Character Education at Schools in Indonesia


Dion Efrijum Ginanto

Department of Educational Administration, Michigan State University


Taufik Mulyadin

Department of Educational, Research, and Evaluation, Ohio University


Kristian Adi Putra

Department of English, the University of Arizona


One of the main arguments of curriculum renewal in Indonesia, focusing more on character building and integrated learning, is the escalating demand of curriculum adaptation to social phenomenon happening in the society, in this case juvenile delinquency (Kemendikbud, 2013). Curriculum 2006, known as KTSP, was regarded, besides outdated and overloaded, unable to negotiate such a social complexity. There has also been a debate in the society concerning on whether or not the curriculum needs to be renewed and whether or not the new curriculum will result in the betterment of the quality of Indonesian education. In one hand, the Ministry of Education asserts that the new curriculum will benefit student, for its main focus is on character-based education. But on the other hand, both the teachers and the systems are not ready yet. In this paper, we would like to discuss (1) the historical perspectives of the teaching of character building in formal schools’ curriculum in Indonesia, (2) the challenges of the implementation of the teaching of character building in Curriculum 2013, (3) some possible approaches that might contribute to evaluate the draft of the curriculum. We use literature review as the method of collecting the data. We study Indonesian curriculum starting from 1945, 1947, 1955, 1966, 1968, 1973, 1975, 1984, 1994, 2004, 2006, and 2013. In this paper, we reveal that there is the decreasing value of the use of the character education in teaching and learning process, and therefore, the stakeholders need to work really hard to rejuvenate the principals of the character buildings in the schools.


Key words: Character Education, Curriculum Renewal



I. Introduction


The problem of moral deficiency and destructive behavior of youth has become a world concern nowadays. There is a little debate of which whether or not we come back to the conventional method of education in which more focusing on moral and character of the students. Sojourner (2012) asserted that it is no doubt true that even for the American educational system was originally focused just as much (or more) on the development of students’ morality, virtue and citizenship as it was on improving student acumen in reading, writing and arithmetic. Sojourner (2012) continues that it is also true that by the middle of 20th century, schools deliberately chose to back away from the traditional role as character educators. In line with this, Berkowitz and Bier (2005) wrote that character education is not optional in the school; it is inevitable and therefore merits intentional focus and priority status in the school.


It is totally true that moral education is not something new. Moral education or character education is as old as the education itself. However, it has different challenges for every years and decades. Therefore, the spirit of character education should be renewed and updated in order to protect the students from the negative behavior as resulted from negative influences through the media and other external sources prevalent in today’s culture. Studies from American Family Research Council (1990) shows that children spend only 38.5 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their parents, while they spend 1,500 hours watching television (CEP, 1999). With the development of information and technology, the writers assume that students will spent more on their quality time in addition to watching TV: social media activities, such as facebook, twitter, skype, etc.


Given the importance of character education as abovementioned, the Government of the Republic of Indonesia also sees the essence of character education to be rebirthed and re-implemented in education system within the country. The Ministry of Education (MOE) of the Republic of Indonesia is implementing its new curriculum named 2013 Curriculum. One or the ultimate goal of this new curriculum is to improve the moral and character of the students. The spirit of the new curriculum obviously has a positive aims, however with the immature planning and socialization of its implementation; the new curriculum has led to some controversy. Meanwhile, the demands of the character reforms of the education system in Indonesia, and even in this world are pretty high; the dilemma of new curriculum implementation and the character education mandate is raised. In addition to the immature planning of the new curriculum, the absence of readiness of the teachers as the front-liners of the curriculum implementer is believed as the most problem in implementing the new curriculum. This paper will discuss what character education is and its rationale; the challenges of the implementation of the teaching of character building in Curriculum 2013; and some possible approaches that might contribute to re-implementing the character education in Indonesia.


II. The Notion of Character Education


CEP (2012) defines character education as “a national movement creating schools that foster ethical, responsible and caring young people by modeling and teaching good character through emphasis on universal values that we all share. It is the intentional, proactive effort by schools, districts and states to instill their students’ important core ethical values such as caring, honesty, fairness, responsibility and respect for self and others. Character education is not a “quick fix”. It provides long-term solutions that address moral, ethical and academic issues of growing concern to our society and key to safety of our schools” (p. 151). CEP (2012) really stressed on the long-term process as we invested on education; which is really true, because there are a lot of people who want to see quick changes without considering that a change need a process.


