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  3. Human Rights Education in Asian Schools
  4. Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume VI
  5. The Multicultural Curriculum: Education for Peace and Development*

Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Backnumber

Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume VI

The Multicultural Curriculum: Education for Peace and Development*


The rampant ethnic and religious tension in Indonesia has frustrated the efforts of many social scientists, educators, and community leaders for the past few years. Some gains were made in the country's struggle for democracy, but continuing ethnic and religious violence and unrest show how prevalent and intransigent prejudice and discrimination are. Demographic changes and economic pressures force people from different backgrounds to come into contact with each other, giving rise to distrust and alienation.

   While they cannot stop these changes, schools and educators can help shape students' view of the world and promote respect for diversity and a sense of shared humanity (Jacobs and Kates 1999). During the last few decades, intercultural studies have enabled scholars and practitioners to see in all areas "the invisible paradigms" of the academic system and the larger cultural context that marginalize or trivialize the lives of women, ethnic minorities, and those outside the dominant class or culture. Language educators and English as a foreign language (EFL) administrators need to make the curriculum more responsive to multicultural experiences.
   This essay reports on a study of the 1994 English high school curriculum; analyzes whether EFL textbooks incorporate student's diverse cultural environments; and discusses gender, local cultures, traditions, styles, and levels of community development.
   This study investigates the following:
  1. whether English textbooks used in the 1994 curriculum incorporate the multicultural perspectives in relation to the students' diverse ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds;
  2. to what extent the textbooks incorporate students' diversity in relation to gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and geography; and
  3. whether the textbooks meet the principles and underlying concepts set in Teaching and Learning Guidelines and use the meaning-based approach to multicultural perspectives.

Significance of the Study

Pressure to integrate and unite the nation since independence provided the setting for multiculturalism. Indonesia's collective memory is full of tension and violence resulting from various attempts to secede for ideological, regional, cultural, as well as territorial differences, and the efforts to terminate those attempts. Yet, the national motto, Bhineka Tunggal Ika (E Pluribus Unum), emphasizes that unity should not be achieved at the cost of diversity. Otherwise, schools will produce narrow-minded citizens and deprive people of their indigenous heritage. The recent tension and violence shows that the excessive drive for unity in the past 30 years was ineffective against disintegration. While in some other countries, "multiculturalism is a therapy for ethnocentrism, in Indonesia it is a balance for unity" (Budianta 1996). Now that the nation is at the crossroads of reform, ethnic, religious, racial, and class differences should be regarded as the rich national heritage. Multicultural education is needed to foster peace, understanding, and respect.
   Educators should recognize that the goals and values of school curriculums, materials, and activities reflect social values. Educators should ensure that textbooks are culturally sensitive and respect students' varied sociocultural backgrounds. This study sheds light on the multicultural values of EFL textbooks.

Study Scope

How have gender and multiculturalism determined the choice of textbook topics? This study limits itself to the 1994 English curriculum, primarily gender, ethnicity and geography, and socioeconomic status.
   It took 7 months to complete the study--4 months (October 1999 to January 2000) to collect titles of the textbooks through questionnaires sent to senior high school teachers in Central Java, East Java, Bali, and Lombok, which were chosen because they are among the most developed provinces; and 3 months (February to April 2000) to gather and analyze the textbooks.
   Textbooks are the dominant classroom instructional media (Patrick 1988; Lockheed and Verspoor 1990) even though teachers are expected to develop innovative activities and use other materials. Because learning resources and teachers are scarce and their quality poor, textbooks have a strong positive impact on educational quality. Neyneman, Farrell, and Salveda-Stuarto (1981) as quoted in Supriadi (1999) indicate that 15 of 18 correlational studies showed significant positive correlations between textbook availability and student achievement. Textbooks still dictate the teaching and learning process.
   Supriadi (1999) noted that in the last 3 years concern has been growing over multiculturalism in textbooks and that "schoolbooks should also be culturally sensitive and recognize varied students' sociocultural backgrounds which affect their learning." This study examines whether this concern, especially pertaining to gender, ethnicity, geography, and socioeconomic class, also affects the content of senior high school English textbooks.

