DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Didi Tarsidi: Counseling, Blindness and Inclusive Education: Indonesia towards Inclusive Education
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    10 July 2011

    Indonesia towards Inclusive Education

    By Didi Tarsidi
    Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI)

    Presented in the ASEAN Cooperative Conference on Inclusive Education 2011
    Brunei Darusalam, 5-7 July 2011


    Special schools for children with disabilities in Indonesia were established at the beginning of the 20th century during the Dutch colonization and grew rapidly after Indonesian independence in 1945. Integrated education programme was introduced in 1978 and inclusive education in 1999. This paper discusses how these three educational settings have developed with particular emphasis on the development of inclusive education. Discussion includes the national standards and policies on inclusive education, the provisions for inclusive education, inclusive education practice, challenges and barriers to implementing effective inclusive education, and the future direction of inclusive education in Indonesia.


    By nature, man is a social being who always wants to be included in a group, and will join another group if he cannot be included in the first group. That is to say, a person with disability by nature wants to be included in a “regular” community, and only when the community rejects him that he will segregate himself with other persons with disabilities to form an “exclusive ” community. However, the tendency to be in an exclusive community is never permanent as neither is the regular community to exclude them. This tendency to be inclusive is started when both parties realize that they have more similarity than difference.

    The segregation of persons with disabilities in Indonesia was started when the first schools for children with disabilities were established during the colonial time at the beginning of the 20th century (the special school for children with visual impairment was established in 1901, the first special school for children with developmental impairment in 1927, and the first special school for children with hearing impairment in 1930 – all in Bandung, West Java).
    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 impairments, 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 impairments 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 impairment, 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 impairment;
    SLB/D for children with physical impairment;
    SLB/E for children with social and emotional disorder; and
    SLB/G for children with multiple impairments.
    The statistical data of 2009 published by the Ministry of National Education revealed the number of special schools (from kindergarten to secondary level) for all categories of disabilities in Indonesia to be 1686 with 73,013 students, and this only accommodates less than 10% of school-aged children with disabilities. It is believed that the schooling rate will increase when the idea of inclusive education is implemented.

    The Development of Inclusive Education in Indonesia

    The process towards inclusive education in Indonesia was initiated in early 1960’s by a couple of blind students in Bandung with the support of the organization of persons with visual disabilities as a pressure group. During that time special schools for the blind only provided educational service up to junior high school level, after which blind youths were given vocational training on handicrafts or massage. A number of blind youths insisted on pursuing higher level of education and tried to enter regular high school in spite of resistance from the part of the regular school. Perseverance of the blind youths managed to change the attitude and a couple of students were accepted, and their success had made more and more high schools and eventually also universities (though very slowly) open to blind students.

    In the late 1970’s the Government began to pay attention to the importance of the integrated education, and they invited Helen Keller International, Inc. to help with the development of integrated schools. Integrated primary schools were established in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Surabaya. The success of the project had led to the issuing of the Letter of Decision by the Minister of Education, 1986, stipulating that capable children with disabilities should be given the opportunity to attend regular schools 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 at national level. In order not to repeat the past experience with the integrated education programme that died out, attention has been paid to the sustainability of the programme of implementing inclusive education.

    The sustainability strategy is as follows:
    • Dissemination of the ideology of inclusive education through seminars and workshops;
    • Expanding the role of existing special schools to include function as resource centres to support inclusive schools;
    • Upgrading/training special school teachers as well as regular school teachers to enable them to better serve children with special needs in inclusive settings;
    • Reorientation of teachers education at universities and involvement of universities in the programme;
    • Decentralization of policy making to give more role to local governments in the implementation of inclusive education;
    • Encouraging and facilitating the formation of working groups to promote the implementation of inclusive education;
    • Involvement of NGOs and international organizations in the programme;
    • Networking among various parties involved;
    • Setting up pilot inclusive schools;
    • Establishment of the master programme in inclusion and special needs education.
    • Acvocacy for the issuing of a national regulatory instrument on inclusive education.

    The strategy proves to be significantly effective. The echo of inclusive education continues beyond 2005 when the project was discontinued. The most readily observable outcomes of the efforts are as follows:
    1) A number of workshops and seminars on inclusive education, both at national and local levels, have been organized, involving educators and education administrators and other related authorities and parties including provincial and local government authorities as well as community figures.

