Education as part of culture: another interpretation is possible

October 8, 2011

Qusthan Abqary

Ki Hadjar Dewantara and Daoed Joesoef – both are former Indonesian minister of education and culture – think that education has to be the part of culture but not otherwise. Such visionary view has some advantageous and disadvantageous implications. This short opinion will discuss such things.

First of all, such visionary thought clearly manifests on the preamble of Indonesian constitution (UUD 1945 [fourth amendments]) as ‘to advance the nation’s life’ (“mencerdaskan kehidupan bangsa”). It means education has to be the most important thing to be accomplished (policy) among other issues and education itself would be positioned on the center of Indonesian culture.

However, Indonesian formal leaders – presidents or previously prime ministers (PM) – never show serious efforts to tackle education issues before leading the country. For instance, only Ali Sastroamidjojo who became minister of education and culture before appointed by President Soekarno as prime minister. On the other hand, six from seven – except the first PM Tuanku Abdul Rahman – Malaysia’s PM had similar political step-stone. Australia has four, Israel has six, and France has at least 33 formal leaders who ever did similar political paths.

Secondly, if education was part of culture, it does not guarantee the improvement of its quality around the globe. Even though UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)’s study showed that the rate of worldwide adult literacy had been increased from 72.9% in 1990 to 83.8% in 2007, more male students completed their primary education than female students.

Nevertheless, boys repeated their primary education more than girls did, especially in Middle East & North Africa (8.5% for male and 5.7% for female); and Latin America & Caribbean (11.8% for male and 10.2% for female) (“The State of Education around the World: a global statistical summary; Part II: Quality Indicators”;

In other words, female students have less opportunities to fulfill their primary education than male students, despite the facts that girls are relatively diligent – or even smarter? – than boys. Many factors might banish female students to finish their primary grades, but culture and economy could be the most decisive factors among others.

If education had to be part of culture, so national education systems in most Arabian and North African countries, for instance, have to adjust with its extreme patriarchal culture. Consequently, the gap between male and female completion rates or their repetition rates on primary education would be higher than before.

Educating people mean to make them aware with not only Indonesian but also foreign culture since we live in the age of globalization and information. The flood of information has to be managed in order to develop both individual and social knowledge for the sake of advancing nation’s life. There is no smart national life without the growth of both individual and social knowledge.

Daoed Joesoef believes that science (either natural and social sciences) has to be the main concern of modern education. Such opinion might be more sufficient with other vision that culture is the part of education. In contrast, Ki Hadjar Dewantara gives more emphasize on how students could cope with their environmental and cultural surrounds. Scientific knowledge is less important than cultural awareness.

On the other hand, such vision – education has to be part of culture – provides another interpretation. Both scientific and non-scientific knowledge have to be taught in the national system of education in order to make people aware with their heritages and surrounds. Thereafter, citizens are free to choose which knowledge would be used in their future life. This is the real democracy where sciences and non-scientific knowledge are put into ‘ballots’ to be chosen by citizens.

Moreover, all languages are not appropriate with scientific knowledge. For example, American Indian Hopi’s language do not have concept of velocity. They have to say “I’m very running” for transmitting one message: I’m running very fast. Sciences are not the only path to know and understand the whole world as well as the entire universe cannot be understood just only by sciences.

Last but not least, education – as the part of culture – has to able to advance the nation’s life, but scientific knowledge could not do it without non-scientific knowledge that is more sufficient with local situations and conditions.

* This opinion had published in

Tentang Penulis

Qusthan Abqary - I am a lecturer and teach some subjects such as Ethics and Social Awareness, Corporate Governance and Ethics, Business Ethics, Critical and Creative Thinking and others. My research interests are political philosophy, ethics, peace, and war.

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