Definition of Terms


   Curriculum here means the written curriculum (Glatthorn 1987) as reflected in Teaching and Learning Guidelines (Department of Education and Culture 1995) and translated for senior high school English textbooks.
   The 1994 senior high school English curriculum aims to help students acquire reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills. Themes were chosen based on students' cognitive development and interests. The level of vocabulary mastery was 2,500 words for natural science and social studies majors, and 3,000 for language majors. The curriculum integrates reading, listening, speaking, and writing, but emphasizes reading. Teaching grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling enhance rather than promote mastery of each of the four skills.
   In 1995, the then Department of Education and Culture (now the Department of National Education) endorsed only one set of books: English for the Senior High School, written and published by the IKIP Malang Team.

Themes and subthemes

   The curriculum prescribes basic themes and several suggested subthemes for each term and grade. Teachers must include all the basic themes but may choose, modify, add, and develop subthemes based on each (Appendix 1).

Teaching and Learning Program Guidelines
   Teaching and Learning Program Guidelines states that the curriculum applies a meaningbased approach with the following underlying concepts:
  1. Language is a means to express meanings through a structure (grammar and vocabulary). Thus, structure serves as a means to express ideas, thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
  2. Meaning is determined by language as well as situational scope and context. The meaning-based approach should be based on a cross-cultural understanding.
  3. Meaning may be revealed through different sentences. A sentence may convey different meanings, depending on the situation where the sentence is used.
  4. Learning a foreign language is learning to communicate through it. Learning to communicate should be supported by learning all the skills of the language.
  5. Learners' motivation is a determining factor in the success of learning the target language. The level of this motivation heavily depends on whether learning materials and activities are meaningful to learners.
  6. Learning materials and activities become more meaningful when they meet the learners' needs and are relevant to their experiences, interests, values, and future. Therefore, learners' experiences and backgrounds are important to consider in determining the teaching and learning process.
  7. Learners are the main subjects. Therefore, their traits and needs should be considered in all teaching and learning decisions.
  8. Teachers are facilitators and help learners enhance their language skills.
   English is taught in senior high schools as follows:

Grades 1 and 2 : 4 x 45 minutes per week
Grade 3 (natural science) : 5 x 45 minutes per week
Grade 3 (social studies) : 5 x 45 minutes per week
Grade 3 (language studies) : 11 x 45 minutes per week

Review of Literature

Multicultural education concepts

   Multicultural education encompasses differences in race, ethnicity, occupation, socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, various physical traits and needs, religion, and culture. As Gates (1992) pointed out:
   Ours is a late twentieth century world profoundly fissured by nationality, ethnicity, race, class, and gender. And the only way to transcend those divisions--to forge for once, a civic culture that respects both differences and commonalties--is through education that seeks to comprehend the diversity of human culture. Beyond the hype and the high-flown rhetoric is a pretty homely truth. There is no tolerance without respect--and no respect without knowledge.
   "Multicultural education is not a set curriculum but a perspective that is reflected in all decisions about every phase and aspect of teaching. It is a lens through which teachers can scrutinize their choices in order to clarify what social information they are conveying overtly and covertly to their students" (Ramsey 1987). In other words, educators should be aware of and responsible for the goals and values of the curriculum design, material, and activities they deliver to the students. Education occurs in a sociocultural context, and all curriculum materials and practices reflect certain social values.
The broad goals of delivering a multicultural curriculum are as follows:
  1. Help students develop positive gender, racial, cultural, class, religious, and individual identities, and recognize and accept their membership in many different groups. Ethnic and religious tension often reflects feelings of social injustice and in-group/out-group conflicts. Education can help students define themselves within a context of diversity.
  2. Enable students to see themselves as part of the larger society and to empathize and relate with individuals from other groups within that society. To stop the vicious cycle of resentment and prejudice, students need exposure to the idea that they share many characteristics with people of other groups. Students also need to see different points of view, use highly developed communication skills rather than impose on their own views and tolerate differences.
  3. Foster respect for and appreciation of differences. Distrust and resentment of people of different groups often rest on ignorance or misperception of their habits, lifestyles, and viewpoints.
  4. Develop a sense of shared humanity. Intergroup prejudice often leads people to look for scapegoats and, even worse, to become destructive. If students have an objective and realistic view of society and see how people are affected by the same forces, they may empathize with others and be less constrained by their narrow self-interest.
  5. Help students develop the educational and social skills to fully participate in larger society in ways appropriate to their individual styles, cultural orientations, and linguistic backgrounds. While having knowledge of different groups and lifestyles may reduce the fear of differences, the motivation for reaching beyond cultural, racial, and class barriers rests on people's self-esteem and confidence.
   These goals may have no direct or short-term effect on the larger societal and economic problems that trigger intergroup tension. However, they can influence the ways that new generations interpret and participate in social relationships. These goals are worth pursuing. All subject areas, including EFL, can help students develop positive attitudes toward people of different backgrounds.

