Special Needs Education and Inclusion in Indonesia: A Historical Perspective
Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI)
A. Education of Children with Disabilities
Formal education in Indonesia began when at the end of Hindu and Buddha era, about the twelfth century, the Hindu and Buddha priests began a new tradition in education; they established teaching institutions called “padepokan”. As soon as children became old enough to leave their home, they were sent to the padepokan to learn certain skills like reading mantras, self-defence, or how to engage in war. Thus teaching was no longer done only by parents but also by teachers in the padepokan. Children and youths were taught individually or in groups. When the students had difficulties in learning, intuitively the teacher would make adjustment, for instance by dividing the lesson into smaller segments, changing teaching techniques, etc. Children with disabilities went to the same place as those without disabilities.
During the Islamic era, the padepokan tradition was replaced by “pesantren”. The students were called “santri” and normally they lived in dormitories. Here the santris learned Islamic teachings, social life and self-defence. Senior santris were also taught grammar, rhetoric and logics, normally in Arabic. Teaching was done individually. In turns, students sat cross-legged in front of the teacher to receive instruction. The teacher was helped by mentors. The task of a mentor was to rehearse the santris. This method of teaching is known as “sorogan”. Santris with disabilities or with learning difficulties were taught in the same way.
During the Dutch colonization (1596-1942), the colonial government introduced the Western type of schooling. Special institutions were established to educate children with disabilities. The first institution for children with visual impairment was established in 1901, for children with developmental disability in 1927 and for children with hearing impairment in 1930, all in Bandung.
In 1952, seven years after independence, the Indonesian government issued the first educational law. The law stipulated that all children of six years of age had the rights to schooling and those of eight years of age were compulsory to go to school for at least six years. Concerning children with disabilities, the law stipulated that special education be provided for those who needed it. Demanded by the law, a number of new special schools, including those for children with physical disabilities and for those with social and emotional disorder, were established. These schools were (and still are) called “extraordinary schools” (SLB).
Partly based on the historical order of the establishment of the first school for children with each category of disability, the special schools are grouped into:
SLB/A for children with visual impairment;
SLB/B for children with hearing impairment;
SLB/C for children with developmental disability;
SLB/D for children with physical/motor disability;
SLB/E for children with social and emotional disorder; and
SLB/G for children with multiple disabilities.
According to the data from the Ministry of National Education, in 2002 there were 1118 SLBs all over Indonesia, with 48522 students (= about 7.5% of the school-aged population of children with special needs).
In addition, there are also integrated schools. According to the Ministry of National Education, in 2002 there were 182 integrated schools with 961 students with disabilities.
The concept of integrated education was introduced to Indonesia in 1978 by Helen Keller International, Inc. During that time HKI helped the Indonesian Ministry of Education establish integrated education for children with visual impairment. The success of the pilot project led to the issuing of the Letter of Decision of the Minister of Education No. 002/U/1986 on the Integrated Education for Children with Disabilities, which essentially rules that capable children with disabilities should be accepted in regular schools to learn together with their non-disabled peers.
Unfortunately, when the integrated education project was over, the implementation of integrated education was practiced less and less, especially in primary school level. However, towards the end of 1990’s new efforts were made to develop inclusive education through a cooperation project between the Ministry of National Education and the Norwegian government under the management of Braillo Norway and the Directorate of Special Education. By implementing inclusive education it is hoped that more school-aged children with special needs will have the opportunity to go to school.
In 2002 the Project set up three pilot inclusive schools in each of the nine provinces with resource centres, and in 2003 the Education Authority of West Java ambitiously increased the number of inclusive schools to become three in each municipality in West Java. Since then over 2000 children with disabilities have been placed in regular schools.
During 2000-2002 nine special schools in nine provinces (out of the 32 provinces) were selected to be resource centres to support regular schools in implementing inclusive education, and their role as resource centres are slowly taking shape while maintaining their role as special schools. The nine resource centres are in Payakumbuh (West Sumatra), Jakarta, Bandung (West Java), Pemalang (Central Java), Yogyakarta, Malang (East Java), Denpasar (Bali), Mataram (West Nusatenggara), and Makasar (South Sulawesi). In addition, a number of other special schools have been designed to function as supportive centres.
B. Education of Teachers for Special Needs Education
The first teacher training institution for special needs education, the Teachers College for Special Education (SGPLB), was established in Bandung in 1952. The training was designed for the duration of two years. At first, SGPLB was intended for elementary teachers school graduates with some teaching experience in a regular primary school. In the later development, the input students of SGPLB were high school graduates. When this INSTITUTION was liquidated in 1994, throughout Indonesia there were six SGPLBs (Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Surakarta, Makasar and Padang). The liquidation was meant to increase the qualification of special needs education teachers to be at least with S1 (bachelor’s) degree.
The first S1 programme in special education was established in 1964 at IKIP Bandung (the now UPI). A few years later a number of other universities also opened the special education department. Currently at least nine universities in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi have the special education department.
In 1996 Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI) opened the sub-programme of Guidance for Special Children as part of the master programme in guidance and counselling as an effort to pioneer the establishment of the master programme in inclusion and special needs education.
In 2001, through the project manager, Mr. Terje Watterdal, the Project of Quality Improvement of the Education of Children with Special Needs, the Indonesian Ministry of National Education, funded by the Norwegian government, offered a cooperation between UPI and the University of Oslo to establish the master programme in inclusion and special needs education at the Graduate School of UPI. The offer was enthusiastically accepted and UPI immediately prepared the proposal. The project followed up the proposal by inviting four UPI lecturers to Norway in the first months of 2003 for a comparative study and to work out the curriculum of the perspective master programme in inclusion and special needs education at UPI; and the Master Programme started in September 2003 with 15 students. At that time the master programme in Inclusion and special needs education was still administered under the guidance and counselling programme. It was in 2004 that the master programme in inclusion and special needs education was officially established as an independent master programme at UPI.
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