The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Friday, September 30, 2005



Is the shortest distance between two points always a straight line? Not in the world of international shipping.

Which comes first – port or freight? It’s a question much like the chicken and the egg.

These and other conundrums have been plaguing the mind of Australian transport engineer John Hile for several years as he’s pondered the biggest question of all:

How can trade between Indonesia and Australia be boosted and made more efficient?

In mid September a ship carrying 55 containers of paper products from East Java quietly sailed directly from Surabaya to Darwin as a trial run for what may become a new regular service. The big boxes were then put on a train and trucks destined for shops in the capital cities of the southern states.

From go to whoa the journey took about eight days, around one third of the time it normally takes on the traditional sea route Surabaya – Singapore – Melbourne.

To the layperson the logistics look clear enough; why send goods north to Singapore so they can then be sent south to Australia?

But of course it’s not that simple, as Hile, the landbridging manager for Australian freight company Toll North, explained:

“Surabaya has traditionally been a feeder port for the hub of Singapore. Containers are offloaded there and then mixed with others destined for Australia,” he said.

“Australia’s major population centres are on the south-east corner of the continent. Darwin may be a lot closer to Indonesia, but it’s a tiny city and hasn’t been a calling port for ships from Singapore.”

It’s not just Hile who’s trying to alter the shape of international trade. In late September a team from the Northern Territory Government, Australian freight carriers and train operators were in Surabaya trying to persuade shippers to change their routes.

Last year more than one million TEUs left Surabaya’s container terminal. (A TEU is the unpronounceable industry term for a “Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit”.) The port at Tanjung Perak could handle double this load.

Economies of scale are pushing the shipping industry towards even bigger vessels. The monsters now carrying 8,000 TEUs will soon be dwarfed by ships with a capacity of 12,500. And of course they’ll need deeper harbors, more cranes and bigger ports to unload.

To make a Surabaya-Darwin connection viable exporters need to know that a scheduled freight service would be departing Indonesia’s second biggest port every week.

But without subsidies or guaranteed loadings a shipping company would be reluctant to initiate a regular sailing in the hope that freight will magically appear.

So the Australians spent time trying to stitch deals with shippers and lobbying local manufacturers. Many were among the 230 delegates from more than 25 nations at the ASEAN Ports and Shipping Conference in Surabaya

The Aussie’s arguments were based on savings through the opening last year of the new rail line. This links Darwin to Adelaide 3,000 km to the south, and the East-West network to all State capitals.

There is also an all-weather highway between Darwin and Adelaide open to road trains, and the port of Darwin is being massively upgraded.

“We’re not trying to take over existing shipping lines to Eastern Australia,” said John Parkes, general manager for international marketing of Freightlink, the operators of the north-south rail line. “We’re offering an alternative route.”

But his attempted appeasement of the big time freight shifters who snap their fingers at trade movements worth millions was undermined when he revealed ambitions to shift more than 350 containers out of Darwin on every train.

If successful the ports in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Fremantle would see a significant downturn in business. Clearly some noses would be put out of joint.

Already the Australian media has carried stories of the high cost of the rail link and importers preferring to use trucks. Construction faults on the Darwin wharf have also made the industry edgy about shifting from the tried and trusted ways of taking goods the long way round.

But the Australian hustlers in East Java flicked away such naysaying as “politics”, and pushed on with their salespitch.

There may not be much romance in a long steel box which looks the same in Antwerp or Zanzibar but the enthusiastic Australians made the business of picking up and plonking down lots of TEUs sound like one great adventure.

“Change is always difficult but this new route through Darwin will happen because the commercial realities will make it happen,” said Hile.

“At the moment Indonesia is no better off than China or India in getting its products into Australia through the current trade routes.

“East Java has a huge industrial capacity, much of it under-utilised and with a low-cost skilled labor force. In the country next door is a major market. Australia has a tiny manufacturing industry and not enough workers. The potential for Surabaya is huge. (See sidebar)

“There’s a huge push to have this going within six months – and we will be successful.”


The dream of a speedy link between Surabaya and Australia has long eluded transport planners who have been working for decades to get a direct transport route opened.

Australia exports goods worth about AUD 3,410 million to Indonesia and ranks at number six in the list of suppliers to Indonesia. Top of the list is Singapore followed by Japan, China, the US and Thailand.

Australia imports goods worth AUD 3,318 million from Indonesia. Apart from petroleum products, paper and timber are in demand.