Research studies on sociocultural issues and Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

   Culture has always been an important issue in the teaching and learning of a foreign language. A number of recent articles examine the role of learners' social and cultural identities in learning English and the role of the TESOL profession in reconstructing people's identities and roles. Pennycook (1994) emphasizes that the English language teaching industry is not culturally, politically, socially, or economically neutral; rather, in the international sphere it plays a powerful part in construction of roles, relations, and identities among teachers and students. Duff and Uchida (1997) argue that the cultural underpinnings of language curriculums and teaching must be further examined, "particularly so in intercultural situations in which participants were negotiating their sociocultural identities as well as the curriculum." In EFL, sociocultural identity and representation are crucial. Students learn the social and cultural aspects of other ethnolinguistic groups. The nature of the cultural representations of others in teaching and learning materials and the way teachers and students view those representations need to be examined. Problems emerge when the students' (as well as the teachers') ideas about gender roles, nationality, ethnicity, local cultures, and socioeconomic status conflict with those in the teaching materials.
   Hall (1995) highlights the role of socialization in the construction of roles (and stereotypes) and the need to move beyond the narrow focus on native versus non-native speaker as the only relevant identity in investigations of the use of the target language. Fillmore (1979) found that the individual differences in learning a foreign language had nothing to do with intellectual or cognitive capacity. Rather, it was solely a matter of social preference and confidence. Language and social identity have also been discussed in terms of gender, minority versus majority status, geographical setting, and age (McKay and Hornberger 1996). Other issues were the limitations of the relatively superficial multicultural curriculum and the need to deal more proactively and critically with societal inequalities reproduced through certain educational practices (Fleras and Elliott 1992; Grant and Secada 1990; Ng, Staton, and Scane 1995; Zamel 1997; Putney and Wink 1998). Hasebe-Ludt, Duff, and Leggo (1995) also examine the cultural messages conveyed through English language teaching materials in a multicultural community school in Canada as well as in Asia and the South Pacific and raise concerns about certain trends in community building and globalization that may pay lip service to diversity without really confronting the tensions and misrepresentations that accompany it.
   Along the same line, "the teaching of culture as a component of language teaching had traditionally been caught between the striving for universality and the desire to maintain cultural particularity" (Kramsch [1993] as quoted in Duff and Uchida [1997]). Cultural values represented in the teaching materials are probably alien to the learners. Yet, when the culture of the target language is reduced and minimized to respect the students' culture, a daunting question remains: How can educators incorporate the students' diverse identities, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and cultural traditions in the curriculum to understand, affirm, and enhance all students' learning experiences? This question is significant in light of the vast diversity of the Indonesian people and cultures. Education faces the mammoth task of recognizing that diversity and of acknowledging the curriculum's varied sociocultural backgrounds.

