by Suroso, Yogyakarta
The number of schools offering international curricula continue to increase from year to year, offering more options for parents to provide world-class education to their children without having to send them abroad.
Aside from “”real”” international schools, which are generally provided for expatriate children, national-plus schools also provide quality education to Indonesian children through a combined national and international curriculum.
The international schools generally offer an internationally accredited educational program like the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate Diploma program, or IB, which is recognized by the world’s top universities such as Harvard, Cambridge and Australia’s Monash University.
The IB Diploma provides university credit through a worldwide program involving accredited external examiners. The IB program offers a broad range of courses — including some university-level courses, such as economics, philosophy, psychology and advanced mathematics and sciences — spanning modern languages, world literature, Asian history and fine arts.
The IB is particularly essential for students intending to pursue tertiary education in the UK or Europe, where universities generally require advanced study — such as the A- or O-levels — for entry, and IB credits are applicable.
Students may enroll in either a full- or partial IB program.
As for national-plus schools, they began to emerge in the 1990s, offering both foreign and local children an alternative world-class education.
Unlike international schools, not all national-plus schools have adopted the IB Diploma program, but most provide an international curriculum in affiliation with prestigious educational institutions from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand or Singapore, in addition to the national curriculum.
Their core curricula consist of Bahasa Indonesia and English, social sciences, information technology, the basic sciences, arts and sports. Students are generally led to explore those subjects best suited to their interests and talents.
In all learning activities, students study their own religion, as is regulated by national law. Students can also try courses such as the arts — popular and classical music, theater and fine arts — and physical education, and other activities.
Finding an international or national-plus school that truly offers students world-class education is, however, still requires some assessment. Many schools claim that they are national-plus due to the absence of the government’s standardization.
One simple way to determine this is to check the curriculum, faculty, teaching methods, facilities, management and alumni.
Without internationally certified teachers, national-plus schools do not seem to produce quality graduates. Such teachers — whether Indonesian or foreign — are not only fluent in English, but also have at least a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline. It is also important to check whether the national-plus school has an administrator with a background in curriculum development, preferably from a Western university, as they have the most advanced programs in the field.
As for extracurricular and other learning activities, they should all promote human rights, democracy, pluralism and multiculturalism.
Besides such qualities, parents also need to pay attention to the teaching methods employed, the facilities available and to noticeable changes in their children during their studies, as well as the vision, mission and goals of the school.
Particularly in regards international schools, parents must remember not to be swayed by the “”international”” in the school’s name, as international schools also have varying educational standards. The best on offer are accredited every two years or so by an independent, international scholastic body and are ranked accordingly among all international schools in the world.
For national-plus schools, see whether they have an established cooperation with an overseas counterpart.
This way, parents will not be lured merely by the leaflets and brochures distributed by the schools.
Parents also need to pay a visit to the school to observe classes, speak to teachers and administrative staff, tour the facilities and obtain some feedback from alumni.
Educational expenses will appear more reasonable if the school actually fulfills students’ educational needs and provide the necessary support in learning and development toward successful academic and professional careers.
A good school is capable of integrating classroom studies and community service activities in connection with a variety of academic subjects. It has outbound programs such as visits to a nursing home, orphanages, street-children foundations and other social welfare institutions. Other programs may offer cultural, agricultural and environmental field trips of several days that provide an opportunity for students to stay with a villager’s family in a remote region.
Many schools also offer community service programs in which students provide aid to victims of a natural disaster. And of course, there are the ever-popular environmental programs, such as helping out at an orangutan rehabilitation center.
Modern society certainly realizes the importance of investment in education, and it goes without saying that quality does not come cheap; on the other hand, it must also be remembered that expensive costs do not necessary mean the education provided is one of high quality.
Producing children with intelligence, good manners and disposition, as well as with spiritual and moral awareness, requires good facilities, a supportive and open environment and a solid, accredited curriculum.
There are no grounds for parents to worry that going to an international school will erode their children’s sense of cultural and spiritual identity — obviously, their ideas may change and evolve, but a scholastic environment is only one component of their overall education. Other fundamental aspects of their growth must be taught at home and within their community.
The writer is a senior lecturer of the Faculty of Language and Art at the State University of Yogyakarta