Australia also exports petroleum products to the archipelago along with minerals, live animals and primary produce.

It’s difficult to stuff a steer into a container, but minerals like gold, aluminium ingots and copper are put in containers. So is cotton. Only unrefined minerals like iron ore and grains are shipped in bulk.

Australia is number ten in the list of destinations for Indonesian goods. Most go to Japan and the US.

Indonesia is a major exporter of paper products to Australia. If you’re a journalist or secretary Down Under the chances are you’ll be taking notes on a pad made in East Java, using an Indonesian pen and maybe sitting at a wooden desk crafted in the archipelago.

Meanwhile their counterparts in this country are chewing on Australian steak washed down with a tangy fruit juice.

And the probability is high that all are wearing clothes made in booming China whose ports are already handling more than 61 million TEUs.

(First published in The Jakarta Post 30 September 05)

Monday, September 26, 2005



When young English teacher Alex Gough arrived in Surabaya about 12 years ago there was a small but active British community functioning in the East Java capital.

There was also a British Consul backed by a system of “wardens”. Their job was to maintain contact with expats and pass around information. There was also a branch of the British Council promoting arts, culture and education.

“I can remember gathering around the pool at the Consul’s house with other British expats and drinking gin and tonics,” said Gough. “This was during the 90s when the political and economic situation was unstable.

“To my surprise we were told very clearly that we were on our own and there was no way the British Government was going to repatriate us if things got nasty.

“At the time the Americans were organising muster stations for their citizens and the Koreans had pick-up points. We just had to keep a stiff upper lip. That’s how it felt, like something out of Our Man in Havana.” (The famous Graham Greene novel).

Now there is no honorary British Consul in Surabaya, a job that traditionally fell to the manager of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation, but later passed to industrialists who worked far out of the city. The wardens have also vanished, more victims of Internet communication.

And last year the British Council closed its beautifully refurbished study centre in central Surabaya. This was a marvellous place for locals and expats to read English literature, watch British videos and discuss international affairs over a cup of Javanese coffee.

Many of the Council’s resources have been passed on to the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS) in Surabaya. It’s a fitting location. (See sidebar).

And Gough, the one-time footloose English hitchhiking backpacker from Kent who fell in love with Indonesia and an Indonesian, is now well established. Through durability and status he’s become the de-facto head of the tiny British community in Indonesia’s second biggest city.

It’s not a position he’s sought or promotes, and thinks the idea a hoot, particularly as his first arrival in Indonesia was with turtle smugglers plying the Malacca Straits. At the time his knowledge of the archipelago was of “a few blobs in lots of water.”

Now he speaks fluent Indonesian, wears a tie and manages a prestigious English language college with about 400 students and a reputation for excellence.

There’s been no conscious plan to Anglicise the place, but half Gough’s expat staff at the Indonesia Australia Language Foundation (IALF) are British. Ironically this makes the Australian institution probably the largest employer of Britons in Surabaya.

Where are the Aussies? Some are out in the pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) helping local English teachers improve their skills (see The Jakarta Post 7 September 2005). But persistent travel warnings and a bad press have made many Australians reluctant to travel west of Bali.

Another factor is the low wages offered to Australian teachers who can earn much more in Korea and Japan and where visa restrictions and tax imposts are reported to be less onerous. For British teachers seeking overseas experience Indonesia is not a worrisome neighbor but a distant and exotic location.

Warnings against foreigners gathering in places like up-market hotels where they may present fundamentalists with an easy target, have also served to keep expats at home. Even in the well-known Jatim Club in the Kamar Dagang dan Industri (KADIN – Indonesian Chamber of Commerce) building, a cheery spot where business folk quaff lager longer, the English is more Rhine than Thames.

The Expat Women’s Association of Surabaya has only about five Britons in a total membership of around 100.

“The situation is different in Jakarta where the British have a substantial presence but in East Java we are now such a small group of teachers and technical advisers that we can’t maintain a separate identity,” Gough said.

“That’s not a problem for me. My wife Dinda is Javanese and I’ve become a Muslim. We live in the community. But our two-year old daughter Olive is British and like me can only stay here on a visa.”

It’s these sorts of citizenship difficulties that often confound expats in Indonesia who form relationships and have children. For these people consular offices have traditionally provided information and sometimes assistance. That’s when they’re not promoting trade opportunities or encouraging tourists.

