by Swati Lee Kurnia, Jakarta
Maintaining gengsi (pride, prestige and appearance) is of the utmost importance for many people in Indonesia. People, especially in the big cities, try to maintain their gengsi in order to keep in with their peers, and please the people around them.
They are status and power oriented, with a strong need for external and social affirmation. Indonesian society is often described as collectivist, as compared to individualist. This is manifested in a close long-term commitment to the “”group””. The “”group”” could be a family, extended family or extended relationships. Acceptance from the whole group is extremely important.
Children acquire the habit of maintaining gengsi from their parents. Parents innately impart this behavior to their children by demanding that they be the best at school — unfortunately, often at any cost. Usually, parents will intrinsically impart the importance of gengsi in statements such as:
“”Son, be the best in school and do better than all your friends””.
“”Kid, get the highest mark so you can win the school prize.””
“”If you want to please me, get the highest score in the exam.””
At first, these statements may appear normal. You may say, “”Well, a lot of us grew up with those kinds of exhortations, and we are doing all right now.”” Actually, glorifying gengsi can seriously harm children. It can make children with limited abilities depressed and leave them feeling helpless. A number of recent juvenile suicides have been caused by this.
In maintaining gengsi, usually parents focus on the results, rather than on the process of learning. They only want to know about the results, the grades, the scores. They don’t really care about the effort their children put into learning.
Many parents are even willing to admit that their children are smart rather than diligent. They are proud that their children can get good scores in their exams without studying. This may result in laziness as the children will only want quick results. As a result, they will resort to shortcuts to get good results. They would rather cheat than act honestly, as cheating can frequently guarantee better results than studying.
The impact on the nation’s education as a whole is serious. We are educating an “”instant”” generation that does not care about the process, always demands quick results, and is prepared to maintain gengsi at all costs.
In education, a proper environment for learning is when children are orientated toward mastery. Children orientated toward mastery look for explanations that will help them overcome the problems they come up against.
They seek challenging tasks and pursue them in a mastery-oriented manner, whether their confidence in their abilities is high or low. They tend to continually increase their competencies. They are motivated to study because learning creates a feeling of competence, and satisfies their curiosity.
Children who are mastery orientated will automatically get good scores at school and everywhere else, for that matter. Even when they don’t get the highest scores, they are not dismayed, because their focus is on the satisfaction of learning, not on the scores.
We need to develop mastery orientation in our children by praising our children. In praising them, we should focus on their efforts, not on things that are beyond their control. In light of their innate need to maintain gengsi, some parents tend to praise their children for their intelligence, or their beauty, or their scores.
Intelligence, beauty and end scores are all things that are beyond the children’s control. They also tend to criticize their children for their lack of intelligence, and flaws that are beyond the children’s control. This is not fair. We have to praise them based on their efforts or something they can control. If children are praised because of the effort they put into achieve there successes, they will try harder to give their best efforts in the future. They will become mastery orientated when studying and in everything they do.
We also have to be wise in motivating our children to learn. Some parents force their children to excel in mathematics and science just to satisfy their own pride. This is mainly caused by the public perception that an intelligent child will be a math whiz. They send their children to special classes to up their scores in those two subjects. This is also not fair, as children come with different abilities and talents.
In motivating children to learn, we need to recognize their strengths and talents. If they don’t have mathematical intelligence, don’t force them to excel in mathematics. If you do, it will only make them frustrated. Instead, let them be themselves and focus on their strong points. Children who are encouraged to concentrate on what they excel at will automatically become mastery orientated.
The writer holds a doctoral degree from the University of Durham in England, and is executive director of graduate program of Persada Indonesia University YAI, Jakarta.