Inheriting Education

Humans by nature, are forgetful.  As soon as an info is deemed unimportant, we dismiss it from our brain. It’s there somewhere, but not foremost in our thought. Which is why, I believe sometimes things happens to remind us of certain stuff.

For me, what’s been going around me personally and somewhat touched upon in the news, is the importance of education. Both sets of grandparents have personally said to their kids, aka my parents, that in essence, the most important inheritance is that of education. Money can easily disappear, but once you got education, unless you’ve gone crazy, no one can take that away from you.

Truer words have never been spoken. On a much smaller scale, I’ve experienced how easy it is to lose money, to spend it like there’s no tomorrow then frets when the bill came. Luckily I have a guardian angel to bail me out. Not once, but twice! Then I vow never again! It is embarrassing to have to ask for money due to your own stupidity. I mean do I really need that extra pair of shoes?

On a much bigger scale, just take your pick of recent headlines. So many news about people and or institution lose money. Sadly, it also happened around me. To people I never thought it could or would happen. When pondered upon, well, lack of education seems to be the root of it. Whether academical or school of life, it doesn’t matter. If you lack one sometimes it can be made up by a surplus of the other. Lacking both… then you’re kinda doomed aren’t you.

I’m raising my glass to both grandparents for their wisdom that they impart to their children, and in turn, to me. May your principles set your offspring well!


Widen your world…


Do You Speak English Little One?

While blogwalking, I came across this post from a noted Indonesian blogger, ms. Indah Julianti. In her post she discussed the latest plan from the Education Ministry of not including English in the latest Indonesian Elementary Education Curriculum. Apparently the reasoning is so that Indonesian kiddies would have better Indonesian language skills.

Obviously this caused an uproar. Many thinks this is just the latest among the many hare-brained scheme the powers that be in Education Ministry can hatch of. Many reasoned that Indonesian kids would be left behind if they are not taught English in elementary school. “We’ll be left behind in these globalised world!!!” or so they screamed.

Drama much people?

The reason Indonesian kids are ‘left behind’ is not because they don’t know English. It is because the education system sucks. Period.

Yes, it would be better if you know English, but fostering curious, academic, scientific, and industrious mind + nurturing them and giving them due appreciation is what would elevate the kids in the global world.

We have bright minds. We have geniuses. They’re just poached to other countries because we can’t give them the environment, respect and acknowledgment they deserve. It is no secret that the best minds of Indonesia are scattered globally, their works credited to the institution that employs them rather than the country of their origin.

Putting English into the Elementary School Curriculum means jacksh*t if we can’t keep them here. Go visit Paris. Hardly anyone will speak to you in English. Oh heck just go to the neighbouring Singapore. I can hardly understand what they’re talking about with their heavy Singlish accent. Yet look where they stand globally.

It’s not that I’m against learning English. It’s just that if the goal is to make us competitive, then that’s the least of our worry. As long as we don’t change the current education system, where end-results matters more than the knowledge acquiring and understanding process, we’ll never be competitive. We’ll just end up with a bunch of youngins who has mediocre comprehension of both language, unable to think independently and creatively. We’ll continue being consumers instead of producers, totally at the mercy of others.

So yeah, I guess I’m in the tiny minority that’s not worried if English is taken out from the curriculum. I’m more concerned that Indonesian kiddies have a firm grasp of the Indonesian language. Able to string and write coherent thoughts, able to explore the language to the fullest so they are able to speak and write Indonesian, formally and informally, knows the difference between business Indonesian for work and colloquial Indonesian for friends. Can you imagine if a whole generation of Indonesian kids growing up not knowing how to do those?

And yeah, the irony is still not lost on me how I write this whole post in English…


Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife…

Kartini. Really? Why Not?

Raden Ajeng Kartini, April 21, 1879 – September 17, 1904

Ever since social media and networking became popular, I began to dread special days and holidays. Well, not all of them, the ones that irks me the most are, ironically enough, the National Days designed to honour the women of my country. Say what?

