[About this series]
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.
With a population of over 250 million people, Indonesia has more than 300 ethnic groups that speak a total of 583 languages. The Indonesian government currently approves six official religions. The slogan of the country is "Unity in Diversity."
In recent years, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of child education in Indonesia, which is rooted in the following two aspects. The first is the importance of early childhood education as the preparatory stage of school education. The Indonesian government considers that a lack of school readiness in young children affects their adaptation and academic performance in elementary school and throughout their education. The second is the increasing awareness of the importance of quality early childhood education among people such as middle-class residents in cities due to the improved living standard of the country. Education is one of the top priorities of the Indonesian government. In Indonesia, the official school age is seven, but elementary schools accept children at the age of six. The school attendance rate is improving every year.
Early childhood education in Indonesia is roughly divided into two categories: "formal education" (for children aged between 4 and 6) providing educational services at general kindergartens and Islamic kindergartens, and "non-formal education" providing educational services at playgroups (for children aged between 3 and 6) and child care centers (for children aged between 0 and 6).
Because more than 90% of government expenditure on education is allocated to elementary schools and above, about 99% of preschool education facilities are privately organized. General kindergartens are supervised by the Ministry of Education and Culture, while Islamic kindergartens are supervised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. These kindergartens conduct educational activities based on the curriculum determined by each ministry, respectively, and accept children aged between 4 and 6, or even at age of 3 upon request.
I visited two kindergartens in Jakarta this time. Their data are summarized as follows:
|General kindergarten||Islamic kindergarten|
|Foundation||Established in 1968.||Established in 2001.|
|To offer an environment where children can play and learn, and raise healthy and independent children with good social and creative skills.||To assist children to learn about the environment to understand God's creation, focusing on the development of children's independence.|
|Characteristics||1. Offers programs that develop basic abilities as well as commune-based and creative skills. Also provides quality IT education programs.||1. Offers early education curriculum as well as a religious education program to help children gradually understand religion.|
2. Conducts research on the development assessment of young children in collaboration with Jakarta National University.
|Size||160 children aged between 3-6||104 children aged between 3-6|
1. Developing children's cognitive and non-cognitive skills through play in small group activities
The general kindergarten I visited is a university-affiliated kindergarten located in Jakarta. The facility has a three-story building, an indoor swimming pool and a central courtyard with a roof and artificial grass (see Photo 1). There are 160 children in total, consisting of 40 children in their first-kindergarten year (four playgroups), 60 children in their second-kindergarten year (three classes) and 60 children in their third-kindergarten year (three classes). The kindergarten opens at 7 am and closes at 11 am. Children have breakfast (lunch box) at 8 am and receive lessons for three hours in the morning. After that, the kindergarten offers optional extracurricular programs subject to fees, including gymnastic exercise, English language, dancing, religion, painting, marching band lessons, etc. The kindergarten completes most of the curriculum in the morning and children go home in the afternoon. Most of the children from double-income families are looked after by their grandparents or maids at home.
Photo1: A kindergarten yard with a roof
Daily activities are determined by each grade including small group activities. The curriculum of the kindergarten is designed based on the education guidance of the Indonesian government, which helps children develop their daily habits as well as cognitive/non-cognitive skills through "pretending play" and other activities.
Photo 2 shows the craftwork activity of children in their second kindergarten year using scissors. Children freely sat down at either of the two large tables, but unconsciously, girls and boys were seated separately. Photo 3 shows the reading corner in the class room. Some religious picture books were displayed on the top part of the bookshelf. In Indonesia, although the majority are Muslim, the government recognizes six official religions, namely, Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism (other religions and atheism are not admitted). The childcare facilities provide an environment where children will learn to respect religious diversity from early childhood.
|Photo 2: The craftwork activity of children (left)|
Photo 3: The reading corner (right)
The large classroom for children in their third kindergarten year is divided into small zones, where a small group of five or six children sit together and a teacher stays by them. For example, in the class of "Learning to grow plants," children can observe how seeds sprout using a personal computer (see Photo 4), and then touch a real fruit and check its smell and shape (see Photo 5). This activity is effectively designed by combining digital tools and real things.
|Photo 4: Children observing a growing plant on the computer screen (left)|
Photo 5: Children touching a real fruit (right)
Photo 6 shows the activity of children in their first kindergarten year, singing Islamic songs (Islamic hymns) with their teacher. Because these songs are in Arabic, children do not understand the meaning, but it is effectively done so that they can gradually become familiar with the religion by remembering the name of God through singing the hymns.