France, Germany, the US, the Netherlands, India, Sweden, Japan, Sri Lanka, Belgium and Denmark all have consular or honorary consular services in Surabaya.

The centralisation of services and the expanding use of the Internet have weakened the demand for a local presence, but Indonesian culture prefers face-to-face contacts, particularly in business.

“It’s a shame to see the British Council break up in Surabaya,” said Gough. “There’s a great need for cultural events to promote our way of life and that’s not happening. The cross-cultural component of education is extremely important, and we teach this at the IALF.

“Surabaya gets a hammering in the guide books and Westerners tend to roll their eyes when they hear East Java, but I find living here is great. Sure there’s some pollution but this is nothing compared to some industrial cities in China.

“The British should be far more active here. If you come here with the right attitude it’s an awesome experience - and I don’t mean that in the American sense of the word. This is a wonderful country – it’s so many countries within a country.

“As a bule you can’t lock yourself away in an expat enclave and pretend it’s Gibraltar. You either like it and join in, or hate it and get out.

“East Java is very Indonesian. It’s also very safe. There’s so much to do and see. But there’s no point in living here if you’re really not into the place.”



In the recent history of Surabaya there’s no more famous – or infamous – Briton than Brigadier General A.W. Mallaby.

He was the unfortunate officer who led the Allied forces trying to clear the way for a return to Dutch rule after the Japanese capitulated in 1945.

Mallaby landed in Surabaya in late October with troops from the British 49th Indian Infantry. Their job was to restore order, but independence fighters loyal to President Sukarno’s proclamation of the Republic two months earlier were not about to open the door to Europeans.

The situation was chaotic with the fate of many Dutch prisoners of war and former Japanese soldiers in the balance.

Sukarno flew to Surabaya and negotiated a truce with Mallaby. The cease-fire was proclaimed the following day but five hours later an unknown gunman shot Mallaby dead close to the Red Bridge. A major monument records where he fell.

The assassination maddened the British who demanded the partisans surrender their arms by 9 November. They refused and on 10 November the Battle of Surabaya began with the defenceless city bombed by aircraft and shelled by warships. The ITS, the beneficiary of the British Council’s closure, has been named after this event.

Despite their firepower and war-hardened experience it took three weeks for the British to gain control. The young Indonesians fought with great ferocity and retreated slowly, but they paid dearly for their bravery.

The many war cemeteries which dot the suburbs of Surabaya are testimony to the terrible slaughter. The toll has long been disputed but the late historian and former government minister Dr Roeslan Abdulgani told this writer that more than 6,300 Indonesians died in the battle.

The last British troops left in November 1946.

(First published in The Jakarta Post 24 September 05)


Friday, September 16, 2005



In the best traditions of Indonesian tourism a unique attraction involving culture, music and craft is poorly promoted and hard to find. But the effort is worth the energy, reports Duncan Graham from Bogor

It looks like a scene from Dante’s fevered imagination: An ancient, soot-blackened, windowless workshop lit by a volcanic display of sparks. In the centre two roaring charcoal furnaces.

Sweating men squat around the saucer-shaped fires. They look like demons in the flickering red and yellow lights. They wear sandals and T-shirts. Or no shirts. When tongs withdraw the white-hot dish they jump to action.

Before the metal cools they pound it with great hammers; properly beaten into submission the hapless metal is thrust back into the heat for more torture. From such prolonged pain will come extraordinary music.

Bogor’s gong factory could feature as a case study in Western manuals on industrial health and safety. But before activists leap to protest let it be said that it was this writer and not the inferno workers who shuddered at the conditions.

They clearly thought a foreigner’s sensitivities a great joke. Who needs hard hats, steel-capped boots, masks and ventilation? Protective gear is for Western sissies, not Indonesian craftsmen.

Visitors to what’s reputed to be West Java’s last remaining gong factory should set aside squeamish sentiments and ponder the significance of their experience. For they’re witnessing ancient technology little changed since our prehistoric ancestors discovered that mixing molten copper and tin makes a marvellously malleable, durable and attractive metal.

In Bogor the Bronze Age is alive and glowing.

The workshop’s owner Haji Sukarna, 70, said little had changed during his family’s seven generations of gong making. An electric fan is now used instead of bellows to excite the embers and a compressor drives a spray painter, but other tasks are manual.