    2) The Ministry of National Education have selected 9 special schools in 9 provinces to be resource centres and provincial education authorities in a number of provinces also have appointed other special schools in their respective areas to function as resource centres to support regular schools within their region in implementing inclusive education while maintaining their role as special schools. By design, these centres are to support the regular schools with specialist itinerant teachers, staff development in curriculum adaptation and differentiated learning, environmental modification and provision of special learning equipment and materials. However, their actual practice is generally still below expectation. Nevertheless, a couple of private entities have developed themselves to function as resource centres. One of them, Mitra Netra Foundation, is worth mentioning as a best practice in this field. Each year, the Mitra Netra Foundation in Jakarta support 80 to 150 students with visual impairment enrolling a number of regular schools and universities in Jakarta and around. The support includes:
    • Provision of textbooks both in Braille and audio formats;
    • Tutorial on math, physics, chemistry and music, of which general teachers have little understanding of how to teach them to blind students;
    • Provision of reader’s service for students doing exams;
    • For advocacy purposes, accompany blind students in school admission process to make sure that they are not discriminated against;
    • Counseling service for newly blind students;
    • Library search assistance for students doing research;
    • Skills training including touch typing, talking computer, Braille, orientation and mobility, and abacus skills;
    • Giving workshop on inclusive education to general schools, especially those that have never had students with visual impairment;
    • Training general school teachers on adaptive teaching techniques for blind students;
    • Forming support group for parents with visually impaired children.

    3) More and more universities have introduced inclusive education as a subject or as topics in other related subjects to their students. Many students are inspired to take aspects of inclusive education as topics of their research.
    In cooperation with Pertuni (Indonesian Blind Union), ICEVI and the Nippon Foundation, some universities (UNJ in Jakarta, UPI in Bandung, UIN in Yogyakarta and Unesa in Surabaya) have established support service centres for students with visual impairment. The centres are expected to develop further to serve students with other disabilities.
    4) A number of universities are actively involved in promoting inclusive education in their respective regions, i.e. Jakarta State University (UNJ) in Jakarta, Indonesia University of Education (UPI) in West Java, Surabaya State University (Unesa) in East Java, and Padang State University (UNP) in West Sumatra. Their role includes professional development for school teachers and provide consultancy on technbical implementation of inclusive education in the schools.

    5) Provincial Offices of Education have been more proactive in promoting inclusive education. This is especially so in provinces in Java and some provinces out of Java, notably in South Sumatra, West Sumatra and South Sulawesi.

    6) Working groups on inclusive education has been formed by a number of provincial as well as municipal education authorities. Members of the group are individuals with high concern on inclusive education; they come from different institutions including universities, special schools, and education office. The task of this group is to diseminate the idiology of inclusive education and to give advice on how it should be put into practice. Notable is the working group of South Sumatra. Provided with the letter of authority from the governor, the group goes from municipalities in the province to talk with local authorities to influence them towards planning implementing inclusive education.

    7) UNESCO and some international NGOs have been actively involved in the promotion of inclusive education in a number of provinces. Notable is the work of Helen Keller International and Handicap International in a number of provinces. Their activities include: (1) Identification, Assessment & Enrollment – Seeking out children with disabilities who are not in school and assisting them in enrolling in an appropriate, locally accessible program; (2)Education Quality – Improving teaching skill, creating learning environments conducive to inclusion of children with disabilities, and developing revised curricula and programs to meet the child’s needs; (3) Mobilizing Local Expertise from local NGOs and universities to inform the design of program initiatives and collaborate with government counterparts to assist in sustainable implementation and growth.

    8) A Master Programme in Inclusion and Special Needs Education has been established at the Graduate School of the Indonesia University of Education (UPI), Bandung, West Java, with technical assistance from the University of Oslo. The programme started in 2003 with 18 students with scholarships from the Project. After the project was finished in 2005, the programme continues to develop steadily with the annual enrollment of 15 to 20 students each new academic year. Up to 2010 the programme has been enrolling over 100 master students. A similar programme also has been started this year in Unesa (Surabaya, East Java). It is to be noted that special education at undergraduate level has been around in Indonesia since mid-1960-s. Currently at least ten universities have such programme.

    9) In 2009, the Ministry of National Education issued the Ministerial Regulation on Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities and the Gifted (Permendiknas 70/2009). The regulation stipulates, among others, that the municipal government is to appoint at least 1 primary school and 1 junior high school in each district and at least 1 senior high school or vocational school in each municipality to implement inclusive education while also to encourage other schools to do the same.

    10) In 2002, 27 pilot inclusive schools were set up in 9 provinces where there were the pilot resource centres. In the subsequent years more and more inclusive schools have been established. A number of schools, the majority of them are private schools, even voluntarily have made themselves inclusive. With the enactment of Ministerial Regulation on Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities and the Gifted by the Ministry of National Education in 2009, the number of inclusive schools have increased drastically. In March 2010, the Director of Manpower, Directorate General of Higher Education, The Ministry of National Education reported that there were 811 inclusive schools all over Indonesia with 15,114 students with special needs (Bisnis Indonesia, 3 March 2010). However, other sources mention about 1500 schools can be categorized as practicing inclusive eduication.