Research Design and Methodology

This study uses a content analysis: 108 questionnaires were sent randomly to English teachers in 36 senior high schools in six cities in East Java, Central Java, Bali, and Lombok, to find out what textbooks they used in addition to the government-endorsed textbooks; 68 questionnaires were completed and returned.
   Senior high schools also used other books based on the 1994 curriculum (Appendix 2). Passages in these books were used as data.
   A content analysis was conducted on all the passages and supporting pictures and illustrations in these books. Four sets of representative categories were constructed as follows: gender (male and female); socioeconomic status (lower, middle, and upper class); local cultures and/or ethnicity (Javanese, those of other islands in Indonesia, those outside Indonesia); and geography (Java, other islands in Indonesia, and outside Indonesia).
   The category of gender was further divided into representation and bias, each consisting of male and female subcategories. Representation means the frequency of certain characters, proper names, references, and pronouns of one of the sexes in the passages and accompanying pictures and illustrations. For example, "The Red Cross" describes the efforts of Henry Dunant to establish the International Red Cross and uses pronouns "he," "his," and "him" (referring to Dunant). This passage was counted in the representation of the male subcategory. Bias means the textbook writers' assumption that the gender of characters, people, and professions was one of the sexes. In "Funeral Ritual in Tana Toraja," for instance, the writer used "men," "man," "they," and "he" to refer to the buried dead and living people involved in the funeral ritual although funerals in Tana Toraja normally involve both men and women. Thus, this passage was counted as a bias of the male subcategory.
   The category of socioeconomic status was divided into lower-, middle-, and upper-class subcategories. This division was based on a typology by Svalastoga (1989) that divides social classes into five strata, based on ideology and lifestyle: upper, upper middle, lower middle, upper lower, and lower lower. For the sake of simplicity, the five strata were combined into three classes: upper, middle, and lower (see Soekanto [1990]). Texts and supporting pictures and illustrations portraying topics on Indonesia as well as foreign countries were also analyzed based on this typology, with an Indonesian perspective. This category was the hardest to use for several reasons. First, no single typology of classes is commonly accepted. Sociologists and economists have various theories, arguments, and opinions concerning socioeconomic status in Indonesia (Heryanto 1999; Subianto 1999; Robison 1999; Werner 1999; Liddle 1999; Budiman 1999). A modified typology of Slavastoga was chosen for simplicity and clarity. Second, determining the socioeconomic status of characters in the text was not easy.
   Therefore, this study set four indicators to help determine socioeconomic status: lifestyle, ownership, kind of job, and academic as well as aristocratic titles. Changes in socioeconomic status imply changes in wealth, power, and information (education) so that different social classes develop unique subcultures with different lifestyles. Upper-class thinking emphasizes a genteel and elegant lifestyle. The middle classes are preoccupied with career advancement and religious behavior. The lower class focuses on survival, and was sometimes apathetic (Slavastoga 1989).
   Ownership was another indicator to replace economic status and was often used in sociological and demographic studies. While many sociological and demographic studies often used nominal indicators such as annual income, amount of tax paid, and spending, this study had to ignore such indicators because almost none of the texts contained current nominal measures. Ownership means possession of status symbols such as offices decorated with paintings by famous artists.
   Kinds of jobs and academic or aristocratic titles were used as the third and fourth indicators and classified as follows:

Upper classCabinet ministers, high-ranking officials professors, doctors, lawyers, company directorsBaron, Princess, Prince, Raden, Raden Ajeng, Dr., Prof.
Middle classJournalists, secretaries, school teachers, nurses, accountants, police officers, clerks, shopkeepers, computer operators, religious ministersReverend, Kyai
Lower classNewspaper deliverers, farmers, factory workers, domestic helpers, beggars--

   The classification was based on the tendency in Indonesia to consider position as more important than role, as revealed by Soekanto (1990).
   The next category was formed on the assumption that, like other areas, education in Indonesia is highly centralized. Recent discourse on local autonomy has yet to be implemented and proven. For the curriculum, centralization means the dominance of Javanese culture in texts. The 44 books used in this study were published by nine publishers, eight of which were in Java. Based on the results of the preliminary survey to find data for this study, schools in Bali and Lombok (two of the more developed islands in Indonesia) also used textbooks written and published in Java. Therefore, the category of local cultures and/or ethnicity was divided into Javanese, those of other islands in Indonesia (non-Java), and those outside Indonesia (international), as was the category of geography.
   Presentation, Interpretation, and Analysis of Data There were 44 textbooks and 823 passages. Two sets of books (Learn Grammar the Easy Way 1, 2 and 3, and English for Sekolah Menengah Umum [SMU]), published by Interaksara and Grafindo Media Pratama, did not comply with the curriculum and so did not contain themes and subthemes prescribed. Passages in these books were also counted as data, however, as they are used in several schools, as the questionnaires showed. The publishers-- rather than the individual books--were used to present some of the findings for a more compact data presentation.
   Out of the 823 texts, 520 were text only while the rest (303) were accompanied by pictures (Table 1). The text-supporting pictures were also used as data, especially in examining the frequency of gender representation and bias in the storyline.