Thermometers aren’t used to measure the heat. As in many crafts the eye of experience gauges when the metal is just right for beating. Too hot and the chemistry changes – too cold and the shape will not change.

Bronze has excellent acoustic properties which is why it’s widely used for bells and wind instruments.

The Indonesian government supplies bars of tin and copper for the process. The metals are melted and combined to form a flat round disk. The tin component is critical; if much more than 40 per cent is used the alloy can be too brittle.

It takes about four days to hammer this into a gong of about 50 cm diameter, six days for one half as big again. The price tag for the smaller instrument is Rp 2,500,000 (US$ 250) complete with wooden stand and striker. These are also made at the same factory.

Add at least another million rupiah if you buy the same gong from a shop in central Jakarta. It can be an expensive but impressive way to summon the family to dinner. The bigger gongs are sold to mosques. Gong size determines pitch.

The smaller, hat-shaped gongs used in gamelan orchestras are also produced, along with the red-painted and carved frames that hold the instruments.

Pak Sukarna’s son, Mohamed Riduan, 56, now manages the business. “Our gongs have been sold all over the world,” he said. “We get a constant stream of visitors from abroad. We don’t advertise or publish brochures. People get to know about us through word of mouth.”

A listing in the international tour guidebook Lonely Planet – better known as the Backpacker’s Bible - has also helped spread news of the factory and some local tour guides include the place in their itineraries. But it seems that tourism authorities don’t realise what a gem they have in their midst.

“The work is hard and because of this it’s sometimes difficult to get staff,” said Pak Riduan. “It’s a specialised skill. We operate seven days a week with 25 workers to keep up with demand.”

When the business started in the 19th century the workshop was in a rural area. Now Bogor has expanded and houses and shops surround the foundry.

But there’s no doubt about the location, even if you miss the crudely painted sign on the wall outside. The heavy bass bong of hammer on burnished metal echoes down the crowded street; it bounces slowly off the bitumen and rolls round the concrete, unimpeded by the clamour of modern traffic.

It’s the same sound that rang through the forests of Java hundreds of years ago when the magic properties of bronze were the leading edge of technology.

(First publishedin The Jakarta Post 13 September 05)




It’s probably one of the most difficult jobs on the diplomatic circuit in Indonesia: To get the United States’ policies, values and lifestyles understood by people who have never been to America.

For some it’s the great democracy; for others it’s the great Satan. Demolishing myths and substituting facts is no task for the weak willed.

The latest recruit to this “challenging task” – as she prefers to label the assignment – is the energetic Claire Pierangelo, marathon runner, linguist, economist and now US consul general in Surabaya.
“There’s a lot of interest but not a whole lot of knowledge about the US in Indonesia,” she said. “It's important for people to meet face to face in order to form their own opinions on issues beyond the simple headlines of the day.

“Nor was there much depth of knowledge of Indonesia in America until the terrible tragedy of the tsunami. That’s now changing. One in five Americans donated to the tsunami victims.

“A priority in my job is community outreach. By that I mean getting to know Indonesian people and help them develop their own ideas of what America is and what it means. Of course it was easier to do that in the old days.”

Indeed. Now there are real obstacles to add to the cultural, historical and language differences. Since Ms Pierangelo took up her post in July the consulate’s high steel fences have been shielded so the lovely old Dutch house can no longer be seen by passers-by or the queues of visa applicants.

There’s always a heavy police presence outside waiting for the next demo, and the roadside barriers in Jl Dr Sutomo have been strengthened.

It’s an annoying impediment to the free flow of traffic and Ms Pierangelo will not comment on when or if it will be removed. By comparison, within a couple of kilometres the French consulate runs an open-door policy with free access to a substantial library, exhibitions and regular film nights.

If the average Indonesian can’t saunter into the US consulate, then the staff have to get out to meet the people. Ms Pierangelo has already visited a pesantren in Malang and has been confronted with questions about her country’s attitude towards independence in Papua.

The issue has been made more sensitive by reports that some members of the US Congress have proposed a bill questioning the validity of Papua’s inclusion in the Republic in the 1969 so-called Act of Free Choice.

“I said we continue to support the territorial integrity of Indonesia but we are concerned about some human rights issues,” Ms Pierangelo said. “Members of Congress are free to discuss international issues and propose legislation, but that doesn’t mean they become law.”

