Some Thoughts on English Language Teaching in Indonesia

Some Thoughts on English Language Teaching in Indonesia

By M. Faruq Ubaidillah

“It is the uncontested America’s socio-economic factors that make English a language of international communication”,

David Crystal

I feel a little frustrated, no I feel very frustrated with this point of view, in the light of today’s English fever which is sweeping through the Indonesian secondary school sector. The so-called globalized world or ours, is virtually forcing teachers and students alike to believe that English is the key to success.


Despite the ban of RSBI (an internationally standardized schooling system) by the Indonesian constitutional court (MK) some years ago, schools and particularly international schools in Indonesia feel obliged to continue to implement this system or something similar to satisfy the needs and demands of students and parents. English fever is showing cosigns of abating.


In international schools throughout Indonesia, English is now the medium of teaching. This is understandable as it ensures that students are better prepared to join undergraduate courses abroad and a good command of English is necessary for so many jobs these days. However there are three main problems which I would like to highlight and which are causing tension within these schools.

The first and I believe most important is that Indonesian teachers are not sufficiently trained to teach in English only schools. Their teacher training is carried out in their own language not in English and many feel that their level of English is very often not up to the standard. Likewise teachers are expected to teach imported curricula again without sufficient training. This is causing a lot of problems amongst teachers who feel inadequate and suffer from a lack of confidence in their abilities, which in turn is causing stress and low motivation.

An English Environment

With teachers struggling to teach in a language they are not good at and with students trying to learn in a language which they often do not hear or have exposure to at home, it is difficult for teachers to insist on an English only policy at school, or to create an English only environment.

Native Speaker Fallacy

Informed by Kachru’s World Englishes concept born in the late 1985, the shift of English language teaching has been scrutinized and re-designed. Often, schools hire native speakers of English to teach in classes without even checking their education background, qualifications and experience. Often native teachers are employed by schools simply because they are native to an English speaking country.

Sometimes they are not teachers at all and do not even hold any teacher qualifications. This leads to great resentment among native Indonesian teachers who have had to undergo a period of teacher training and who are expected to produce good results in spite of their shortcomings in English.


I believe that the so called English fever will spread rather than cool down and if this is the case, then the Indonesian teaching authorities must accept the situation and invest in better teacher training to improve the negative situation and to alleviate the present stress and demotivation.