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    09 November 2015

    Inclusive Education in Indonesia: Strategies for Success

    DR. Didi Tarsidi
    Special Education Department, Indonesia University of Education

    Presented at the
    Regional Conference of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment, EAST ASIA REGION
    Bali, Indonesia, 28th September – 1st October 2015

    The first special schools for children with disabilities in Indonesia were established at the beginning of the 20th century during the Dutch colonization and had grown rapidly after Indonesian independence in 1945. Currently there are over 2450 special schools for different categories of disabilities throughout the country with more than 89,000 students and more than 17,000 teachers. Realizing that the school enrollment rate for students with disabilities was quite low and that discrimination against persons with disabilities was still alarmingly too common, the integrated education programme was introduced in 1978 and a number of integrated schools were established on a project base. Sadly, when the project period was over in the late 1980’s, there was a tendency for the integrated programme to die out. In late 1990’s, the ideology of inclusive education was introduced and a number of pilot inclusive schools were initiated. Currently there are over 2400 inclusive schools with more than 125,000 students with disability enrolled. The enrollment rate of students with disabilities also has significantly improved from about 10% in early 2000 to about 34% currently. In addition, there is a general feeling that the admosphere of inclusion is becoming stronger and stronger. This paper discusses the strategies that has been taken to make the inclusive education initiative sustainable.


    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 disability was established in 1901, the first special school for children with intellectual disability in 1927, and the first special school for children with hearing disability 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 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 disability and for those with social and emotional disorder, were established.
    Currently, according to the statistical data published by the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia in 2013, we have at least 2450 special schools for different categories of disabilities (from kindergarten to secondary level) with 89,200 students and 17,100 teachers. However, the school enrollment rate is actually still low, only 34.2%, and this has been boosted by the implementation of inclusive education. It is widely believed that inclusive education approach is more effective in increasing the enrollment rate of students with disabilities.

    Strategies to Promote Inclusive Education in Indonesia

    The process towards inclusive education in Indonesia was initiated in early 1960’s by a couple of students with visual impairment in Bandung with the support of the organization of persons with visual disabilities as a pressure group. During that time special schools for students with visual impairment 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 visually impaired 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 visually impaired 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 students with visual impairment.

    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 strategies are as follows:
    1. Dissemination of the ideology of inclusive education through seminars and workshops;
    2. Expanding the role of existing special schools to include function as resource centres to support inclusive schools;
    3. Upgrading/training special school teachers as well as regular school teachers to enable them to better serve children with special needs in inclusive settings;
    4. Reorientation of teachers education at universities and involvement of universities in the programme;
    5. Decentralization of policy making to give more role to local governments in the implementation of inclusive education;
    6. Encouraging and facilitating the formation of working groups to promote the implementation of inclusive education;
    7. Involvement of NGOs and international organizations in the promotion of inclusive education;
    8. Networking among various parties involved;
    9. Setting up pilot inclusive schools;
    10. Establishment of the master programme in inclusion and special needs education.
    11. Advocacy for the issuing of a national regulatory instrument on inclusive education;
    12. Providing incentive (financially or logistically) for schools implementing inclusive education;
    13. Setting up annual “Inclusive Education Awards”. The awards are given by the Ministry of Education and Culture to provincial governments, schools, universities and individuals who constantly show commitment to implementing 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 and international partners. 2) The Ministry of Education and Culture have selected a number of special schools in different provinces to function as resource centres to support regular schools within their region in implementing inclusive education while maintaining their role as special schools. In turn, provincial education authorities in a number of provinces also have appointed other special schools in their respective areas to be resource centres. In addition, some private entities also have taken initiative to provide support services for inclusive 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.
    3) 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.
    4) 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.
    5) A number of universities have been actively involved in promoting inclusive education in their regions, and more and more universities have introduced inclusive education as a subject or as topics in other related subjects to their students, and many students are inspired to take aspects of inclusive education as topics of their research. Furthermore, a number of universities have established support service centres for students with disabilities. A couple of universities (UIN in Yogyakarta and UB in Malang) even have taken initiative to set a quota for students with disabilities in admitting new students, and provide the students with disabilities with support services.
    6) 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.
    7) Organizations of persons with disabilities have been active to take part in promoting inclusive education. Among others, Pertuni (Indonesian Blind Union), in cooperation with ICEVI and the Nippon Foundation, have helped a number of universities (UNJ in Jakarta, UPI in Bandung, and Unesa in Surabaya) to initiate the establishment of support service centres for students with visual impairment. The centres are expected to develop further to serve students with other disabilities.
    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 25 students each new academic year. In 2014, UPI even opened the doctoral programme in special education focussing on inclusive education. In addition, in recent years, two other universities, Unesa (Surabaya) and UNY (Yogyakarta) also have taken the initiative to establish a similar master programme. 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.
    Furthermore, in 2014, the Ministry also issued another regulation on higher education access for students with disabilities in inclusive setting (Permendikbud 46/2014). In essence, the regulation stipulates that students with disabilities be given equal higher education opportunity with supportive accessibility so that they can participate fully in the learning process together with other students.
    10) In 2014, the Ministry of Education and Culture reported that the number of inclusive schools in Indonesia reached 2,430, a drastic increase compared to 27 in 2002. With that, there were around 125 thousand children with disabilities in schools that year. It was also reported that the school enrollment rate for children with disabilities in 2014 was 34.2%. This is a highly significant increase compared to the around 10% enrollment rate reported in early 2000’s.


