Kamis, Juli 29, 2010

Some Critical Problems in English Language Teaching (ELT) related to the Teachers and What to Do with Those


Language learning and teaching is a complex package of issues. People say that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription to guarantee everyone’s success at the same rate. Many obstacles occur in the process of ELT . Globally, education as a broad subject has also many complicated issues. There are many problems in our education inferred by Indonesia Policy Brief (2005). Some significant issues are as follows.

1. Not all children are in school.
Indonesia has yet to achieve its goal of nine years of education for all: currently, some 20 percent of children who should be attending junior high school do not.

2. The quality of schooling in Indonesia is low and declining.
Expansion has not produced graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to build a strong society and competitive economy for the future. Evidence of this is that eighth-graders in Indonesia performed below its Asian neighbors on international tests in 2001. Clearly, in the case of Indonesia the expansion in enrollments has not been accompanied by an increase in quality.

3. Teacher preparation and attendance are inadequate.
Unlike many other countries, Indonesia allows all graduates of all teacher training institutes to become teachers without checking the preparedness of those graduates to impart knowledge and skills under various school conditions; at the same time, it is difficult to remove teachers who cannot teach. In addition, according to a survey done for the World Development Report 2004, 20 percent of Indonesia’s teachers were absent at the time of a random spot check in a representative number of schools. This means that 20 percent of the funds that finance teachers has no direct benefit to students – simply because the teachers are not in the classrooms.

4. Schools are not regularly maintained.
One in six schools in Central Java is in “bad condition,” according to school survey data from the Ministry of National Education, (MoNE, 1999), while in at least one in two schools in Nusa Tenggara Timur, students sit in classrooms without the rudiments of instruction—textbooks, a blackboard, writing supplies, and a teacher who has mastered the curriculum. Indonesia needs to quickly catch up with its neighboring countries’ education standards. Indeed, a 2003 survey of Japanese manufacturing firms about their operations in other Asian countries reveals that Indonesia’s perceived low level of human resources and inadequate supply of management skills diminishes its appeal to investors. This must be a concern as Indonesia’s regional competitors are continuing to upgrade their education base.

Of all above issues, what seems the most interesting one is problems with the teachers. Fuad Hassan, in his era as the Minister of Education and Culture, talks about the education development in our country, “Don’t talk too much about curriculum and system; the doers are much more important” (Rizali, Sidi and Dharma, 2009). He strongly believes that the main problem of education everywhere is on teachers’ quality, not budgeting or facilities. We can take Finlandia as one of the best country in eduaction as the example. The competition to enter education faculty is much stricter than other prestigious faculties like law and medical. Malaysia also applies “five-year programme ‘tailor-made’ fot top sijil Pelajaran Malaysia” where the government promises the best graduates to be sent abroad to get education if they want to be Match and Science teachers. Through this program, they filter 500 the best graduates to be sent to Australia and England in these five years. They want only the best brains for the profession.

In USA, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation through Scholarship Rhodes Program launch a program to attract the best students to be teachers there. The foundation president, Arthur E. Levine, says that, “Research shows that providing excellent teachers is the single most important way to improve student achievement”.

The significant roles of the teachers brings us to the phenomena of problems related to the teachers at ELT. This essay tries to highlight some of them and proposes alternative solution to overcome the problems.

Some Critical Problems related to the Teachers at ELT

Here are the five of the English language learning classroom's most critical problems related to the teachers.

1. Teachers qualification
“Educational change depends on what teachers do and think –it’s as simple and as complex as that. It would be all so be easy if we could legislate changes in thinking. Classrooms and schools become effective when 1) quality people are recruited to teaching, and 2) the workplace is organized to energize teachers and reward accomplishments. The two are intimately related. Profesionally rewarding workplace conditions attract and retain good people”. The New Meaning of Educational Change, 3rd Ed. Fullan (2001) in Rizali, Sidi and Dharma (2009).

It is emphasized that if we want to make any significant changes in education, the main focus should be put on teachers’ quality. Schools will be effective if we recruit the best people as teachers and create conducive workplace for them.
Whereas, Rizali, Sidi and Dharma (2009) note data in 2000/2010 showing that only 49,49% teachers at primary schools are categorized qualified based on their teaching qualification (at least Diploma 2). In Secondary schools, only 66,33% are qualified based on their teaching qualification (at least Diploma 3) and the rest is unqualified. This percentage is now much bigger since teachers should have at least S1 qualification.

2. Teachers dedication
We remember the figure of Ibu Muslimah in Laskar Pelangi novel written by Andrea Hirata, who really captured her unlimitted dedication to the poor students in Bangka. This kind of tough mental educator is badly needed in all areas of Indonesia since the conditions are often less conducive. Unfortunately, the quality of teachers in remot areas are often questionable, so does their dedication. Teachers -get along with their life needs- tend to become more “comercial” and “profit-oriented” instead of having priceless dedication to the students.

