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Indonesian Government To Schools: Less Science, More Religion

What's the Latest Development?

Late last year, the Indonesian government posted for public comment a proposed national elementary school curriculum that would eliminate dedicated science and social studies classes, freeing up time for more religious instruction. Currently officials are analyzing the responses and meeting with education experts to create lesson plans. According to them, there was general agreement with the changes along with concern about the amount of time available for teacher training and updated materials. However, the actual feedback has not been publicly released, which has helped to fuel skepticism about the government's true motives.

What's the Big Idea?

Indonesia's secular government recognizes the rights of six different religions, which means that children receive compulsory religious education according to their personal faith. Leaders who support the new curriculum believe that focusing on moral instruction will help reduce acts of religiously-motivated violence, which rose by 25 percent in the last year according to one human rights group. Critics say that blaming such acts on the schools "oversimplifies the problem...[they] are using terms like 'character building' and 'morality' to justify more religious education." They also worry that less attention on science will "dumb down" the country and make its citizens less competitive in the global marketplace. If approved, the curriculum would go into effect this June. 

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