Minister of Education and Culture to simplify National Curriculum

Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Anwar Makarim. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Over the past 6 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has exerted effects on various sectors, including education. Many schools, colleges, and other educational institutions are temporarily closed because of the disease. The Government has tried to compensate by implementing remote education, but it has its own problems as well. In order to resolve these issues, the Government adjusts zoning for face-to-face learning. The procedure for making the decision regarding face-to-face learning will be made in stages as in the previous Joint Decrees (Surat Keputusan Bersama – “SKB”): The Regional Government, the Regional Educational Office, and schools have full authority to determine whether their respective region or school can implement face-to-face learning or not. “Therefore, it does not mean a school that is located in a zone that is newly-declared a Green or Yellow zone is obliged to restart face-to-face learning,” said Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Anwar Makarim in the webinar “Adjusting Learning Policies During the COVID-19 Pandemic” held in Jakarta on Friday (07/08/2020). 

The Minister reiterates that even though a region has reverted to a Green or Yellow Zone, the Regional Government grants its permission, and the school has restarted face-to-face learning, parents or guardians can still decide to keep their children back and on home learning. The latest data per 3 August 2020 from shows that 57% of students are located in Red and Orange Zones, while the remaining 43% are in the Yellow and Green Zones. The Minister states that the current COVID-19 pandemic condition does not allow for normal learning activities. Literally hundreds of thousands of schools are closed down to prevent further infection. About 68 million students study from home, and about four million teachers teach remotely. 

The adjustments to the stages of face-to-face learning for elementary and middle educational units in Green and Yellow Zones, according to the Ministry’s Fourth SKB, are performed simultaneously, as the age groups for these two levels are close. Students in early education can (re)start face-to-face learning two months after elementary and middle education restarts at the earliest. “Furthermore, considering that practical learning is the core skill required in vocational schools, vocational students are allowed to learn face-to-face in all Zones with strict implementation of health protocols,” the Minister said. 

Madrasah or Islamic boarding schools and other boarding schools in the Yellow and Green Zones can reopen their dormitories and implement face-to-face learning following a transition period. The number of persons allowed for dormitories with 100 students or fewer during the first month of the transition period is 50%, increasing to 75% in the second month, and then back to full capacity starting in the new normal period. The number of persons allowed for dormitories with more than 100 students during the first month of the transition period is 25%, increasing to 50% in the second month, increasing again to 75% starting on the new normal period in the third month, and then back to full capacity in the fourth month. “We will constantly evaluate everything as we prioritize health and safety. The Educational Office and Health Offices in the provinces, regencies, and municipalities, along with Heads of Educational Units, will continue to coordinate with the COVID-19 Mitigation Acceleration Task Force to monitor the level of COVID-19 risk in the regions. If there are indications that conditions are unsafe, i.e. there are positive COVID-19 confirmed cases, or if the regional risk level increased to Orange or Red level, the educational unit must be closed again,” Minister Nadiem said. 

Nadiem further stated that schools in specific conditions can use a curriculum that matches the learning needs of their students. This is meant to allow educational units some flexibility in determining the curriculum that matches them the best. These schools can select one out of the three curricular options provided by the Ministry: continuing to refer to the National Curriculum, using an emergency curriculum, or simplifying the curriculum independently. 

During the pandemic, students are not obliged to completely cover the emergency curriculum prepared by the Ministry of Education and Culture as a simplification of the National Curriculum. This curriculum has reduced basic competence items in each course lesson, allowing teachers and students to focus on essential competences and prerequisite for continuing to the next level of learning. Teachers are also not imposed with a face-to-face work target, as the Government has relaxed regulations in order to allow teachers to successfully impart learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the same event, Minister of Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi explained the requirement for madrasah (Islamic schools) or pesantrens (Islamic boarding schools) to implement face-to-face learning. “Madrasahs may choose to implement face-to-face learning with their individual considerations. However, they must strictly observe protocols to keep everyone safe,” he said. “This decision was made jointly among myself, the Minister of Education and Culture, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Home Affairs. I will support the Minister of Education and Culture’s statement. Let us support this together, let us bring it to a success the best way we can together.” 

Meanwhile, Education Observer Darmaningtyas concludes that simplifying the coverage of the basic competencies to be learned by students during the Coronavirus pandemic is the right step to take. It’s true that the amount of knowledge received by the students will be lessened, but it is better than not learning anything. “Because the lessons are being abridged, we can still use existing books instead of making or getting new ones. Students can learn more from the rest of the books if they choose to,” he said. (dan)