing event. They told us that one of the reasons why parents are showing "over-protective" and "worrisome" attitudes is that they are facing more uncertainty in their daily lives due to rapid urbanization and information technology computerization in Jakarta.

Apart from the attitude of being over-protective, most parents do indicate their willingness to join in with child rearing activities at kindergarten. Many kindergartens encourage parents to join their activities in order to promote the engagement of parents in child rearing and education. For example, some kindergartens set up a "Career Day" and invite parents to introduce their occupation to children, or ask parents to read out books in front of children. In fact, when we visited a kindergarten and met a PTA member, she was willing to accept our interview. This indicates positive attitudes towards child rearing and education.

Meanwhile, we heard an opposite opinion from a pediatrician with whom we had an interview during our visit to Jakarta. He explained us a tenuous parent-child relationship as one of the major social issues in Indonesia. Nowadays, mothers of less-privileged double-income families are unable to have enough time to play with their child because they are too busy, while mothers of rich families tend to leave their child in the care of a housemaid for most of the day and thus become unable to establish a proper relationship with their child. In his clinic, the pediatrician offers mothers, who are worried about a tenuous relationship with their child, a special training program to learn how to interact with children. He said he is often asked by these mothers "What kind of toys should I buy for my child?" and he always replies to them, "It is not important what the toy is, it is how you interact and play with your child." In fact, we saw some local "children with their housemaid" in several shopping malls we visited, which might indicate that the opinion of the pediatrician was true.

Conclusion: Common Aspects and Diversity in Child Rearing in Indonesia

At the beginning of this report, I explained that a large economic disparity exits among the population of Indonesia. When we entered the upper-middle-class residential area where the above two families resided, we had to first pass through a security gate. Then, we were surprised when we found a local neighborhood just behind the residential area, where men were playing cards on the street in the daytime.

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Downtown in JakartaAn alley in the local neighborhood

There is the Islamic teaching that "The greatest gift one can give to his children is discipline," which is probably common to all families bringing up children in Indonesia. For example, both families (though, one of them is a Christian family) we visited told us that it is the responsibility of mothers to educate (discipline) their children and make them understand the difference between good and the bad in their daily lives, regardless of whether their grandparents or housemaids are closely taking care of them. These parents have their own policies on child rearing and education, and value the importance of personal development and pre-school education. In contrast, unlike those enthusiastic parents, some bring up their children without paying close attention to them, which we sometimes witnessed in this trip. It was a good occasion to recognize such diversified relationships between parents and children in Jakarta. This trip made us realize that parental involvement in the growth and development of children is a common issue not only in Indonesia but also in other Asian countries including Japan.


In the next report, we will introduce some ECEC facilities in Finland.


Acknowledgment:
I would like to thank my advisor, Professor Mina Hattori at Nagoya University Graduate School, for all her help and guidance throughout my writing of this article.


    References:
  • Note 1: "An Overview of Spatial Policy in Asian and European Countries: Indonesia" by the National Spatial Planning and Regional Policy Bureau, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan (Last updated: March 2017)
    http://www.mlit.go.jp/kokudokeikaku/international/spw/general/indonesia/index_e.html
  • Note 2: "Japan Statistical Yearbook 2017 (66th edition): Chapter 1 Land and Climate; Section 1-1 Islands, Area and Major Islands of National Land" by the Statistics Bureau, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan
    http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/66nenkan/1431-01.htm
  • Note 3: According to the "Basic Data of the Republic of Indonesia" by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the breakdown of religions in Indonesia is: 87.21% Muslims, 9.87% Christians (6.96% Protestants and 2.91% Catholics), 1.69% Hindus, 0.72% Buddhists, 0.05% Confucians, and 0.50% Other (2013 Statistics by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Indonesia)
  • "Ajia no shugakumae kyouiku--Youji kyouiku no seido/karikyuramu/jissen--[Pre-school Education in Asia: Early Childhood Education System, Curriculum and Practice]" edited by Mitsuhiro Ikeda and Chiaki Yamada, Akashi Shoten, 2006
  • "Kindergartens in Indonesia that nurture religious values and independence through early childhood education--Current Situation Regarding Children's 'Attitudes of Learning to Learn' (3)" Junko Takaoka, Child Research Net, 2017
    http://www.childresearch.net/projects/ecec/2017_10.html
Profile

Junko_Ogawa.jpgJunko Ogawa

Child Research Net (CRN) Researcher, Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD) Researcher. After joining Benesse Corporation in 2004, she was involved in training teachers, developing lesson curriculums, etc., at to the Kid’s English School Department and then was assigned to the Global Education Business Department. Since 2013, she is in charge of CRN.
Her past major studies are as follows:
CRN Child Science Exchange Program in Asia (FY2016- )
Research on Early Childhood Education and Care (FY2013-2015)
Child Science Exchange Program in East Asia (FY2013-2014)
The Japanese Society of Child Science 10th Anniversary International Symposium on Children’s Welfare and their Rights (FY2013)
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