No, I do not have misogynistic tendencies, nor am I cloaked in ancient notion about women and men. What I despise are the intentional misleading (and reductions) by the former government about what these days celebrate. Or, if it was unintentional there certainly was no effort to correct it either. Take the one we supposedly to be celebrating today; Kartini Day. Lady Kartini was an aristocrat from Jepara, Java, who lived in the 1880’s. Her high status in society means she was able to attend elementary Dutch school. Kartini loves to study, she likes reading books, and she writes regularly in the form of correspondence to her European friends. Her love of education led her to open up study centers in her house teaching the local children. She would like to have run a real proper school but died before that dream is realised.

A cover for her book of letters to Mrs. Abendanon

After her death, her Dutch friend, the Abendanon, compile her letters and published it. As it was written in Dutch, it was then translated at least into English and eventually in Indonesian. I haven’t actually read the book, such is my vast knowledge of Indonesian history. Apparently she wrote about hot topics like emancipation, religion, and women’s right to study, to make choices, etc. As we are talking about the early 1900’s I suppose it was quite fascinating for the Dutch, oh look one of our subject – remember we were still under occupation back then (and yes it was Dutch occupation despite what their history books might say) – is an enlightened and she’s a woman! She doesn’t want to be oppressed anymore, let’s help her!

Then, as fate would have it, our first president decided to grant her National Hero status and made her birthday a National Day. Here’s where it gets absurd. Lady Kartini is all about education. She wants girls to be able to pursue higher education, something she herself wasn’t able to do. So how do we little schoolchildren of Indonesia honours her on her birthday? Would you like to take guesses? No? I’ll answer it for you.By having a pageant aka fashion show with traditional costume.

I kid you not.

As a child I go along with it. As I am partly of Javanese descent, I dutifully done the kain and kebaya, complete with teeny tiny sanggul, the Javanese traditional clothing and what Lady Kartini would wear herself. As an adult I looked back and though, WTF???

What if you do not want to do the pageant thing? Well, there were other competitions one can enter; cooking, sewing and other domestic chores.

Again, I kid you not.

Years of being ‘honoured’ this way, is it any wonder that these days people are starting to feel resentful and lashing out at this poor woman? Let’s see the roll of complaint towards her:

  1. She’s not that heroic, all she does is writing letters, doesn’t really do anything.
  2. She’s only made hero because she’s Javanese.
  3. She’s only made hero because her thought are aligned with the Dutch people.
  4. She’s not relevant anymore, let’s erase this day and create something else.
  5. …. (fill in the blanks)

I can’t help but feel sorry for her. If you’ve worked hard to push education ‘reform’, to get the Quran translated into Indonesian so that people who studied it would understand what it is all about, to make others understand that letting girls study is a good thing rather than a bad thing. If you tried to do all that, and be honoured with… a fashion show? See who could look best like her! Wouldn’t you roll on your grave?

Is it any wonder the timeline is filled with debate and arguments every time this date rolls about? It’s almost 21 April, ooh let’s see who can make the best argument of why we shouldn’t celebrate her anymore. Let’s see who would dole out other Indonesia’s woman heroes who’s more deserving than her. And on and on it goes. Each and every year. Without fail. On fb, twitter, you name it, it’s there.

It is all the Dutch fault.

Yes, blame the oppressor. But I really do think, like rainy days… oh sorry that’s Alanis. Ok, if we look into history, she lived during the Dutch occupation right (yes we get it!) now, the Dutch, as an oppressor, aren’t exactly known to want to educate the oppresses. Oh yes there are schools but only select few can attend it. There were many levels of schooling. If you belong to the aristocrats you can go to that school, merchant families go to this school, general public go to the lower level school or none at all. Just check the history books. Who do you think created apartheid? Long live segregation!

If the Dutch had not occupied us, who’s to say that girls would not be able to receive education? Who’s to say that the Quran would not have been translated? It was the Dutch who doesn’t want Indonesian to be educated. It was them who doesn’t want Indonesian to learn Islam properly. It was their mission to keep us in the dark. It’s the whole point of occupying someone else’s land. You don’t occupy to make them better. You occupy to make yourself better! What is there to gain to give the inlanders proper academic and religious education? They’ll revolt!

