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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

On April 12, 2018, the team completed work on their curriculum module for “Strengthening Science Teaching in Indonesian Religious Schools,” and on May 16, they held a mini workshop at the ICRS. Participants included all project staff and Ms. Fitriarti Asri Hastuti (Ms. Fitri), one of the targeted teachers in this program. The mini workshop was designed to test the feasibility of using the module with junior high students, and the results of the event indicated that most of the subjects in the module are good, although some minor adjustments are needed.

In addition, in late April the PI Dr. Askuri decided to implement the mosquito module he received from the Smithsonian Institution during his visit to the United States in March. This module will serve as a science project for the students, but because it is in English, it is being translated into Bahasa Indonesia by Mr. Nur Widiyanto and Ms. Soviani. During May and June, the PEER team also worked on organizing a larger workshop for teachers and another workshop for researchers. The former was held at one of the targeted schools, the SMP Muhammadiyah Tiga, June 29 – July 2. The PI began the first day’s agenda by presenting the module, with its 26 subjects to be taught to the students for the entire coming semester, from July 16 to the end of December 2018. The participants included 22 teachers divided into 4 groups. These groups were assigned to do some experiments, with one member from each group designated to present their results. On this day, with 26 subjects to be shared, worked on, and discussed, each teacher had the chance to act as participant, mentor, and presenter on the various experiments. The following workshop, for researchers, took place July 3-4, 2018. All nine researchers (three each from Malang, Lamongan, and Yogyakarta) were invited and all participated. Holding the workshop at the school was very valuable, as it gave the researchers a better sense of how the modules would be used in a classroom setting, as well as a chance to practice shooting videos in that environment. U.S. partner Prof. Joel Kuipers served as a consultant and resource person for the whole two days. Both workshops were successfully completed. The teachers received updated versions of MS Office, to ensure that their laptops could support the module components during classes, as well as the module itself, teaching guidelines, activity handbooks for the students, and all the necessary supplies the students will need to use in the experiments. Meanwhile, the researchers were taught intensively about ethnography and video shooting for ethnographic research methodology.

During the coming months, in addition to monitoring progress as the teachers roll out the new module with their students, the PI and his team will continue working to develop their project website, which is almost completed. Eventually it will include downloadable materials that could be used by teachers and students. The team will also continue to interact with key stakeholders regarding possibilities for broader implementation of the curriculum after this initial semester of testing and honing it is complete. In particular, they are in contact with the main office of the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, which manages thousands of Islamic schools in Indonesia that implement science education.

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