Her colleagues visit schools and other education institutions to explain how the US works, and distribute information on exchange programs and fellowships. More than 11,000 Indonesians have utilised these in the past 50 years. (The figure for Australian government scholarships over the same period is 8,000.)

The Pesantren Leaders Program gives educators the chance to study in public and private schools in the US and meet religious leaders of all faiths. This is part of a US$ 157 million four-year educational aid package for Indonesia.

The US has had a consulate in Surabaya since 1896. With a staff of about 50 locals and ten expats it’s the largest foreign representative in Indonesia’s second biggest city. This is despite the fact that probably less than 2,000 Americans live in the consulate’s coverage area. This extends east from central Java across to Papua.

Australia, the country next door, has no office in Surabaya even though Western Australia has a Sister-State relationship with East Java.

Ms Pierangelo said her country recognised the importance of the East Java capital and its significance in Indonesian business, industry and politics. “I want as many people as possible to get to know America,” she said.

“It’s not my role to dictate. I want Indonesians to know and understand us. I’ll have succeeded if they’ve met a variety of people and been exposed to a variety of opinions- and they remember the effort we’ve put into that ambition.”

Her previous overseas posting was in Vietnam where she worked on trade issues. She joined the US State Department in 1985 after studying international relations at Johns Hopkins University where she graduated with a master’s degree.

She has also studied at the National Defense University and has served in Britain, Haiti, Malta and Italy – the birthplace of her grandparents. Her linguistic abilities include Italian, French, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese.

With this background it’s not surprising that she has yet to encounter any great culture shocks.

After being offered the Surabaya job she studied Indonesian intensively in Washington, but finds limited opportunities to practise her skills now she’s in Indonesia, such are the security concerns. It also hampers chances of running marathons, which she did in Washington.

Operating under tight security isn’t the best way to meet the people but so far Ms Pierangelo seems to have done a reasonable job if comments in the small foreign community are any guide. Her predecessor Philip Antweiller had a low profile reputation – his successor is said to be more direct and outspoken – an analysis she found amusing.

While sipping tea served by men she rejected local gossip that she’d been chosen for the job to show a predominantly Muslim nation that in the West women can rise to high administrative positions. She also dismissed the idea that she might give the job a soft touch.

“Gender is not a criteria for selection,” she said. “I was offered the position. Who doesn’t want to come to Indonesia?”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 8 September 05)




Like any good Aussie lad, Simon Welsh, 11, plays a straight bat. But that doesn’t stop him falling for a googlie tossed by his sister Eloise, 8. To the critical observer of backyard cricket he’s clearly out leg-before-wicket, though it’s true a passing kitten obstructed his line of sight.

Inevitably there’s a protest; it should have been a no-ball. But everyone else in the house is too busy to umpire. The neighbors are nonplussed and the dispute fizzles out as the cat is not prepared to take the blame.

In the background the television broadcasts news from Down Under. Dad and Mum discuss their kids’ school assignments round the kitchen table. It looks like typical Australian suburbia. The only giveaway is the maid at the sink.

That’s a luxury language teachers Alistair and Julienne Welsh didn’t have in their seaside house in Torquay, Victoria. This is the home they’ve left for two years to work for Australian Volunteers International in East Java.

Their workplace is now a big Nahdlatul Ulama pesantren (Islamic boarding school) near Probolingo, a town best known as a base for exploring nearby Mt Bromo.

In Australia Alistair lectured in Indonesian at Deakin University and Julienne taught Indonesian at the Christian College in Geelong. Now the couple use their considerable abilities and experience to help Indonesian teachers of English lift their skills and develop resources.

Any Australian teaching Indonesian in Australia would have no credibility if they hadn’t studied, worked or lived in Indonesia. Yet thousands of Indonesians who teach English across the archipelago have never been outside their country.

This is not their fault. The huge imbalance in wages, job conditions and cost of living make travel to an English speaking country difficult for most Indonesian teachers, while Australians are restricted only by their will.

“I first got interested in Indonesian at high school through an enthusiastic teacher I had for six years,” said Alistair. “I learned then – and it remains true today – that there’s no substitute for a good teacher.

“I pursued Indonesian at university then spent three months in Yogya and got hooked.

“Later I spent time teaching in the Moluccas. We then went to the Cocos Islands (an Australian possession south of Java where the population is mainly Malay) as teachers.”

The couple met in Darwin where Julienne was coordinating education exchange programs between Australia’s Northern Territory and East Indonesia. So after so much experience, why leave secure and pleasant jobs in Australia and move north?