And revolt they did. But I’ll get back to that. First, I want to discuss this issue of, “Oh she did nothing!” See, some people think because Lady Kartini doesn’t take up arms, she’s not qualified to be a hero. So the only way to be a hero is if you actually kill some white people? Look, she live in Java where it was relatively peaceful, she wasn’t exactly in the middle of a war zone like our other heroes was. Her dad was not an army general was he? Who’s to say she wouldn’t take up arms and lead an army to battle if Jepara was a war zone? We just don’t know do we?

So she probably was not able to build a school, if she hadn’t died so early, who’s to say she wouldn’t? She’s only 25, people, give her a break! She doesn’t do nothing, she wrote her thoughts! She wrote her opinion down. And it lives. Is it her fault that her letters got published?

Yes, going to school is so easy.

What is not relevant is the way we celebrate her. We should celebrate her by fulfilling her dreams. By showing the educations the Indonesian girls got. We should have poetry writing and reading competition. We should have essay writing, science, and math competition. Oh ok you can have a cooking competition, cooking does require reading skills. Show the parents and the world what the girls have learned! That’s how we should celebrate this day.

Not by nitpicking who should or should not be granted national day. Or having a fashion show! Thank God my kids’ school don’t do that. So so glad!

Until true education access for all is achieved, until all domestic labour finished, at the very least their compulsory 9 year of education, then and only then, would this day be irrelevant. Until then, we still need Kartini’s Day to remind us all.

Selamat Hari Kartini everyone!


Remembering Mr. Morton

Dapper guy, no?

Dapper guy and a bunny

Once all the kids have gone to school, I did what most people around the world do; open their Facebook page. And there it was, a notice from Mel about how her father has passed away in his sleep. Mel’s dad, Mr. Donald Morton has lost his battle with leukemia yesterday…


I knew about his illness. Mel and his sister have kindly updated us on his progress, ever since they found out that he has cancer. They said that it is going to be a difficult battle but I always hope and pray he’ll be better. You see, Mr. Morton is not just Mel’s father, he’s also one of my high school teacher. I have such regards to my teachers, especially now I am one and Mr. Morton was among the good ones.

Mr. Morton is a kind, intelligent, passionate person. He loves teaching, he loves his students and genuinely cares about them. When you pass him in the hallways, he always have a warm smile for you and if he happens to be free, he just loves to start a conversation with you. He has such a wide knowledge, particularly history and literature. You can talk for hours with him about those two things, or until the bell rings. Which is most of the time.

I got him as my Theory of Knowledge or TOK teacher. TOK as a subject is quite strange for me because well, it is about philosophy really and that’s the last thing I want to do at the end of the day. Which is when the class was scheduled for me back then. Gosh, I can sooo feel him now; looking at blank faces staring back at him. Must be my ‘karma’ for blanking on your class eh? 🙂 But outside the classroom I have no problem whatsoever talking with him. Then I graduated, went to uni, while away my first year going to endless lectures when one day it just clicked. All the stuff he was talking about, I got it. About 2 years later I finally understood what he means. See, TOK is about philosophy, about how to process thoughts and sorting out information. Weighty stuff for ESL student, or maybe it is just me. Eventually, when your lecturers are asking you to do essays exploring this and that… So THIS is what THAT was about. I can be a bit slow at times so it seems. But hey, at least I got it eventually.

One thing that always remember about Mr. Morton is how he gently corrects my perception of motherhood. It was during one of our talks that I mentioned that my mom is ‘just a housewife.’ He said,”No, your mom is not just a housewife, she’s a home maker. She created a loving and safe home for you. That’s a hard and thankless job!” That was the first time I heard of the phrase ‘home-maker’. I was so taken by that. Later, Mel would tell me that although he likes spend his time reading and thinking about things, he was also down to doing house chores like doing the dishes after dinner. From stories that Mel told me, I also thinks that he’s a romantic at heart. He’s an American, yet he decided to live and set-up roots in the Netherland because he fall in love with a Dutch lady, Mel’s mom. I think that’s romantic.

So yeah, I was stunned this morning. I sorta went into a funk thinking about my teacher, and then thinking about Mel. I so want to be in NL to hug Mel, to help her in practical way and give my respect to her dad. But alas… we are so far apart. I wish we don’t have to live so far away but c’est la vie.

Dear Mr. Morton, I hope you are in a happier place now, away from pain and hurt. We love you and you are definitely missed. Rest in peace sir, and I hope we’ll see each other again someday.

