Learning via TVRI: 50 years’ regression of human progress

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Indra Charismiadji Director of Education, Vox Populi Institute Indonesia

IO – I was stunned when I heard the statement of the Minister of Education and Culture, during his Work Meeting with Commission X of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) of RI, on 23 September 2020. At the time, he reported the success of the Belajar Dari Rumah (“Study at Home”) program broadcast through TVRI. He went on to say that the program will continue even after the pandemic ends, as he claimed that television is an important media channel that effectively develops literacy, numeracy, culture, character education, and English language among our children. He expects to spend IDR 209 billion of taxpayer money for continuing this program in 2021.

Why was I surprised? As a fellow alumnus of American colleges, the Minister and I would tend to instinctively view and study the educational policies of Uncle Sam – not to merely copy and paste their existing policies, but to adapt them as reference.

The United States Department of Education has performed important research on the use of technology in education, including the use of television, through its Directorate of Educational Technology. I quote an official release from the United States Government on the use of television for education:

“Studies on the use of television for education shows that children who consume content passively for prolonged periods show bad effects in the form of excessive body weight, bad sleeping habits, and slow linguistic development. Other studies show that rapidly-phased cartoon/animated shows directly generate negative im-pact to children’s ability of execution. ‘Ability of execution’ refers to cognitive and regulatory skills in problem solving with clear purpose, working memory, obstruction of inhibitory response control, and flexibility in distraction.”

The United States’ national educational system policy of refraining from the use of the television medium was taken after various scientific studies carried out throughout the country over the years. As a stakeholder in national education, the Minister of Education and Culture should be able to differentiate between active learn-ing and passive learning. Television forms a passive learning pattern, be-cause there is no interaction between teachers and students or interaction of students with one another. There is no feedback from what the students do. Everything is one-sided com-munication. This passive learning pattern will not succeed in turning out students with a Pancasilaistic profile, such as the Minister himself announced earlier – ones with ability of critical reasoning, creativity, coop-erative nature, etc. 

If television serves as an alterna-tive medium of learning due to the restrictions of the pandemic, it is still acceptable. However, if the Minister of Education and Culture wants to make it a permanent national policy, one that requires the spending of bil-lions of taxpayer money, he should be able to convince stakeholders by citing academic reviews that prove that education through television can develop literacy, numeracy, culture, character, and English effectively in the 21st century. 

What we all need to recall is that now is no longer the 1970s/’80s, a time when television was a medi-um that stimulated motivation for learning as stated in the report of the study titled The Impact of Television in Education (Anderson, Lavigne, Hanson, 2012). Television is simply not the best medium to be used to turn Indonesia’s children into ad-vanced humans in the fourth Indus-trial Revolution era, one that is dom-inated by digital technology.

The Government should concen-trate on reducing the existing digital gaps among our citizens and adjust to existing challenges, especially in education. The 21st century is the era of innovations, a time when a single gadget must be able to perform several functions, instead of being a mere single-consumption apparatus like a television or radio. They must also be able to produce, like comput-ers. The Ministry of Education and Culture’s use of TVRI as the primary tool of disseminating learning sets Indonesia back 40 to 50 years.

With its difficult task of generat-ing intelligent citizens by spreading education equally throughout the country, the Ministry of Education and Culture should manage its tasks using a more academic approach instead of a political one. All pol-icies should be based on the result of scientific studies and not on as-sumptions and personal preferences. It is the future of Indonesia that is at stake here. If malpractice occurs in the management of our national educational system, we will lose our demographic bonus and gain a demo-graphic disaster instead.