    With the strategies above, the number of inclusive schools and the number of children with disabilities enrolled in inclusive schools has indeed significantly increased since the ideology of inclusive education was introduced to Indonesia in 1999. But it looks that it is not quite so qualitatively.
    Inclusive education is achieved when students with disabilities are readily accepted to attend any school in their neighbourhood, can participate in all the school activities on equal base, and have equal opportunity to succeed.
    Inclusion has three key components: (1) physical inclusion, (2) social inclusion, and (3) curricular inclusion. For these three components to come together requires the cooperation of students, parents and teachers, and the support of principals, school communities and the Department of Education.
    To be physically included means that children with disabilities are being physically attending the local neighbourhood school, playing in the same playgrounds, being in the same classrooms and having access to specialist groupings such as art, computer, physical education, at and for the same time as their non-disabled peers.
    Nurturing positive social inclusion is far more complex than the physical presence of a child in the classroom. One can be rejected and lonely even in a crowded classroom. The people who belong in a group are those who share the same experiences as all the other members and any reduction in the amount of shared time tends to place social inclusion at risk.
    Curricular inclusion requires the involvement of all children in the same daily learning events and as such careful thought and preparation are essential. To enable students with disabilities to participate fully in the general classroom activities, some adaptations are required. Sometimes the adaptations that need to be made for students with disabilities are as simple as (a) changing performance expectations (e.g., different spelling words; 10 math problems rather than 20); (b) allowing students to respond in different ways; (c) changing the materials to match the motivational, sensory, or physical characteristics of the student; (d) providing additional time or task completion or responding; (e) providing assistive devices (e.g., tape recorders to take notes, computers); (f) preteaching or tutoring; or (g) modifying the rules of participation.

    Research indicates that inclusive education can be successful when the support systems are in place. Listed below are the activities and support systems commonly found where successful inclusion has occurred.
    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 other 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. While all the activities and systems in the list above are found in Indonesia, but not all of them are present in any particular school. Conclusion

    The strategies to promote inclusive education have proved to be effective in the efforts to implement inclusive education in Indonesia during the last 16 years, at least quantitively. The strategies have contributed to increase the enrollment rate of students with disabilities from aroung 10% in early 2000’s to 34.2% in 2014. The key to this success is the fact that the strategies have involved so many different segments of the society including the government, NGOs, organizations of persons with disabilities, special schools and universities.
    However, while workshops and seminars and media publications have significantly changed attitudes and beliefs among many people towards inclusive education, obviously the vast majority of the Indonesian society still need to change theirs to support this ideology; and among those with positive atitudes and beliefs also still neede more understanding of how inclusive education should be put into practice. While many schools have disability-specific services and the accommodations to the physical plant and equipment to a certain extent are available to meet the special needs of students with disabilities, 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. Resource centres have been established to support the inclusive schools, but more efforts need to be taken to make them more effective.
    Despite these all, indications show that the implementation of inclusive education in Indonesia is getting better and better from time to time.


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