When I was in Indonesia, after my relatives and my friends found out that I would go to the Netherlands to pursue my master degree with the help of the scholarship from the Indonesian Government, one of my best friends began to raise a half serious – half joking question:
“Now, you have received billion rupiahs from the government, what will you do for Indonesia in return, heh?”
For many of the scholarship awardees, it was a common question yet the hardest question to be answered. For awardees the purpose of people asking this kind of question is also clear. They remind the scholarship awardees that: you now have a ‘debt’ to your country and you have to pay it back!
I received a scholarship from Indonesian government since I was a high school student. I indeed, feel happy that I can taste the sweetness of school but also having a mental pressure of being a “debtor”. “What contribution will I give to my country?” I never get rid of the question from my mind. Seems like I took my friends’ joke seriously.
Think of that, I try to look the answer within myself. Who am I, what kind of person I am, what is my background knowledge, what is my field of interest, what is my passion, my weaknesses, and my strongest point. I hope that after answering those questions, I can see my future path, the direction where I can help to change something with the skill and knowledge that I have.
So first of all, I will tell my story. I have my bachelor degree at physics education. During my bachelor degree I always love the idea that I would be a science teacher in the future. My passion to be a teacher was growing bigger at that time, particularly when I involved in one of the social communities whose mission is to educate children in rural areas. Becoming a teacher volunteer in that community has given me the opportunity to claim that issues about inequality of education in Indonesia are real. Children in rural areas hardly obtain a good quality of education.
My claim is supported from the data of the Central Bureau of Statistics (2016) reporting that the number of teacher professional development projects in remote areas was very small compared to those on the big cities. The number of teachers is not adequate; it is pretty common to see that one teacher covers all subjects and has to teach in multiclass. Access to updated information regarding innovation in education was always late due to the lack of internet connection. Not to mention that some of the schools have a tremendous lack of facilitation for study. These all contributes in the low quality of teaching learning activities in the class. Teachers who did not have access to innovation in education and barely received a teacher professional development tend to lack teaching competence.
So, that was me with my idealism to combat inequality of education in Indonesia. With a big dream to become a teacher, I come to Utrecht University, pursuing a master in Science Education and Communication program. My expectation is that, after completing my master degree, I would have enough knowledge and skill to realize my dream as a teacher who will bring innovation and improvement to the school.
Then now, I would say that I have added a new branch on my dream. During the studying in the SEC master program, I realized that I am also captivated by the idea of being a researcher in science education. What I have in mind is that, positioning myself as a researcher in science education will give me more access to undergo some outreach program for teachers in the remote areas. I can share my research findings regarding teaching-learning strategy so that teachers can improve their teaching performance and would be able to offer a good quality of learning in their class.
How can I become so sure of this science educator and science educational research path? I believe that through the SEC master program, I obtain several skills as well as knowledge that I see as an ‘investment’ to be a science educator and/or researcher in science education. I would elaborate my explanation regarding the skills and the knowledge below:
In the SEC program, I am aware that I love to be engaged in the activities that demonstrate skills for making the right decisions, planning ahead and multitasking, solving interactive problems and explaining complex ideas in simple terms. I believe that these skills are necessary to be a science educator since these skills are mentioned by Hatti (2012) in his book of Visible Learning for Teacher. He stated that expert teachers are those who can identify the most important ways in which to represent the subject that they teach, are proficient at creating an optimal classroom climate for learning, monitor learning and provide feedback, and are able to help students to understand complexity. As for the knowledge, in the SEC program, I developed a curriculum and designed a syllabus for high school students. I learned about didactics as well as pedagogies of learning. I believe that obtaining this knowledge are necessary to shape myself as a science educator.
Moreover, I am also confident to become a researcher in science education since I see myself as hard-working person. I have developed myself to be a hard as well as a critical thinker. I have become a person who can deal with deadlines and stress, a person who is not afraid of a new challenge, a person who is flexible with adversity, and more importantly a person who shows a positive attitude towards new knowledge. As for the knowledge, in SEC master program, I learned research methodology so then I gained knowledge about research and analysis methods, recognizing and interpreting trends, and organizational structure. Indeed, I am far from being an excellent student of the SEC master program, but I believe that the knowledge and the skills I have mentioned would benefit me to conduct an original research study that contributes to the field of science education.
Using the scheme of the 4 idealized roles of science communication by Pielke (2007), I see myself is capable to serve as a Pure Scientist, Issue Advocate and Science Arbiter. If I become a teacher, I can be a pure teacher who decided for myself what content knowledge as well as what learning strategies are important for my students and deliver it to them. I can also be the teacher arbiter by involving students in the in my decision making of what is the best for students. I can ask students to give their opinion on what content they wish to learn, what are their difficulties in learning so then I can refer to their opinion when I teach them. A next step toward teacher advocate is also possible to be considered in this role since I can become an evaluator of students’ progress in learning and then take up more coaching role towards them.