TABLE 1. Units of Analysis by Publisher, N=823
\ Content focus
Publisher \
Text onlyText and pictureTotal
4.IKIP Malang474188
7.Bina Pustakatama341650
8.Tiga Serangkai5151102



TABLE 2. Theme Distribution in Reading Passages in Grade 1 English Textbooks

TABLE 3. Theme Distribution in Reading Passages in Grade 2 English Textbooks

TABLE 4. Theme Distribution in Reading Passages in Grade 3 English Textbooks

   This study yielded some interesting findings on the four categories. To help understand these findings better, this paper identifies the textbooks used in the curriculum and the theme distribution in books for grades 1 (260 texts), 2 (250 texts), and 3 (215 texts) in Tables 2, 3, and 4, respectively. A total of 725 texts incorporated the prescribed themes from the curriculum; 93 other texts were not in accordance with the prescribed themes. The theme distribution in these textbooks was even.
   For gender, texts and supporting pictures were used to examine the frequency of representation and bias. Tables 5 and 6 summarize the findings in gender representation in texts and pictures, respectively. One reading text (or picture) possibly contained more than one representation (explaining why the frequency was greater than for texts and pictures). However, some passages and pictures did not denote any gender representation, such as a text on solar energy.

TABLE 5. Frequency and Percentage of Gender Representation in Texts, f=941
Gender Representationf%

   This study found 297 representations of female gender (31.56%) and 644 of male gender (68.44%). This meant that the representation of the male gender was more than twice that of female representation.

TABLE 6. Gender Representation in Text-Supporting Pictures, f=1.177
4.IKIP Malang4284126
7.Bina Pustaka215273
8.Tiga Serangkai62124186


   Out of 303 text-supporting pictures, the study found 1.177 instances of gender representation consisting of 386 female and 791 male representations.
   To examine the gender bias in the reading texts, this study first mapped the possible aspects of the subcategory of gender bias as shown in Table 7.

TABLE 7. Aspects of Gender Bias Sub Category in Texts, f=213
\No. Gender Bias
Aspects of Gender Bias\
1.Proper name associated with a job requiring strength, courage, leadership, and reasoning
2.Personal/possessive pronoun associated with a job requiring strength, courage, leadership, and reasoning
3.Proper name associated with attention to detail, neatness, patience, care, and service21
4.Personal/possessive pronoun associated with attention to detail, neatness, patience, care, and service37
5.Personal/possessive pronoun in the area of sports (athletics, soccer)
6.Personal/possessive pronoun in the area of mass media
7.Personal/possessive pronoun in the area of politics (party, voters, president)
8.Leaders (king, queen, chair)19
9.Personal/possessive pronoun for smokers and drinkers
10.Personal/possessive pronoun for witch/wizard and hermit
11.Personification of flower, beauty, gentleness3
12.Personal/possessive pronoun in the area of fashion5
13.Personal/possessive pronoun for shoppers3
14.Personal/possessive pronoun for philosophers
15.Personal/possessive pronoun for drivers
16.Personal/possessive pronoun for puppet master ("dalang")
17.Personal/possessive pronoun for dancers1
18.Personal/possessive pronoun for sculptor
19.Personal/possessive pronoun for farmers
20.Personal/possessive pronoun in banking (banker, accountant, teller, client)
21.Personal/possessive pronoun in science and education (students, researchers)
22.Personal/possessive pronoun pertaining to social status (rich, poor, unemployed)
23.Personal/possessive pronoun for entrepreneur
24.Personal/possessive pronoun for family planning participants7
25.Personal/possessive pronoun in environment (animal lovers, caretakers, hunters)24
26.Personal/possessive pronoun for workers and job seekers
27.Personal/possessive pronoun for places23
28.Personal/possessive pronoun for criminals


   Table 8 presented the frequency of gender bias by publisher, and Table 9, a summary (number and percentage) of the frequency of gender bias in texts.

