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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

In the third quarter of 2017, the team focused on developing science-learning material modules that are integrated with a religious approach. Nevertheless, their work remains grounded on a firm understanding that no approach is feasible without the incorporation of proper learning methodologies. Based on the results of the field research they conducted earlier, they have found that most science teachers teach science in a conventional way: students do not know the purpose of the learning, the teacher only explains the abstract (theoretical) learning material, the assessment is done in general terms (not looking at specific student progress), and students are oriented only on the mastery of learning materials by rote. Through discussions with U.S. Partner Joel Kuipers, the PI Mr. Askuri and his colleagues found a potential reference for use in the development of their science learning module, an educational design called “Project 2061,” introduced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). It defines seven principles that are important to apply in science learning: (1) delivering learning objectives; (2) resolving students’ misunderstandings; (3) encouraging student involvement with relevant phenomena (hands on); (4) encouraging the use of scientific methodology; (5) encouraging students' thinking; (6) encouraging specific student progress assessments; and (7) creating an atmosphere of learning and curiosity among all students.

The PI has assembled a team of excellent science teachers to develop a new Islamic curriculum that is integrated with Indonesia’s national 2013 curriculum. As of October 2017, moving into the fourth quarter of Year 1 on their PEER project, they are still focusing on developing this learning module, which will be tested for one semester in the coming academic year. Once the module team (made up of several science teachers based in Yogyakarta) finishes their work, their draft will be disseminated to other teachers from the three target areas of the project to get feedback. In addition to work on the module, the team plans to visit schools in Malang, Lamongan, and Yogyakarta during the last quarter of 2017, with the aim of building on the commitment levels from both schools and science teachers alike with regard to program implementation next year. An internal team evaluation process is also planned to identify issues needing improvement, including how to increase the capacity of the participating researchers to assist science teachers in the implementation phase. On the dissemination side, the team will soon be launching the project website, which will feature information specific to the project and more generally relevant to the issue of religion-science integration. Team members will also be presenting five papers at an international conference held by the Ministry of Religion in Jakarta in November 2017.

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