Berkowitz and Bier (2005) put some definition of character education on their paper as follows:

  1. Character education is teaching children about basic human values, including honesty, kindness, generosity, courage, freedom, equality, and respect. The goal is to raise children to become morally responsible, self-disciplined citizens. (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, in Berkowitz and Bier, 2005)
  2. Character education is the deliberate effort to develop good character based on core virtues that are good for individual and good for society. (Thomas Lickona in Berkowitz and Bier, 2005)
  3. Character education is any deliberate approach by which school personnel, often in conjunction with parents and community members, help children and youth become caring, principled, and responsible. (National Commission on Character Education, in Berkowitz and Bier, 2005)


Meanwhile, The Education Ministry of Indonesia defines character education as a conscious effort to make students understand, care about, and internalize the values and norms of the social life, in order to create a better personality (Basic Education Directorate, 2011). Given the abovementioned definition of character education, we can conclude that character education is a deliberate and conscious approach to develop children character through core (and/or local) ethical values, with the ultimate goal of the formation of students’ integrity.


III. Moral Problems


Suyatno (2010) said a number of inappropriate behavior within students is increasing rapidly for example there are many of those who dealt drugs, promiscuity, conflict and thuggery. In line with this, Berkowitz and Bier (2005) categorized at least three behavioral risks of the students: drug use, sexual behavior, violence and aggression, and general misbehaviors. Moreover, those affect negatively education, particularly students. In addition, the policy of national exam as a standard of graduation causes dishonest behavior performed even in organized by teachers, students and others. Besides, corruptions regarding to the education budget at the ministry or educational institutions are reported massively in the mass media. The report by Samani & Hariyanto (2011) provides a surprising fact through national data of inappropriate behavior performed by students in 2010-2011. 180,000 students were truant every day for fear of bullies, more than one third of students reported if they were not safe at school; 54% of junior high school students and 70% of senior high school students admitted they did cheating during exams; and 47% of senior high school students also admitted they ever did shoplifting in department stores in recent 12 months.

Trisnawati (2012) asserted that there are a lot of problems regarding the decreasing moral of students in Indonesia; such as sexual misbehavior, violence and aggression (brawl), drug use, and other general misbehaviors. For sexual misbehavior, there are a lot of shocking news about the spreading of adult contents movies by students from middle and high school, even those from Islamic boarding schools. For students violence and aggression, in Jakarta for instance, a report form Metro Jaya central police listed that were 128 case of students brawl in 2010, and there was extreme increasing in the following year to 330 cases, and the brawls have killed 82 students (Syatiri, 2012). For drug use, Rachmawati (2011), a Tempo journalist wrote on her news report in that from 70% of four million of drug users in Indonesia is confirmed as students. They varied from age 7-14, even the drug use has threatened to the primary students.

Lickona (1992), an expert from Cortland University known as the Father of American Character Education, stated that future of a nation is heading to collapse if 10 troubling trends can be found among youth, as follows; rising youth violence; increasing dishonesty (lying, cheating, and stealing); growing disrespect for authority; peer cruelty; a resurgence of bigotry on school campuses, from preschool through higher education; a decline in the work ethic; sexual precocity; a growing self-centeredness and declining civic responsibility; an increase in self-destructive behavior; and ethical illiteracy. Based on the data and report discussed previously (Anwar, 2010; Suyatno, 2010; Samani & Hariyanto), what Lickona said is easily found in Indonesian students. This is the reason to say fairly the condition of education in Indonesia to be “emergency”.


In the education realm, the broken windows theory (Plank et al, 2009) is possibly able to explain the large affected students who behave inappropriately. It believes that students are signaled by disorder or rule-breaking and that they, in turn, imitate the disorder. Hence, multidimensional crisis regarding to morality that spreads massively among students indicate that the strengthening of character education is a must to be conducted so that they as generation successor for the future leadership of the nation could be saved from moral decay.



IV. Challenges of Character Education in Indonesia


What is the importance of character education to be explicitly stated in whole subjects of a curriculum? Has it been covered in every type and level of school education through religious and civic education, has not it? Even the national education goal set on Law Number 20, year 2003 on National Education System is really ideal that “ The National Education functions to develop the capacity, character, and civilization of the nation for enhancing its intellectual capacity, and is aimed to developing learners’ potentials so that they become persons imbued with human values who are faithful and pious to one and only God; who posses morals and noble character; who are healthy, knowledgeable, competent, creative, independent; and as citizens, are democratic and responsible”. Accordingly, without necessarily to put it in explicit, this goal was integrated in any curriculum that was ever implemented in Indonesia from curriculum 1947 to curriculum 2006 as a hidden curriculum (Anwar, 2010).