Photo 6: Children singing hymns glorifying God with their teacher
2. Recording the growth of each child with figures and episodes
The second kindergarten I visited is an Islamic kindergarten located in Jakarta. The facility has a one-story house and a kindergarten yard with large trees, play equipment and a miniature hill, resembling a Japanese kindergarten (see Photo 7). There are 104 children in total, consisting of 18 children in their first-kindergarten year (two playgroups), 36 children in their second-kindergarten year (three classes) and 50 children in their third-kindergarten year (three classes). Children arrive at the kindergarten at 7 am and are dismissed at 10:30 am. Children receive lessons for about 3.5 hours in the morning. After that, the kindergarten offers extracurricular programs between 10:30 am and 11:30 am, such as dancing, swimming, English language, painting and futsal lessons. There are some male kindergarten teachers as well.
Photo 7: A kindergarten yard with many trees
This kindergarten offers general early childhood education based on the curriculum, as well as religion programs and events. In the religion education class, children learn the importance of establishing a relationship with God and building ties with others. For example, before and after activities, children have prayer time or storytelling time during which they talk about God. In religion events, children will practice fasting during the period of Ramadan by observing a "no-snack" day, learn how to conduct the salat ritual of worship, and make donations for orphans.
Many Islamic kindergartens adopt the integrated school system from kindergarten to university. The kindergarten I visited is an elementary school-affiliated kindergarten and very popular among parents, because it offers a consolidated education curriculum for young children from infants to eight-year-olds, which facilitates the smooth transition from kindergarten to elementary school. On that day, I had an interview with the director and some PTA members (see Photo 8). It seems that parents actively participate in the activities of the kindergarten.
|Photo 8: Interview with the director and PTA members who explained the kindergarten (left)|
Photo 9: Education policy of the kindergarten (right)
Photo 10: Kindergarten's assessment by category
The areas of focus in the curriculum of kindergartens are (1) ethics and religious values, (2) sociality, sensitivity and autonomy, (3) language ability, (4) cognitive ability, (5) physical ability, and (6) artistic ability. Children are expected to learn independence by acquiring skills in these areas (see Photos 9 and 10). This kindergarten undertakes research on child assessments in collaboration with Jakarta National University, applying the assessment of cognitive/non-cognitive skills to evaluate each child. An academic performance report is prepared for every academic term (semester system). The report contains the quantified monthly achievements of children per activity type and episode (descriptions). Children conduct self-assessment based on the report, and teachers and parents write their comments on the children's self-assessment.
The two kindergartens I visited this time expressed some keywords such as "Act for the benefit of others," "Protect the environment," "Respect others" and "Caring for others." I was surprised by the fact that non-cognitive skills, which have been highlighted in Japan in recent years, had already been adopted in early childhood education in Indonesia and are used in the evaluation of child development. Like non-cognitive skills, the development of cognitive skills such as literacy and numeracy is also included in the program of learning through play in the same way as Japan.
Religion education is provided through several means such as religious songs, prayer times, and religious events, which help children become familiar with the religion. It is also noteworthy to mention that children are taught the value of respecting religious diversity.
According to the comments of kindergarten teachers, parents are nowadays becoming too "protective" of their child. Parents often consult teachers as they worry about "the personality or academic performance of their child." I also heard that there are many parents who are torn between the wish to take care of the child more and the wish to give the child freedom to be independent. Today when working mothers are increasing, teachers said that they tell mothers who worry about their child's academic development not to start education at home too early because it may put excessive pressure on children. I feel that parents' worries about involvement that will enhance the development of their child and how to prepare their child for school, etc., are universal issues for parents of young children around the world.
In the next article, the actual situations of families and parent-child relation in Indonesia will be reported.
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- 2. Ikeda, Mitsuhiro. 2006. Ajia no shugakumae kyouiku [Pre-school Education in Asia]. Akashi Shoten.
- 3. Echigo, Tetsuji. 2011. Hoiku kyouiku wo kangaeru [Think about Child Rearing and Education]. Airi publishing.