“It’s definitely not a CV boosting exercise,” said Alistair. “But after ten years out of the country we thought it necessary to come back and recharge the batteries, particularly as so much has changed in government, politics and use of technology.”

“We also needed to build our understanding of Islamic education,” said Julienne. “In the past I’ve been heavily involved in administration and this is a great chance to get back to grass roots learning.

“Although we’ve been to Indonesia many times we’ve never previously worked in a pesantren. Fortunately the one we’ve been invited to is very progressive and welcoming. I dress modestly but I’m not required to wear a headscarf.

“We’ve been surprised at the students’ discipline and enthusiasm, and the campus facilities. These include a well equipped language laboratory.”

The pesantren has about 7,000 students. It does not allow television on campus, so the students don’t get the chance to see English language programs that many Indonesians use to pick up speech patterns and vocabulary.

Compensation comes through a FM radio station run by staff and students. This broadcasts the popular Kang Guru English language program produced under an AusAID (Australian Aid) grant.

A major problem for Indonesian teachers of English has been the lack of suitable resources. Textbook pictures of well-rugged little blond kids building snowmen before the village church don’t exactly resonate with pesantren students in the tropics.

So in association with English lecturer Sugiano, the assistant principal of communications at the pesantren, the Australians are designing and writing textbooks specifically for Islamic students.

“Building student motivation and self confidence is extremely important,” said Sugiono. “It’s interesting to learn from Alistair and Julienne that the problems we face as teachers here are not that much different from those encountered in Australian schools.”

Sugiono has applied for a merit-based Australian Development Scholarship to study at an Australian university, and if successful will spend two years away from Indonesia. A condition of the award is that skills learned in Australia will be passed onto his colleagues at the pesantren.

The Welshs brought their two children to East Java to expand their horizons and better understand their neighbours. The kids continue their schooling through the Victorian Education Department’s distance education program.

Lessons and assignments are mailed to and from Australia and their parents supervise the children’s work at home.

The family has rented a house off-campus to preserve their privacy. But they live in a nearby village well away from other Westerners; they eat Indonesian food in the local warung, and chat to their neighbours in Indonesian.

“We’re here to improve English language skills, teaching methods and assist with the new competency-based curriculum,” Alistair said. “We’re working to build the capacity of teachers so when we return home their language teaching abilities will continue to grow.

“But our other goal is to enhance Indonesian-Australian relationships.”

Apart from living in the community and demolishing through daily activities and lifestyles the many myths about Westerners, it also includes introducing pesantren students to the complexities of sport.

Like most Australian families the Welshs are fanatical about football and cricket and believe sport is a great way to interact. Alistair has already spotted a local boy with a perfect over arm action that he thinks might become the next bowling sensation when Shane Warne retires.

If the Indians, Pakistanis, West Indians and even the English can beat the Australians at their own game, why not Indonesians?



The Welshs are part of the Islamic Schools English Language Project (ISELP), an Australian government program.

It’s being managed by Australian Volunteers International and will run till 2007. The cost is AUD 3.3 million (about 25,000 million rupiah).

Fifteen Australian English language teacher trainers have been placed in selected Islamic junior secondary schools. Most are in East Java, including Madura. One is in Palembang (South Sumatra) and one in Jakarta.

The program grew out of a visit some years ago by a group of Indonesian Islamic leaders to the United States where they realised the need for improved training of English language teachers in pesantren.

Australia offered to fund the project which started in 2004. Education and training are the largest component of the Indonesia-Australia Development Cooperation Program.

ISELP manager Chloe Olliver said less than ten per cent of teachers in the Indonesian school system have tertiary training.

“Professional development opportunities in under-funded Islamic schools are scarce,” she said.

“This project allows for on-the-job training and mentoring. ISELP trainers work with groups of teachers and conduct one-on-one team teaching.

“There’s been a notable shift away from traditional passive and grammar-focussed approach to teaching English, and towards more active and participative methods.

“Indonesian teachers have been hesitant to use such methods in the past as they may appear to be noisy and undisciplined in rustic classrooms with rattan walls separating one class from the next.”

The Indonesian government’s new English language curriculum focuses more on speaking and listening. The required pass grade has also been lifted.

All the Australian teachers working on the project have experience in competency-based curricula.

(First published in The Jakarta Post 7 September 05)