English Back on the Books for Indonesia's Elementary Schools

The Education and Culture Ministry has done an about-face on a previous plan to scrap English lessons from the nation’s elementary school curriculum.

“English will still be part of elementary school lessons,” said Ibnu Hamad, a spokesman for the ministry, in a release obtained by the Jakarta Globe. “Just as in the 2006 curriculum, English will still be categorized under local subjects. So the school can adjust to use it, as has been going on all this time.”

Previously, a senior ministry official had said the government was in the process of drafting a new curriculum that contained only six subjects: religion, nationalism, Indonesian language, math, art and sport, with English language lessons on the chopping block.

Musliar Kasim, the deputy minister of education and cultural, said it was better for elementary school students to focus on studying the Indonesian language.

“Even kindergarten students are forced to take English courses. To put it bluntly, it is haram [forbidden under Islam]. Feel pity on the children,” he said last month, expressing concern for a course load that he deemed too rigorous.

Ibnu said the new curriculum to be used in the coming academic year would emphasize a balance of attitude, skills and knowledge competencies. The government will give the plan a trial run in some schools by the end of this month.

“One of the characteristics of the 2013 curriculum, mainly for elementary school, is thematic integration,” Ibnu said. “Under this approach, science and social studies will be widely discussed in all subjects. Science will be discussion material of Indonesian language and math [lessons]. Social studies will be discussion material within Pancasila and citizenship [PPKN] lessons, and Indonesian language [lessons].”

The ministry on Sept. 27 announced that science and social studies would be removed from the nation’s elementary school curriculum, a decision that was ultimately walked back.

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