Education is Education

I spent a weekend at my auntie's home in Salatiga. She was my favorite auntie as I found the she was the most understanding grown-up in my mother's big family. It had been three years that I did not see her, and as my horizon was expanding here and there in those period, I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see her most recent point of view.

There were heating family debates between my auntie, my uncle and their last son. Age-wise, it was not fair situation; a 15-year-old boy fighting with over-50's adults. Yet that is the thing that are so commonly observed in typical Indonesian families, where parents are the authorities of a small state called household.

The fights were for me very interesting, as they argued about the quality of the education that my 15 year-old cousin pursued in a school called as "Alternative School". I have heard about alternative schools, at least in the last five years, but only this weekend the term struck my mind with a question:

Why should it be called as "alternative"?
Why doesn't it just stand as "school"?
Why the education in that school is called as "alternative"?
So what is school that can bear only "school" on its identity, and what is "education" that is called with generic name of "education"?

A little background why my cousin was sent to that alternative school was that my cousin was considered to be "not smart enough" to join the "school". He cannot enjoy reading so that his marks have never reached the score of above 7.00 out of 10.00 overal scoring system for primary education. He was considered to be "bodoh" (from Bahasa Indonesia, literally means "stupid").

Now, let's see the other side.
Curious of proving my auntie's statement that my cousin was stupid, I sat and talked to him about anything related to his laptop. He was doing a little Photoshop session and he showed me a cut of his short movie. I, personally witness that he is not stupid at all. He can communicate very well for a person at his age. In that Alternative School he learns things that he like; from movie making (friends, remember, he's only 15! don't you think it's great?), graphic designing, up to playing in the band.

The system in his school allows any student to learn anything that they are interested in, in very focused and independent way: through internet, field practice, with a facilitator facilitating the interaction process in the class, including in settingup class rules and guiding the pupils to focus on their interests.

In his parents' point of view, however, the place where my cousin goes everyday is not a school. They kept on mentioning that they were ashamed to share with their neighbours or colleagues on where my cousin studies. I cannot deny that fact of shame because I do understand that community at large still perceives education in the following formula:

SCHOOL = education based on determined syllabus + classroom + books + lecture + student sitting tidily with super tidy outfits, in uniform + regular examination + report of the study every end of semester + graduation certificate when the lessons are done.

They cannot accept that an education institution that does not adopt or signify the above-mentioned formula can really be considered as a SCHOOL. Starting from this point then they do not possess any trust to believe that this place is a place where their son is being educated.

Then, I have a question:
If a SCHOOL is aimed to provide EDUCATION FOR ALL, then why can't it satisfy the special needs of young people like my cousin? Despite of its weaknesses, would it be fair to call the place where the children are put into their interest and talent and dig the very best of those as an "alternative" school?
Personally I say, I don't think so.

There is nothing alternative if the fact is the main body that is expected to provide something significant to ensure ALL children are educated cannot provide it. So, I guess it is not appropriate to call my cousin's school as an alternative school. A school is a school. With or without uniform and blackboard, the idea of a school as an education environmentmant that enhance the pupils' knowledge and capability should not put an adjective to the noun like into "alternative school". School is school. Full stop.

Then, if the place that is called "alternative school" can provide "alternative education" that fits students interest and boost their knowledge by practice, much more than what the "schools" can do, should we also question the base of education itself?

What is education?
What is it for?
What do we get from there?
How much is it compatible to my brain?
Will I need these knowledge as my life skills tools?

Can the school that is called as "school" fulfil those education needs?
Education should stay as education. No discrimination or stigma that discriminate the institution that functions as school, to teenager audiences that consist of thousands people with different needs, talents and interests. Every school should fulfil the gap in education with their own expertise. No main school, no alternative subjects.

Not every child who cannot read are stupid. They just have different part of the brain and talents working, where they need place to compensate with less growing pain. They need a space and education that can accommodate the needs, and those, might be the home schooling, or that "alternative school". Then, is it appropriate to still call them as "alternative"? In my opinion, I'd rather call it Accommodative School.
Happy New Academic Year!!! :)

*Just A Note: So, here I am, at 04.39 a.m., taking advantage of my insomnia, writing some thoughts in my head about education in Indonesia...