The facts show that in the last twenty years the behavior of many people is not in line with norm values. Those include selfishness to use any ways to fulfill personal interest including that violate laws such as corruption and blackmail; illegal shortcut use to achieve goals; conflict and suspicion due to diversity; unfair competition in any field of work; physical violence use in addressing problems, and the culture of shameless and antipathy in treating others



V. Curriculum 2013


The presence of curriculum 2013 covering character education dominantly brings a hope for the betterment of students, particularly their morality. However, several significant problems in the curriculum 2013 still occurred (Kemendikbud, 2013). Those include socialization which are less massive, textbooks which are not ready, instructors or trainers of teachers whose inadequate competence, insufficient quantity and quality of training for teachers, and evaluation tools for character which are not yet clear. Some of these constraints indicate that the curriculum 2013 has not been ready to be implemented. These constraints will impact students negatively and reduce the value of nobility of the curriculum to build a generation with noble character. Instead of being a solution, the curriculum is even to be a new problem.


VI. Character Education in Curriculum 2013


The history of Indonesian education began in 1945, when Indonesia got its independence from Japan colonization. Since 1945, Indonesia has used 12 different curriculums, which are in order implemented in 1945, 1947, 1955, 1966, 1968, 1973, 1975, 1984, 1994, 2004, 2006, and 2013. Character education, in this case, has specifically been characterized by the teaching of religion and civics at formal schools since 1945 and by the presence of guidance and counseling service since 1975. Guidance and counseling, either as a subject or a learning support service, was firstly implemented informally without national curriculum instruction in 1958 in a high school in Jogjakarta. In 1975, the Ministry of Education finally included the recommendation that elementary, junior, and senior high schools must have guidance and counseling center. A year later, it was also recommended to vocational schools. To support this program, UPI had basically opened the Department of Guidance and Counseling in 1963 and started producing guidance and counseling specialists in the area of education. Few years later, some other universities in Indonesia began to offer similar programs.


Along the journey of character education in Indonesia, guidance and counseling center, together with teachers, has played a key role in students’ character building. Guidance and counseling center is the place where students’ code of conduct is created, and where students who violate it are sent to. In Curriculum 1985, the task of the center was added as a place where students, in this case high school students, are guided to think of what college degree and career they want to pursue in the future. Therefore, in other word, the main tasks of the center are to deal with students who have both academic and non academic problems at school, and to guide students to specify what they want to study after they graduate from school. In the Curriculum 1994 up to now, the task of guidance and counseling is not only done by guidance and counseling center, but also teachers. A certain teacher, usually a classroom advisor, is given a task to supervise and guide a certain number of students. They work collaboratively with counseling centers, in dealing with students’ conduct as well as students’ academic and non-academic problems and progresses.


As also mentioned previously, however, many have pointed out the phenomenon of social demoralization and social unrest in almost all sectors of life in Indonesia. It is for these reasons that the Ministry of Indonesia decided to renew Curriculum 2006, as the revised version of Curriculum 2004, into Curriculum 2013, which focuses not only on students’ academic achievement but also character building. Kemendiknas (2013) mentions four basis of the development of Curriculum 2013: (1) future challenges in globalization, the advancement of technology, environmental problems, the convergence of science and technology, and knowledge-based economic development, (2) skills required to face futures involving the ability to communicate, think critically and wisely, include morality perspective in a social problem, become an effective citizen, and be tolerant and respectful to different opinion, and (3) emerging social phenomenon in the society, e.g. teenager delinquency, drugs use, corruption, plagiarism, cheating on tests, and other social unrests, and (4) public assumption that Indonesian education has primarily concerned more on cognitive aspect, but not on character building.


The questions are then how the design and the direction of character education in Curriculum 2013 are different from those in KBK in 2004 and KTSP in 2006, and  to what extent the new design of character education in Curriculum 2013 will make a change and effectively addresses the four issues above. In addition to functioning teachers as a counselor, maintaining the teaching of religion and civics, and developing guidance and counseling center as the support of learning service at school, Curriculum 2013 has made it explicit that every teacher at school is a counselor, rather than just a teacher. In other word, they are not only expected to teach subject matters, but also life and religious value, as in the curriculum document, the four core competences to achieve in all subjects are divided into 4: two competences are concerned on character building, while the two others are on cognitive aspect. However, the first two core competences are expected to be reflected only in the classroom and not assessed, while the two others are going to be assessed, e.g. in mid-term test, final semester test, national examination, as arguably these competences are more measurable.


The pattern has been clear that the Ministry of Education has tried to maximize all potentials at school to collaboratively work on the issue. However, we may also argue whether or not in the previous curriculum, teachers did not teach life value to their students, so that it needs to be explicitly stated in the new curriculum, and whether social problem happening in the society is fully the responsibility (or assumed to be the product) of Indonesian education system. If it is so, then it is likely that the design of character education in KTSP is the same as in Curriculum 2013, which we might also hypothesize that it will lead to the same direction and outcome. We argue that what has been missing in character education in Indonesia is in between school and home, which has opened the possibility for students to get negative influence. It therefore becomes the focus of what we want to suggest to improve Curriculum 2013.