TABLE 8. The Frequency of Gender Bias Subcategory in Texts by Publishers, f=213
\Gender Bias
IKIP Malang1012
Tiga Serangkai1019
Bina Pustaka917

TABLE 9. A Summary of Frequency and Percentage of Gender Bias in Texts, f=213
Gender Biasf%

   The results showed that 38.5% of the frequencies favored females and 61.5%, male. One reading text might contain more than one gender bias. However, some passages did not have a gender bias, such as one on pollution. Table 10 combined the data on gender representation and bias and displayed the biased as well as the unbiased representation as follows:

TABLE 10. Gender Representation (bias and nonbias), f=941
\ Gender representation
Gender \
Nonbiased representationBiased representationTotal

   Table 11 summarizes the number of genderbiased and -unbiased texts and indicates that out of 823 texts, 178 (21.63%) contained gender bias.

TABLE 11. Gender Bias in Texts, N=823
\ Content focus
Penerbit \
Reading text
Biased text
Nonbiased textTotal
IKIP Malang206888
Tiga Serangkai2379102
Bina Pustaka T193150


   The textbooks do not provide equal inclusion, in terms of gender representation or bias. The representation of males (644 in texts, and 791 in text-supporting pictures) was more than that of females (297 and 386) while the bias for males was also higher than that favoring the female gender (131 and 82). Out of 941 gender representations, only 213 were biased.
   Male representation was more than twice female representation, which may very well be the result of sexism built into the social system and pervading the values of the culture (Stanford 1992). The study also found a higher degree of bias for males, especially in the use of habitual sex discriminatory language and stereotyping.
   This study used the Indonesian context and perspective to determine the level of socioeconomic class. A farmer, for instance, may belong to the middle and even upper class in other countries, but in Indonesia, a farmer (at least in the society's perception) belongs to the lower class. Lifestyle included dining out, type of childcare, type of child education, ways of saving money, and ways of spending holidays. Vacationing and travelling overseas is considered upper class. Saving money in national banks is considered middle class, and in foreign banks and investment, upper class. Ownership includes possession of certain things such as cars, houses, villas, clothing (including jewelry), and satellite dish. Jobs were doctor, lawyer, director, manager, accountant, teacher, nurse, factory worker, domestic helper, driver, and farmer.

   Table 12 shows the distribution of socioeconomic aspects across the three classes, and Table 13 summarizes the findings. The study found--among the 823 texts-- 261 references related to any of the three classes: 108 frequencies pertained to the upper class, 107 to the middle class, and 46 to the lower class. Some texts referred to socioeconomic class more than once, while others did not at all.

TABLE 12. Aspects of Socioeconomic Classes Subcategory, f=261
\ Category: SES
No. Publisher \
Kind of job311115
2. ErlanggaLifestyle95317
Kind of job56617
3. RefikaLifestyle38617
Kind of job5229
4. IKIP MalangLifestyle59115
Kind of job2237
5. Tiga SerangkaiLifestyle36615
Kind of job3418
6. Bina PustakaLifestyle55212
Kind of job11-2
7. GanecaLifestyle58316
Kind of job57315
8. GMPLifestyle2-13
Kind of job2114


TABLE 13. Category of Socioeconomic Class by Publisher, f=261
Publisher \
IKIP Malang1411429
Tiga Serangkai1115834
Bina Pustaka Tama79218

   Difficulty in determining socioeconomic status weakened this study. It attempted to map upper-, middle-, and lower-class representation by first classifying the data into lifestyle, ownership, kind of job, and academic or aristocratic title. As most Indonesian students belong to the middle and lower classes, classification was heavily influenced by an Indonesian perspective. For instance, spending holidays abroad is considered upper class in this study although in many other countries, middle-class people occasionally travel overseas for their holiday. This should explain the even distribution of the upper- and middle-class representations (108 and 107) as many texts discussing foreign subjects that--in Indonesia--are considered to be upper class.
   The findings showed that lower-class representation is very low (46 out of 261 all-class representations). The overall distribution of the three-class representations obviously does not reflect Indonesia's real class stratification: a small upper class, a bigger middle class, and a very large lower and lower-middle class (Soekanto 1990). The textbook portrayal of class is double-edged. Representations of the upper classes could motivate lower-class students to aspire to higher things and climb the social ladder and change the social stratification. However, not every student has the confidence to do so. Some might be alienated by representations of lifestyles beyond their grasp and the low representation of their own class' behaviors, activities, and habits.
   The findings on local cultures and ethnicity are in Table 14 (Java), Table 15 (non-Java), and Table 16 (international). Table 14 shows that Java had the highest percentage because many texts used Javanese names such as Sastrowardoyo, Bagyo, and Hartati.
   Table 15 shows that representation of ethnic groups and local cultures other than Javanese is much lower than that of Javanese (52 to 159).