If I become a researcher, with the role of a pure scientist, I plan to be an active researcher in the science education field. I would love to dig more and be focused to solve specific issue/problem in science education. But beside that, I would love to share my research findings to provide objective science to inform the decision-maker. The decision-maker that I mentioned here is the Ministry of Education and Culture who formulate policy for the education system in Indonesia. Therefore, beside producing research findings in science education, I hope that I can also be involved in advocating support towards an educational program that will foster and improve the education system in Indonesia.
With this in mind, understanding role as an Issue Advocate is necessary. Very different from Pure Scientist’s role, being an Issue Advocate needs a communication skill to convince stakeholders. Effective communication, both written and spoken, requires abilities of being able to express the ideas and views clearly, confidently and concisely to the audience. This is the part that I feel I am lacking. When I accumulate all the feedbacks that I have received during the SEC program, it is clear for me that I still need to improve myself in terms of clear and concise English writing.
The decision that I have taken: to be a researcher in science education or a science teacher is strongly related with how I value science for myself and how I see schools in Indonesia presented science in their curriculum. I view science as an area of discovery, and that science is not merely talking about facts but also the work of exploring ideas. The scientific facts are not seen as an absolute truth yet science deals with uncertainty and the uncertainty is a part of science. So if I might say, I am more into the relativistic view of science. So for me, science should be reflected with this characterization: to produce scientific facts, there is no single methods but it can be different approaches because people have different judgments, based on different background assumptions, and there is no way to say which one is really right. The one is right from its perspective, the other one is right from that perspective. And that the different assumptions may come from people’ social, cultural and political background.
However, schools tend to portray a clean and rather sterile view of science. In most of the Indonesian schools, science is served as a lone ranger. Schools view science as merely a body of knowledge to be transferred to students, forgetting that science is placed in larger area such as discussing science in social, cultural, moral, technological, political and/or environmental context.
A number of researches in science education has revealed data in the past decades that indicates that science teaching in schools has addressed mainly scientific facts rather than scientific methods (Ellis, 2001). This has also happened in the majority of Indonesian’s schools. Students were instructed to remember the product of science rather than to get know how the science works. For example, the majority of science lessons in class had a multiple choice exam as their evaluation on science understanding. In another case, science experiments in class were conducted with expected outcomes. This indeed conflicts with the scientific method. Science involves trial and error, inquiry and discoveries, engagement and wonder, but presenting such a fix outcome of science experiments will diminish the idea that science is uncertain and that scientist need to accept their experimental findings even when they would like them to be different. These two examples indicate that science in schools is aimed too much on the measurement of scientific facts rather than to be critical and curious on the practice of science.
Little indication also has been found on the exploration of the relationship between science, technology, and society in the school curriculum. I consider that this exploration is important, agreeing on Aikenhead’s (1994) argument that students need to be conveyed to view science as a human/social activity laden with values, belief, and conventions situated in a particular time, context and culture. So, therefore, either as a researcher or science educator, I want to emphasize that science is much more than a body of knowledge, it is a way of discovery which contains the collective efforts, findings and wisdom of the human race. One avenue that many of the research in science education has presented is through the adoption of Science, Technology, Society and Environment (STSE) innovation.
So now, answering my friend’ questions: “what will you do for Indonesia in return?” I can honestly tell that I face a dilemma of being a researcher or a teacher. I need to think deeply on which career path I want to choose. Therefore, the starting point of sorting this out is that after graduation I would come back in Indonesia for 1 – 2 years. I would enroll as a teacher volunteer in Indonesia Mengajar (Indonesia Teaches Movement). Becoming a part in this big innovation project in Indonesia will give me an advantage for the two career path. If I want to become a teacher, experience that I will gain from Indonesia Mengajar would expand my teaching competence. This is also an opportunity for me to do a personal reflection whether I still found myself as passionate and commit teacher as my ‘old’ self before I entered the SEC program. However, if I later found out that I am more interested to be a researcher solving problems of education system in the remote areas, I hope that volunteering in Indonesia Mengajar would help me to be a well-prepared researcher. In my opinion, to become a good and relevant researcher, it is important to really see what are the problems that teachers and students encounter in the classroom so then I will know what would be the most important research questions that I should formulate, and then I will try and arrange a relevant PhD project based on my observation.
Aikenhead, G. S. (1994). What is STS science teaching? In J. Solomon and G. Aikenhead (Eds.), STS education: International perspectives in reform. (p. 47–59). New York: Teachers College Press.
Central Bureau of Statistics. (2016). The Portrait of Education in Indonesia. Jakarta: Central Bureau of Statistics publisher.
Ellis, J. D. (2001). A Dilemma in Reforming Science Teacher Education: Responding to Students’ Concerns or Striving for High Standards. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 12(3), p. 253-276.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers, Maximizing Impact on Learning. New York: Routledge.
Pielke, R. A. (2007). The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. Cambridge Univeristy Press.