VII. Alternative Solution of Character Education


  1. 1.     Ethnopedagogy in Character Education


Based on an analysis of the dimensions of culture and education, Alwasilah et al. (2009) viewed ethnopedagogy as local wisdom-based educational practices in various domains and emphasized that knowledge or local wisdom as a source of innovation and skills that can be empowered for the community’s welfare. Ethnopedagogy provides a description of which how knowledge (local wisdom) is produced, stored, applied, maintained and generated. In this case, local wisdom in general has the characteristics, as follows: 1) experience based; 2) examined repetitively for centuries; 3) adaptable to the present culture; 4) integrated to the daily practices of people and institutions; 5) commonly done by either individual or society; 6) dynamic, and 7) strongly associated with the belief system. In the context of the culture in general, ethnopedagogi paid special attention to the local wisdom

Regarding to character education, both Alwasilah et al. (2009) and Kartadinata (2010) viewed that education cannot be separated from the social and cultural aspects. Education is deliberative in the sense of transmitting and perpetuating the idea of ​​the good virtue that comes from the people’s fundamental belief of the world, knowledge, and values ​​(Alwasilah et al., 2009). In addition, there are other factors of ethnopedagogy that play important role such as ethics, humanity values, mutual respect, concern for the environment and respect for knowledge. Therefore, the research based reorientation of education that really concerns on the values ​​of humanity that has gone unnoticed due to the lack of studies on the cultural foundation of education is highly necessary. The primacy of education should not get reduced to the superficial, as same as that happens nowadays in the standardization regime ignoring the noble purpose of education itself to cultivate. To sum up, in general ethnopedagogy plays a strategic role in cultural based education in the context of ‘teaching as cultural activity’and ‘the culture of teaching’ (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). In particular, ethnopedagogy is beneficial as an approach to be implemented in character education to create future excellent generation with local wisdom based-noble characters.


2. Parental and Community Involvement


School principals, teachers, and staffs at school are not supposedly working alone in dealing with character education. All people in the building, especially the school principal should be able to engage parent and community to induce the value of moral to the student. Family and community is the closest environment the students interact in the daily basis, which will determine their behavior. The more the family and community be engaged to the school practices, the more positive the cultural and norms will be reflected by the students. Noguera (2004) contended that parental empowerment can be achieved by respecting and acknowledging parents as partners in education of their children, providing them with organizational support, enabling them to channel their interests to the benefit of the school, and helping government to realize some programs to change their social reality. One important role of a principal is as a community leader. He or she is demanded to have a community leadership within their vision and goal. Therefore, the principal should be able to be model to be a front liner of the community involvement. Khalifa (2012) asserted in his paper that principals’ increased community presence helps develop and maintain culturally appropriate school and community leadership practices.


3. Professional Learning Community


Who will guarantee that by changing the curriculum, or embedding its content with character education will increase the student’s behavior and norm? The big question arose, that Indonesia has been experiencing the changing curriculum, however the issue of moral and negative conduct, still becoming the major concern of the Indonesian education. The front-liners in dealing with the issue of students’ character are teachers. The Indonesian government however, does not put a serious concern how to develop the efficacy of the teachers. One alternative solution to create a positive atmosphere among the teachers and staffs as well as the students in the building is by conducting an ongoing Professional Learning Community. Dufour, Dofour & Eaker (2012) wrote that PLC is educators committed to working collaboratively in ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for students they serve. Professional learning community enables teachers to work in team (not in a group) by focusing its activity for the success of the students. PLC is ideally initiated by a school principal within the building, and is conducted regularly for his/her teachers, focusing on several topics to improve instruction including topics on increasing students’ positive behavior.


VIII. Conclusion


Arguably, the affectivity of Curriculum 2013 in addressing the issue of character building might be apparent after the curriculum is fully implemented in 3-5 years from now. It might possibly be done by comparing the success and the failure of character education in some indicators before Curriculum 2013 was implemented and after it is implemented. What we are trying to do here is to provide an analysis of how character education in Indonesia has so far been integrated into national curriculum, how it has been implemented and taught by teachers at schools, and what outcome that has been resulted from this implementation. We argue that solving the problem of character building in Indonesia cannot be done only through the explicit integration of religious and cultural values in the documents of curriculum, as previously in practice teachers also teach life value while teaching subject matters at schools. What has seemed to be the missing link in character education in Indonesia is how schools, society, and parents have collaboratively worked, and what they have provided for students after school hours so that students are guided to do positive things outside of the classroom, which are in line with their interest and talent. This gap has so far created an opportunity for students to get negative influence in their (unguided) environment. It what makes us conclude that what we need to provides to support character education in Indonesia are to facilitate (1) professional development and professional learning community, (2) parental and community involvement, and (3) ethno pedagogy for students.





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