by Henri Lois
Critical cognitive skills, multicultural communication skills and computer competencies are some of the criteria today’s teachers must fulfill. According to Kenneth Cock (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 11, 2009), an ideal teacher prepared for the modern globalized world must possess at least three critical skill sets: the understanding of international perspectives and cross-cultural differences; up-to-date teaching methods enhanced with leading-edge technology; and the ability to develop leadership and critical thinking skills, character and moral values in students.
However, among the 2.7 million teachers in Indonesia, only 300,000 are certified. Some problems of Indonesian teachers include insufficient training, limited education qualifications, poor remuneration and impotent teacher development support and facilities.
Teachers also find themselves competing against the unlimited world of the Internet.
Students nowadays are immersed in social networking tools including Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia. Indonesia should prepare itself for its new generation of teachers. This would include information technology competencies, for instance; and the availability of digital textbooks as part of the revolution in educational technology.
At Empire High School, Arizona, students use computers provided by their school for lessons, to do their homework and hear podcasts of their teachers’ science lectures. Furthermore, at Cienega High School, students use their laptops for several English, history and science classes.
Students are wired differently these days. They are digitally nimble. With computer and Internet support, students can be online, download data, print, customize, and even embed video.
US President Barack Obama has sent his proposal to invest in creating free online courses to improve community colleges. Around the world, hundreds of universities now use open-source courses.
The use of computers for learning will certainly reduce paper consumption, create time effectiveness and increase productivity.
However, for Indonesian schools, the use of digital books and computers are still far from expectations. With approximately 230 million citizens, only 86 percent are able to read. Furthermore, it’s important to consider that reading is not yet become the part of our culture.
Compared to people in other countries, Indonesian citizens are considered “non-aggressive” readers; while the most productive workers are readers, only a small percentage of the overall population reads. Newspaper sales statistics bear this out. The percentage of our citizens who read newspapers is low, as is the percentage of Internet users.
Reading must become integrated into the lifestyles of all Indonesian citizens if we want to become a better nation. The same principle applies to Internet use and digital books applications. Knowledge is power, but it is only going to be powerful if we apply it in our lives.
When Goh Chok Tong, then prime minister of Singapore, was asked what strategy Singapore had applied to become a developed country, he said simply, “Education”. The root of education is inculcating a culture of reading. Books are the key to Indonesia developing as a country. Reading is in itself part of education: reading nurtures the joy of learning, and the more people learn, the better a country’s education system.
But what is the use of digital books when the Internet access speeds are too slow or out of reach for most citizens? The Internet has revolutionized the dissemination of information and knowledge. It, enables people not only to transmit information in an instant but also to store and access massive amounts of information and data.
When people are using the Internet more extensively to get information, they are not necessarily thinking more systematically or creatively. Paradoxically, we may be living in an information society, but we are not necessarily becoming a learning society.
The writer is a teacher of Citra Kasih Elementary School, Jakarta