Teachers Must Safeguard Pluralism, Advises President

The Jakarta Post, page 4

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo used a commemoration of National Teachers’ Day on Sunday as opportunity to step up his campaign to unify the nation amid growing sectarianism in the country.

Jokowi delivered the message on the heels of recent meetings he initiated with Muslim leaders and political figures to ease political tension after thousands of people led by conservative Muslim groups thronged to Jakarta on Nov. 4, demanding the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy.

Jokowi continues his call for national unity as the same groups prepare another rally for Dec. 2.

Before 16,500 teachers in Sentul, West Java, Jokowi said Indonesia was a multicultural and multireligious country, hence differences must be respected.

The President further said teachers must be internet literate to be able to teach students how to navigate the internet wisely, including when using social media and how to recognize fake news.

Jokowi said he regularly observed the development of discourse online and was disturbed by the tendency of people readily using the internet to attack others and disseminate false information.

Culture and Education Minister Muhadjir Effendy, who also attended the event, said as part of National Teachers’ Day celebrations, the ministry along with 13 teacher associations had conducted a symposium attended by around 2,000 teachers in order to improve the quality of teachers nationwide.

The minister said currently there were 3.9 million teachers for 53 million students in state and private schools across the country. The government, he said, is always committed to improve teachers’ quality.

Indonesia’s education is still considered one of the lowest in the world according to surveys by a number of international organizations. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) placed Indonesia 64th out of 65 countries assessed for students’ basic learning skills last year.

In addition, the OECD placed Indonesia 69th from 76 countries in global school rankings in math and science last year.

While, The US Department of Education through its annual assessments of Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) placed Indonesia 40th out of 42 countries it surveyed in 2015.

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