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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Science education in Indonesian religious schools

PI: Askuri Ibn Chamim (, Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies
U.S. Partner: Joel Kuipers, The George Washington University
Project Dates: January 2017 - December 2019 

Project Overview:

5-429 Group Photo
U.S. Partner Joel Kuipers (seated, at far left) and PI Askuri Ibn Chamim (seated, far right) gather with participants in their Workshop of Experts in Science Education, held in Yogyakarta July 25-27, 2017 (photo courtesy of Dr. Chamim)
The underachievement of Indonesian science education reform efforts and the continued problem of Indonesian low scores on international assessments of science education at the pre-university level are matters of serious concern. Not only do these problems have implications for the future of Indonesia’s workforce, their continued neglect could affect the future of Indonesia’s democracy and international stability. Among the lowest scoring of the Indonesian student populations are those who graduate from the country’s religious schools, currently 20% of the student population. The study draws on best practices in science education and links them with professional development practices that are tied to curriculum units that will actually be used in classrooms. The objectives of the project are to (1) determine and describe how science is taught in Indonesian Islamic schools and propose an curriculum intervention that is aligned with the national curriculum; (2) apply the intervention in the classroom and describe and analyze its implementation; and (3) compare the intervention with control groups and report the findings. The work will involve significant partnerships with leading universities in three key cities in Java: Yogyakarta, Malang, and Surabaya. Enhancing the capacity of the Indonesian educational research community to describe and evaluate its own educational system is an important benefit of the proposed research.

This research will produce a model for the treatment in science education in religious schools. A key feature of the treatment program is to develop a learning method that integrates religious motivation with motivation to learn science. The results of this research will be disseminated to stakeholders of educational providers in Indonesia, especially operators of religious schools, to be adopted and developed in the context of each. The largest operators of religious schools in Indonesia are NU and Muhammadiyah, two major Muslim organizations in this country. Mr. Askuri and his team will establish cooperation with these two organizations to implement the science education curriculum integrating the religious approach as a result of this project. Furthermore, the organizations will be encouraged to develop this new approach further in their individual contexts. This project will also train dozens of researchers from various universities in Indonesia and build their capacity through workshops and interdisciplinary collaborative research. In addition, this program will also train dozens of science teachers in the latest scientific learning methods. One output of the project will be teaching materials that can be used by teachers for classroom instruction and by students for independent study. This teaching material will be created in open-source digital format, so it can be replicated broadly by other schools that are not included in the project.

Summary of Recent Activities

The first quarter of this project's third year (January through March 2019) was highlighted by an intensive and fruitful data analysis and writing workshop for the participating researchers. The workshop was held in Batu, Malang, East Java, February 18 – 23, 2019. The participants included eight local researchers based in Yogyakarta, Malang, and Lamongan who have been working on the project since its first year. By the end of the event, the researchers had finished analyzing their data and had produced outlines of academic papers to be drafted with the aim of publishing them in national and international journals. Another key achievement this past quarter was a meeting March 7 with officials from the Center for Education and Training (Pusat Pendidikan dan Pelatihan, or Pusdiklat) of the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs. Pusdiklat is the government agency that is fully responsible for curriculum development for all Islamic-based schools and universities in Indonesia. Although further meetings with relevant officials will still be required, in general the PI Dr. Askuri reported that Pusdiklat officials welcomed the idea and appreciated the project, as it aligns well with their interests in augmenting the Islam-science curriculum for 7th graders. If the PEER team’s curriculum is adopted, it would make the project sustainable and ultimately could impact millions of junior high school students in Indonesia. Although the team only developed a one-semester curriculum, the method they used to develop it would be applicable for the Pusdiklat to apply and adopt for a longer curriculum as well.

During the next three to six months, Dr. Askuri and his group plan to continue their contacts with working-level officials at Pusdiklat now that the senior leadership of the Center has given its general approval. The PEER team will also be organizing a series of dissemination events under the title “Science to Policy: Seminar for Socialization of the Research Result to Educational Stakeholders in Indonesian Islamic Schools.” The first will be held in Yogyakarta around July or August 2019.

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