Mr dan Mrs Morton with Mel. Looking gorgeous.

Mr dan Mrs Morton with Mel. Gorgeus as usual.

with lots of love,
Your former student.

Surgeon for a Day

In high school I toyed about going to medicine and becoming a surgeon. I took biology and one of the things we did was dissecting a fetal pig to learn about the organs. It was probably the coolest biology experiment ever! In high school that is. Some kids in my class were a bit squeamish about the prospect of cutting an animal, as for me, I was curious, I wonder what that would be…

And so the day came. We were each given a metal pan, a set of gloves, scalpel, and a worksheet. Our biology teacher, mr R. came round giving us a fetal pig. One on each pan. Now these pigs weren’t killed for the purpose of this experiment, they were stillborn pigs that got preserved for science. At least that’s what mr R said. He gave us some instruction, namely be careful when cutting the pig open, don’t press too hard or we’ll cut into the organ too; the pig is just babies, their skin are very thin. Another one, well this is more like a warning, the scalpel are sharp so no hurting oneself or the person next to us. Which of course prompts the boys to pretend poke their neighbour with the said scalpel.

Taking a deep breath, I turn the pig onto its back and start cutting. Very slowly… Somehow I manage to cut it open without harming the organs inside. Yay! Extra points! Then we push back the skin to take a better look at the organs and my… It was so neatly organised inside, it was simply amazing. It is just like a puzzle where everything has a place and it all fits together; the heart, the lungs, the intestine, the ribs. I was just amazed by it all.

That’s when I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to be a surgeon? You get to cut people up, fix whatever is wrong inside then patch them back up again. Yes it would be but before one gets to be a surgeon, one has to be a doctor first, and in order to do that one needs to learn more science, not just Biology and this is when this dream rapidly evaporated.

At the end of 9th grade, we can choose the subjects we want to study for our IGCSE. Initially I took combined science as I thought it was important to know all three and yet I don’t want to take them individually as I want to learn other things too. However, not enough kids took that subject so we had to take one science subject or drop 2 subjects to take all three. I happen to like my other subjects so first I took Physics. First class, the teacher (I forgot whom now) give us a rubber band, told us to take out a ruler and eraser then go figure out some Physics formula. Huh?

All I can think about was there’s no way I’d take Chemistry since I barely pass it. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to do the equations. All those letters and numbers… And that leaves me with… Biology! So for the remainder of high school, Biology it is then. No more flirting with Chemistry and or Physics.

So yeah, I once held a scalpel and dissect a formerly living being. For a brief moment I get a glimpse of what surgeons do for a living and though how cool would that be.. Then class is over, I landed back on the flatlands and promptly go back to my regular non-science classes 😀

*yes, I realised you can take extra classes should one wish to study medicine but no, I stayed firmly in the Social Science realm for my further education 😉 *

of classes, prep time, etc

I knew I’ve been lax with post-a-week thing. Just didn’t realise how severe the laziness was until I look at the number of entries. Less than 4 entries for the whole of August!!! Now that is quite serious fall from the wagon so to speak 😉

Not sure what hit me last month. Hormones gone a bit haywire, was holding a slight grudge and couldn’t quite shake it off. Bad me. Don’t copy it people. Then again I did have, for the first time, 3 different classes in the same semester. I have held few classes in a week but it usually were the same subject so I just need to do 1 prep for them. Now I need to do 3 different set of prep because they are different with different kids. And boy, that takes a lot of time. I just wanna zonked out once work is done. Didn’t really feel like writing anything else, especially after marking papers. I do need to sort out my time better though because the director just told me that I may have the same schedule for next semester. Eek!

However, now that this semester is winding down I think I finally got the hang of it. Earlier I always feel like I’m playing catch up with the classes. No sooner than one prep is done, the next one already waiting to be done with no rest in between. I probably said it before but I really have a higher appreciation for my high school teachers now. Not only do they have to teach everyday but at different levels as well. They really need to be paid much much better than what they are now. Sad how some people think teacher’s salary don’t matter. Anyway, that’s a topic on its own which I really don’t want to get into right now.