    The number of inclusive schools and the number of children with special needs enrolled has indeed significantly increased since the ideology of inclusive education was introduced to Indonesia in 1999. However, reports reveal that still less than 10% of the population of school-aged children with special needs are in schools. This may be due to the fact that, on the one hand, the number of schools serving these children is still lacking and, on the other hand, awareness of parents and the Indonesian society in general is still low. Regarding the number of schools, the Ministerial Regulation on Inclusive Education stipulates that the municipal government is to appoint at least 1 primary school and 1 junior high school in each district and at least 1 senior high school or vocational school in each municipality to implement inclusive education while also to encourage other schools to do the same. Since there are more than 500 municipalities (kabupaten/kota) with over 5000 districts (kecamatan) all over Indonesia, when this regulation is fully implemented, there would be at least 10,500 inclusive schools in this country. But still, that number will not be sufficient to accommodate all children with special needs which is estimated to be around 1.5 million. Ideally, all schools should be inclusive, but it seems too far-reaching when viewed from the present circumstances.

    Quality support provision is another very important aspect of inclusive education. Research indicates that inclusive education can be successful when a support system is in place. Listed below are the activities and support systems commonly found where successful inclusion has occurred according to The Council for Exceptional Children.
    1. Attitudes and Beliefs
    • The regular teacher believes that the student can succeed.
    • School personnel are committed to accepting responsibility for the learning outcomes of students with disabilities.
    • School personnel and the students in the class have been prepared to receive a student with disabilities.
    • Parents are informed of the programme and they support the programme goals.
    • Special education staff are committed to collaborative practice in general education classrooms.

    2. Services and Physical Accommodations
    • Services needed by the student are available (e.g., health, physical, occupational, or speech therapy).
    • Accommodations to the physical plant and equipment are adequate to meet the student's needs (e.g., toys, building and playground facilities, learning materials, assistive devices).

    3. School Support
    • The principal understands the needs of students with disabilities.
    • Adequate numbers of personnel, including aides and support personnel, are available.
    • Adequate staff development and technical assistance, based on the needs of the school personnel, are being provided (e.g., information on disabilities, instructional methods, awareness and acceptance activities for students, and team-building skills).
    • Appropriate policies and procedures for monitoring individual student progress, including grading and testing, are in place.

    4. Collaboration
    • Special educators are part of the instructional or planning team.
    • Teaming approaches are used for problem-solving and program implementation.
    • Regular teachers, special education teachers, and other specialists collaborate (e.g., co-teaching, team teaching, teacher assistance teams).

    5. Instructional Methods
    • Teachers have the knowledge and skills needed to select and adapt curricula and instructional methods according to individual student needs.
    • A variety of instructional arrangements are available (e.g., team teaching, cross-grade grouping, peer tutoring, teacher assistance teams).
    • Teachers foster a cooperative learning environment and promote socialization.


    In Indonesia, while workshops and seminars have significantly changed attitudes and beliefs among the participants towards inclusive education, obviously the vast majority of the Indonesian society still need to change theirs to support this ideology. Among those with positive atitudes and beliefs also still neede more understanding of how inclusive education should be put into practice. While a few schools have disability-specific services and with accommodations to the physical plant and equipment to a certain extent are available to meet the students’ special needs, the majority of them are still lacking these facilities. The majority of the schools also ar lacking in competent teachers to manage inclusive classes. The Ministerial Regulation on Inclusive Education stipulates that the Municipal Government shall provide at least one special education teacher for each school implementing inclusive education, but obviously it needs some time until this stipulation can take effect. The resource centres are designed to support the inclusive schools, but only a few are actually effective.

    Despite these all, indications show that the implementation of inclusive education in Indonesia is getting better from time to time. The government policy remains that the existence of special schools be maintained while at the same time inclusive education continues to be promoted. Selected special schools have been designed for additional function as resource centres to support regular schools implementing inclusive education. The role of resource centres include and not limited to:
    • Provision of itinerant teachers;
    • Students assessment;
    • Curriculum adaptation;
    • Adapted learning materials;
    • School physical environmental modification for accessibility;
    • Staff development;
    • Compensatory skills training for students;
    • Awareness campaign.

    The ultimate goal of all the innovative efforts above is the well being of persons with disabilities as citizens with all their rights fulfilled. Whether or not the current placement of children with disabilities in regular schools will actually be good for their well being, it needs time to prove this; but we believe it will and we are hopeful as long as they are being given proper support as designed for them.


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