3. Teachers teaching skills
Again, the potrait of schools are represented by their teachers. Big ambitions to reach “international level school”, for example, will be diminished if the teachers are not in “international level”. To see the facts, teachers’ quality in our country are still much left behind to construct significant changes (Rizali, Sidi and Dharma: 2009). They are still “teacher’s centered” and don’t internalize the essence of curriculum. To make it worse, the government applies Ujian Nasional to determine the students’ succcess in learning, which is cognitive-based and not matched with Competence-based Curriculum. Citing Suyanto (2005), they say, “Product-oriented assessment tends to produce instant output and stagnant, event contra-productive instructions at schools”.

Here teachers’ teaching skills are significant matters. As Harmer (1998) says, although the character and personality of the teacher is a critical issue in the classtoom, by far the greatest number of responses so the question “What Makes a Good Teacher?” were not so much about teachers themselves, but rather about the relationship betwee the teacher and the students. Class management –the ability to control and inspire the class- is one of the fundamental skills of teaching. Teachers find it much easier if their students believe that they are genuinely interested in them and available for them. Thus, a simple answer to the question “What makes a good teacher?” therefore is that a good teacher care more about their students’ learning than they do about their own teaching.

4. Teachers welfare
As Setiawan (2008) says, teachers in our country are classified into marginal society. Winarno Surakhman criticitized this in his poem “Kapan Sekolah Kami Lebih Baik dari Kandang Ayam”:
Disini berbaring seorang guru
Semampu membaca buku usang
Sambil belajar menahan lapar
Hidup sebulan dengan gaji sehari..

The portrait of Oemar Bakri as Iwan Fals sings is also the real phenomenon. There is era when groups of teachers not more than just a tool of political regime to seek power. Whereas, Rizali, Sidi and Dharma (2009) say, professional teachers should not only well-performed, but also well-trained, well-equipped, and well-paid.
We can compare to the condition in Singapore. The recruitment of teachers are done seriously, and due to lack of human resources (only four millions people) the government invites foreigners to be teachers there. In university level for example, NTU and National University of Singapore (NUS) offer promising compensations and payment a high as Harvard Business School. The governent absolutely think seriously to attract the best talents and brains to be teachers.

5. Teachers mindset
Changing education is all about changing paradigm. The paradigm of teachers to educate, not only teach; to transfer skills and attitude, not only knowledge, should be posesesed by all teachers. Good teachers should care more about their students’ learning than they do about their own teaching, as Harmer (1998) says.

The Proposed Solution to the Problems of Teachers at ELT

Considering all problems with teachers of ELT as described above, professional development for teachers becomed proposed solution to be done by teachers, either individually or in collective way. Murray (2010) highlights some reasons for teachers to pursue professional development and techniques that teachers have found help them feel empowered and motivated in their English language classrooms.

One of the main reasons to pursue professional development is to be empowered –to have the opportunity and the confidence to act upon your ideas as well as to influence the way you perform in your profession. As teachers, we have the capacity to empower ourselves if we keep in mind the following precepts: be positive; believe in what you are doing and in yourself; be proactive, not reactive; and be assertive, not aggressive. Feeling empowered can also manifest leadership skills, and teachers empowermet leads to improvement in student performance and attitude.

Teacher development opportunities can take many forms. Some are individual or informal while other occasions are collective or structured. The most obvious professional development activity for an English teacher is reading journals (and maybe even writing and article for one) keeps you informed about new trends and research developments.

Here are some activities for professional development:
1. Individual technique: keep a teaching journal, analyze a critical incident, participate in workshops and conferences
2. Collaborative technique: share journals, try peer mentoring and coaching, form a teacher support group, join a teacher support network, form or join local and national teachers’ associations, urge your association to connect with other associations, become active in an international professional association

However, in our country, the government shows their concern to improve our educational quality by launching teachers education revitalization program (program revitalisasi pendididikan guru/Lembaga Pendidikan Tenaga Kependidikan) name as BERMUTU (Better Education through Reformed Management of Universal Teacher and Upgrading). It can be expected that this kind of projects will contribute much to the professional development of the teachers of ELT so that the problems will be minimized.


Many problems occur in ELT related to the teachers. problems related to the teachers. Some of them are teachers’ qualification, teachers’ dedication, teachers’ teaching skills, teachers’ welfare, and teachers’ mindset. Globally, these problems can be minimized through professional development done by the teachers. However, professional develoment is an ongoing process, one that evolves as them assess and reexamine their teaching beliefs and practices.


Harmer, Jeremy. 1998. How to Teach English. Essex: Longman.
Indonesia Policy Brief. 2005. siteresources.worldbank.org/INTINDONESIA/.../Education.pdf. Retrieved at May 11, 2010.
Murray, Alice. Empowering Teachers through Professional Development. English Teaching Forum .Vol. 48 Number 1 2010.
Rizali, Ahmad, Indra Djati Sidi, dan Satria Dharma. 2009. Dari Guru Konvensional Menuju Guru Profesional. Jakarta: PT Grasindo.
Setiawan, Benny. 2008. Agenda Pendidikan Nasional. Jogjakarta: Ar-Ruzz Media.

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