Of my tons of readers, if any of you are teachers, care to share any time management tips? I’d love to learn from your experience and would welcome any tips to be a better, more productive teacher 🙂

Have a good weekend!

On Teaching

When I first start teaching, I wanted to pass down knowledge so that it doesn’t stop with me. I also want to make sure the students understand so they would do well, pass their exam, graduated and move on to better and bigger things. What I didn’t realise is that in the course of doing these things somewhere along the way these students grow on me. I teach writing and when someone writes, even if what they wrote is academic paper, they left an imprint of them in their writing.

Perhaps because I taught non-fiction, often they reveal insight about themselves.  I’m not sure whether they realise it or not, but through their assignments, I get to know them a little better, their family, their friends and sometimes, their dreams. Some of their essays made me sad like when a student was writing about television, he was writing about how parents should spend more time with their kids so the kids would learn how to behave from them, not from tv shows. But there’s something about the way he wrote it that made me suspect that it’s based from experience. Some others made me chuckle, like when another student wrote an adoring profile about her father. She actually ends it by saying, “I love my father very much!” Aww… how can your heart not warms up?

And so, given that I’m privy to some of their thought it is no wonder they grow on me. It’s funny, after a while these kids starts to feel like my kids. I care about them, I want them to do well, I get to admonish them if they’re lazy (and they do get lazy, they’re college kids, not angels) but I don’t have to worry about them coming home late or feeding them daily. Great eh?

It really is funny considering you only meet them for what a couple semesters? You don’t raise these kids, they pass through your life briefly and yet they left an indelible mark on you. I totally didn’t expect that. Come graduation, my insides were bawling. Seeing them walking up that stage to receive their diplomas I clapped just as hard as their parents. Hugged some of them, took pictures and that’s it. You won’t see them again next semester.

Then holiday is over, you find yourself with a new class and start the whole process over again. Life eh? One thing for sure, I think I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I have much bigger appreciation for my own teachers. Thank you.

*Congrats K, the world is yours. Much love*

Happy Women’s Day

Today we celebrate hari Ibu, which loads of people translate as Mother’s Day. Given the history of this day, I feel that to simply say that today is Mother’s day is not quite correct and it actually reduce what the Women’s Congress was trying to achieve, better life for women in Indonesia – mother or not – simply woman. When I say this in the past, some would argue back that there’s nothing wrong in honouring mothers and that they’re true everyday heroes. Well of course, being a mother myself I do understand, but, honouring mothers is our duty. Every day should be mother’s day!

My main problem is that year after year people would just be busy thanking their mom and describing how tough motherhood is, but rarely do anyone ponders about the quality of life women in Indonesia have, regardless whether they’re a mother or not. This I think is dangerous. We are lulled into thinking today is Mother’s Day just like in any other countries. We’re just busy making poems, write stories about how wonderful our mother is, how big their sacrifice etc etc. But does anyone actually stop and think about the condition of mothers in Indonesia? Has every mother here receive adequate medical care pre and post natal? Does all mothers know that domestic violence is not tolerated and that we have laws against it now? Does all mothers receive the necessary support so they can send their daughters (and sons) to school instead of sending them to work on the street, or worse, having to go abroad to work as domestic workers and face multitude of dangers without clear guidelines where to go for help? If there’s any help at all.

Let’s step back and see, what about condition of girls before they turn into mothers. Have they received the supposedly mandatory 9 years of not-so-free education? Any girls still forced to marry older, wealthier men so they can help their family? (and then hide behind religious laws to twist the condition to make it ok) Any girls still forced by their parents or family to work abroad as ‘dancers’? Any girls still sent to work abroad knowing full well they might return in a body bag if at all?

If the answers to all of the above questions is no, then I have no problem this being a Mother’s Day. Oh yes, glorify mothers all you want. However, if there’s a yes to any of the question, as a mother, I ask you to please think about them as well. Please think of mothers who died during childbirth due to lack of medical care – why aren’re medical care available to them? Just because they live in faraway places no one can see? Please think about these poor young girls that are forced into trafficking. They should really be at school studying so they can be better mothers when the time come. Do they still have motherhood as their future?

You have the rest of your life to think about your mother. Please give your thoughts to these women and these girls just a day, today.