The Merits of the Full Day School Idea

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Mark Twain once said: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” J.J. Rousseau put emphasis on education not necessarily being schooling, as well, although he is the one who promoted the role of schooling in the bourgeois-aristocratic European era. Down to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogia do Oprimido who proposed a pedagogy to counter conventional classroom sessions which he considered

as indoctrination due to an imbalanced power relationship. Even John Dewey’s Democracy and Education put a warning sign on the danger of goal-oriented schooling because he did not believe Machiavellian’s way of thinking: that the end justifies the means. Process is ultimately important for Dewey’s constructivism approach.

Now, let’s scrutinize the idea of full-day schooling (FDS). This is actually a superb idea, but unfortunately coming at the wrong time and place, and in an unfavorable compendium. The Ministry of Education & Culture has been working very hard to improve learning quality in schools, from measuring teachers’ competency plus their long-life learning scheme with the Guru Pembelajar program to implementing an integrity index within the ritual of national exam. This also includes the application of newly revised 2013 Curriculum in 20% more schools than last year and the more energized Kartu Indonesia Pintar distribution to provide financial support for poor families. Also, our schools recently have become a more pleasant place for learning and playing, like a comforting garden as proposed by Ki Hajar Dewantara. Logically one would view this sequence of reforms as the opportunity to make school a more rewarding experience for our children.

There is a noble goal in our education as cited by the law: graduating students of good character. Schooling must achieve that goal. Furthermore, President Joko Widodo expects schools to support his idea of speeding up the Mental Revolution that eradicates bad habits of the past, such as carelessness, laziness, corruption, red tape, inequality, impiety, and the national identity crisis. We have been an independent nation for 71 years, yet we continue to deal with those issues in our society. Our children must be guarded from those bad values and instead guided to inculcate good values of being an ideal Indonesian citizen with good characters. Can we do that? FDS might be the help we have been seeking for a very long time. Minister Muhadjir Effendy has been working in the education field for years, so he must know that the FDS concept has a good chance to solve our problems in education. Hopefully, it has big multiplier effect a leverage point: a one policy that would serve to solve many additional issues.

There are at least some merits to FDS. First, instructional time will be added significantly. This will help teachers cover subjects and learning materials that usually are left behind with normal allocated school hours. Second, learning quality can be improved because teachers and students are not in hurry to discuss some difficult topics. They can work together to clarify some tough issues in many subjects in Indonesia, such as science, math, and language. Third, the reading habit and literacy can be increased with more time for local literature review and language arts activities. Language skills can be considerably improved with more creative means, through drama practice or class choir, for example. It also helps parents to confidently contribute in coaching the students for local arts performance based on local language.

Fourth, inter-school collaborations can be developed further in that well-equipped and well-resourced schools can invite other less-endowed schools to commonly utulize the facility together by means of efficient scheduling. This effort will create and grow a collaborative culture among the schools in certain areas. Fifth, parents who get the most benefit will not mind bearing some of the cost of the extended school days. Hence, it will establish a positive education ecosystem in the school surroundings where all stakeholders actively engaged and are involved with the school activities. Sixth, the supervisors, principals, and teachers have extra time for administration works that have been blamed for interfering with their educational routines. Seventh, MOEC has more time for training in Guru Pembelajar scheme without interrupting teachers’ productive time and thereby reducing teacher absenteeism. Ninth, certified teachers who are blamed for being overpaid but under-performing can perform their work as expected in FDS. Extra time — with suitable remuneration – wil also serve as an incentive for certified teachers to perform their professional works as expected.

There is homework, however, or assumptions if FSD will be considered a nation-wide policy.   We must have at least three assets: integrity, funding, and competency. Integrity is needed in all aspects of school operation, from teacher as an exemplary figure to quality of learning materials and nutrition supply for the children. Given the tight budget, funding is certainly a hurdle so FSD must be planned for at least 5 years in advance and not bearing the risk of being cancelled after a few years down the road. Competency is a must in every aspect of the learning activities in the extended school time, from regular teachers to physical education teachers, arts and culture instructors. In an umbrella monitoring and evaluation system for all FSD activities must be created to detect any problems in the fields so any problems can be solved as soon as possible.

Schooling is never perfect, neither is non-schooling, of course. Our choice for our children is crystal clear: we need them to be a great generation, greater than we are today. We set our education as a society agenda, not an individual one. Indonesia has been approving the idea of education for all, although not yet agreeing on the idea of education as one of human rights. Like Finland, we can provide our children with education that stresses on both quality and equity.   We can have quality education if we can make “schooling means learning”. It has been known that our schools have failed in promoting learning. Lant Pritchett (2016) calculated that Jakartan adults are 128 years behind their peers in OECD nations in literacy skills. With any luck, a sound and well-managed FDS program will capable of closing the gap further, thus improving quality and expanding equity.  The real hard-work is still ahead of us.


Totok Amin Soefijanto is deputy rector for academics, research, and student affairs of Paramadina University. He is also an advisor to One Indonesia (, a non-profit portal initative to bring together stakeholders in education sector.


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