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Seeking a Suitable Education in an Unstable Era

Sekolah Pantai (Beach School)
By Alifia Afflatus, 16, Indonesia

Hi! This is Alifia from Marvelous Little Discovery. I’m coming back with a new article I want to share with my homeschooler friends all over the world.

Don’t get me wrong about the title – what I mean by “unstable era” is that in my country, Indonesia, the government changes policies and regulations too frequently. The switch of policies does not seem to lead to a better circumstance, especially when education and culture are involved in the chaotic national system.

A bunch of complicated aspects of a country needs extra effort to handle those urban upheavals. But there should be a point – or root – where it strongly affects conditions the most. Let’s say education. It seems basic, but how?

The Role of Education

In fact, social evidences happen after human actions, and human actions are based on how they think and decide. In this point, education plays a role on establishing – and somehow altering – someone’s mindset and character. In a bigger scale of illustration, look at how politicians, teachers, civil servants, businessmen, even stay-at-home mothers need education before and during their “sacred” roles, since everyone who gets involved in social life contributes something to a country.

As the paragraphs above are merely theories, how about what happened already in real life?

Sovereign/Independent Children Congress

Thus, being a homeschooler who doesn’t plunge into public life 24/7, I decided to join a youth-camp-styled national event. It was organized by Alternative Education Network in Indonesia, October 26-28th, seemingly to go along with the national Youth’s Vow day on the 28th. The camp was divided into two events, the one inviting adults (parents and educators), and the other one specialized for 12-17 aged youths.

Sovereign parental instruction, popularly known as homeschooling, is the sovereign ability of parents to independently educate their own children without government oversight. Having been in a number of youth educational gatherings, I never thought the camp which was titled “Sovereign/Independent Children Congress” would actually turn into a real congress proceeding in Genting Village, Central Java.

The Congress Over Alternative Education

The event involved over 30 youths and children from all around Indonesia. Although the congress topic – beside nationalism – was alternative education, even some students from public schools also managed to participate in the remarkable opportunity to meet new friends, share their stories, listen to other youths’ voices, and to be listened to themselves. Not only homeschoolers, nature schoolers, informal schoolers, or other alternative education style practitioners, the local Genting village youths themselves undoubtedly were present.

The national gathering attempted to promote nationalism with a bunch of activities I can’t probably mention altogether. But I’d like to highlight on the most important chapter of the gathering: the congress over alternative education.

Lots of discussions were conducted to engage everyone equally so we could hear their voices. The first day was made to build a concept, orientation and outlook over our two big topics: nationalism and alternative education. Since you readers and I can relate to this globally, I’d like to talk about the alternative education only.

“I’m an Everywhere Schooler”

It was a pleasure for me to say, “I’m an everywhere schooler. I learn from everyone and everywhere, and I have no classroom wall as a boundary. Even if I’m homeschooled, my house wall doesn’t limit me as well. And even in this place, with you guys, I am now learning.”

Presumably, the youths here generally had the same concept about a good education system – that the system should not synchronize the diversity of learners; i.e. a learner who can only learn autodidactically, a learner who can’t be serious, an audiovisual or kinesthetic learner, someone who only wants to train football, a girl who wants to be a poem maestro, a boy who wants to be a quantum computer developer, or a number of creative entrepreneurs. A restricted style of education unmistakably cannot fit them all.

Regulation Needs to Change

Now, regulation needs to change. Apparently, as I heard from some students who do public school – but tend to focus on developing themselves with practical projects like joining literacy communities and youth forums – to change we need to approach parents and citizens as well as engaging the government education ministry.

The reasons are, as my friend explained, that the long school hours don’t actually fulfill their education needs but instead bloat them up with uninteresting and unnecessary materials. Another classic reason is that lots of parents compare their children to other people, instead of showing appreciation for their talent and diversity.

The Declaration

But change how? The congress attempted a creative way to make a change; they would provide a space for these youths to compose a declaration. Therefore, we could propose the declaration to the government – in fact, a general director from cultural and education ministry attended the event on day two and made a promising speech to consistently hear youths’ voice and fulfill their demand. The declaration could also be proposed to parents, educators, and citizens.

On October 27th, a small number of 15-17 years old learners from various backgrounds – I was one of them – committed in a special smaller gathering. It was awesome being directed to join the small gathering and compose the declaration – which should be certain, compact, and encompassing a wide range of subtopics.

Alternative Education Discrimination

Striving to embody and represent youth’s demands, the declaration asks that education demand government to consistently and earnestly introduce alternative education to the communities, and not to discriminate acquisition of education certificate or diploma (between public school practitioners and homeschoolers).

There was another homeschooler who I agreed with over discrimination arising on the legalization of homeschooling in Indonesia. Homeschoolers have more difficulty obtaining a high school diploma. For example, he said to receive the certificate, somehow a homeschooler needs a longer time than public schoolers. To shorten the time, they have to pay approximately 100 USD, which is not cheap in Indonesia.

In 2015 and 2016, I experienced how education institutions have no sufficient knowledge about alternative education. When I came and said, “I’m homeschooled, and I’m legal according to the policy,” the ministry of education sent a mandatory local department to go with me to the awarding. That didn’t make it easy to get the attention from the institution that I currently needed to accompany me in a national awarding. Later on in 2018, I was disqualified to join a local tournament for students because people thought homeschooling is basically like a study course.

False Stigmas & Unrealistic Expectations

Another point asserts that alternative education shouldn’t be given a wrong stigma – whether it’s homeschooling, art school, literacy communities, or reading communities. False stigmas mostly mention that alternative education practitioners can’t be easily processed on enrolling in university, or that alternative education is for celebrity kids, inclusive children, or “bad” teens. Whereas in fact, it’s not nice to even stigmatize children as “smart” or “stupid.” Everyone deserves the same quality of education. Even lots of students with a good track record on education, believe the system they’re currently stuck in is an unfair system for this generation.

A number of teens who spoke about the case were in a position where they study in a public school, but are absent a lot to perform important agendas; i.e. national forum, competitions, youth projects – and school is not their thing. Yet the system insists that you get A+ on every subject when you only want to be great in history instead of math, physics instead of French or Spanish.

My friend told me, “we’re not studying to be able to measure the velocity of a mouse running, but in fact we’re made to learn that in school.” Well, fair enough.

Not only pointing out the school system, some of these voices also addressed parents. For example, after long school hours, many parents still demand their children to study again and take additional courses, which is stressing out. This case was written in point six and eight of the declaration, requesting family as the basic social institution to listen and understand the children and youths, and that they have diverse potentials, interests and talents.

Alifia Afflatus is a 16-year-old homeschooler who lives in Indonesia.

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