Saturday, 28 June 2008

ESL, is it important for Indonesian?

Globalization makes the world flatter, companies are now worldwide, opportunities came to the person who can cope with international markets. Realizing this fact of life, more and more Indonesian parents from the middle to high level of household financials are now searching for International or National Plus Schools. A well known education expert, Mochtar Buchori, said to the Jakarta Post (see the article International classes 'not better quality' in printed Jakarta Post, June 27, 2008): "Schools compete to achieve the international label, which actually widens the social gap further because it reduces equal educational opportunity for all children." He also stated his feeling that the education nowadays reminding him to the Dutch colonial era where schools were divided into social groups, like the Dutch schools to the lowest Indonesian schools.

The article was actually criticized the "quality" of "International" schools as there is no official agency who monitor the development and operation of the schools. But even if the schools charged higher for the "quality" offered than they should have asked, they are still serving a better foundation to the children than other schools in the remote areas. Some private schools are competing by giving more learning time for subjects in English. Other, which convey full international curriculum should always use English language in classes. But of course the quality offered would link to the teachers' competency in teaching (see my other blog post: Teaching Teachers is Important).

Some international school students who grabbed English language from their early years can fluently speak in English, but sometimes are not really capable to speak or to write in good Indonesian language. That's probably a negative aspect of the term "international" school. We can see that in the old generation who prefers to speak Dutch because that was the first language they were educated in their school days.

Then, should we see English language as an enemy to our own national language? No! Once again, we do need to balance the pride of being Indonesian and to ability to convey our ideas to others in other international languages, where English is one of them.

English as Second Language is important for Indonesian. We don't need to look to the high level above. Scholars are surely the high level who need ESL to venture into the global world. Yet, in the low level of the society it should be considered important too. We should also see the need to cope with ESL for other Indonesian workers, such as household helpers. Other foreign languages are important too, but that depends on the country destination of a worker. Those who will work in Korea will need the ability to understand Korean, while those who work in Hong Kong will need a little training in Cantonese. Those who work in Saudi Arabia will be better off if they understand Arabic words.

How our Indonesian female helpers are different from the Philippines' female helpers usually due to their inability to speak basic English. With low ability in ESL they don't know how to communicate with their employers or to communicate with the authority when they do need help. Helpers who can speak English and (or) other foreign languages usually were more successful than those who can't communicate in foreign languages. Usually, their basic salary will also be affected to that language skills, their ability to communicate can help rising their income standard.

Seeing from the helpers' case, we can guess how important ESL competency for the blue collar workers and white collar workers in facing the globalization. Language can be a plus point in the world of global workers.

There are some opinion stated that sending female migrant workers as household helpers is a disgrace to the country. Yet, with their low education background and the limited job opportunity in the country, these female workers have no other choices. Woman would not really willing to go to work overseas leaving her husband, leaving her children, or her old parents at home, but she need to go through it to provide a better future for her family. Globalization are not only for those who can enjoy better education, it should also work equally for these uneducated or low educated women. Improving the Indonesian education system, and adding the value of ESL in the elementary school education would perhaps help Indonesian workers to face the global and fast changing world.


JJS said...

Selamat pagi,

being centered on ESL (English as a second language), your article is understandably more detailed on that one aspect.

Seen from Europe, your report does bring out one striking aspect: although you do not give any figures, there seems to be a large number of Indonesians working outside your country, and it is in this respect that they need to speak a foreign language, mainly English.

As a regular reader of your blog, may I suggest 2 subjets for future articles by you?
- The Indonesian community in the world today: issues and perspectives.
- Education in Indonesia: between tradition and preparing the future.

I'm quite certain such articles, written by an Indonesian living in her country but having a great curiosity for the rest of the world, would be a valuable contribution to both her compatriots and to people across the Internet.


john cole said...

Within the USA, Spanish is gaining ground while English is losing ground, which makes sense if one thinks of how the Spaniards reached North America before the English did. Worldwide, economic power is shifting: India and some parts of Africa may help English keep playing a role in commerce. Personally, I find the English spoken in Asia to be more enlivening than the English spoken in the USA or Great Britain. Writers from India, for instance, are doing well in the so-called English-speaking world, maybe because they bring freshness to what they say.

Anonymous said...

Nice to read :) Unfortunately, Indonesian migrant workers still treated as commodity.. It's our challenge how to build Indonesian work force character become more valuable. ESL perhaps become top priority but character building is more necessary...

love and prayer
Inge Sundoko

Retty N. Hakim said...

Thanks for all the comments. This is a school holiday so I can't as active as usual... I do hope that I'll be able to write more about this issue...

Joining blog writing competitions made me busy and was a little bit careless about being a citizen reporter...writing blog is always easier than writing an objective report...

Thank you for encouraging me to keep writing!