TABLE 14. Java Subcategory, f=159
\ Category:
\ Ethnicity
No. Publisher \
NameTraditionEthnic groupArtsLanguageLiteratureClothingCraft
1. Yudhistira11---3-1621
2. Erlangga222-6536650
3. Refika81--1--111
4. IKIP Malang31--11-17
5. Tiga Serangkai181--1--323
6. Interaksara3---1---4
7. Bina Pustaka21-11-1-6
8. Ganeca104-42-5429
9. GMP5---2-

TABLE 15. Non-Java Subcategory, f=52
\ Category:
\ Ethnicity
No. Publisher \
NameTraditionEthnic groupArtsLanguageLiteratureClothingCraft
1. Yudhistira2-1----14
2. Erlangga53-1113418
3. Refika2--1-1-15
4. IKIP Malang12-11---5
5. Tiga Serangkai4---1--16
6. Interaksara--------
7. Bina Pustaka132-----6
8. Ganeca21-1--127
9. GMP1-------1

   Table 16 shows a high representation of ethnicity and local cultures outside Indonesia, with frequent use of English (and other foreign) names such as Robert, Billy, Susan, and John. There is not much difference between ethnicity and international representation (159 and 161). It is interesting that non-Javanese ethnicity representation was the lowest and that the gap between this subcategory and the other two significantly large.

TABLE 16. International Subcategory, f=161
\ Category:
\ Ethnicity
No. Publisher \
NameTraditionEthnic groupArtsLanguageLiteratureClothingCraft
1. Yudhistira9--1---212
2. Erlangga19--253--29
3. Refika81-----110
4. IKIP Malang92--3-2622
5. Tiga Serangkai27-1321--34
6. Interaksara11------314
\ Category:
\ Ethnicity
No. Publisher \
NameTraditionEthnic groupArtsLanguageLiteratureClothingCraft
7. Bina Pustaka63--1-1-11
8. Ganeca161-1232328
9. GMP1-------1

   Tables 17 presents the breakdown of ethnicity by aspect and publisher, and Table 18, the distribution of Java, non-Java, and international by publisher.

TABLE 17. Aspects of Ethnicity by Publisher, f = 37
\ Aspects
No. Publisher \
NameTraditionEthnic groupArtsLanguageLiteratureClothingCraftTotal
1. Yudhistira22011301937
2. Erlangga4650911791097
3. Refika18201110326
4. IKIP Malang13501512734
5. Tiga Serangkai49113410463
6. Interaksara14000100318
7. Bina Pustaka9721202023
8. Ganeca28606438964
9. GMP7000300010

TABLE 18. Distribution of Ethnicity by Publisher, f=372
No. Publisher EthnicityYudistiraErlanggaRefikaIKIP MalangTiga SerangkaiInter-AksaraBina PustakaGanecaGMPTotal
1. Java21501172346298159
2. Non Java418556067152
3. International12291022341411281161

   Table 19 summarizes ethnicity representation.

TABLE 19. A Summary of Ethnicity Category, f=372
No. Ethnicityf%
1. Java15942.7
2. Non-Java5213.9
3. International16143.3

   The category of geography--setting of a story or any reference to a certain place--was related to ethnicity geography. Table 20 shows that most references were to places outside Indonesia (255 out of 440), followed by Java (110). The difference between Java and non-Java representation (110 and 75) is not as big as that of ethnicity (159 and 52). In view of the vast territory of Indonesia outside Java, however, this difference is worth noticing.
   It is not surprising that textbooks refer mainly to Javanese culture (159 to 52), references to cultures outside Indonesia were the highest (161). Under geography, there were 110 references to Java, 75 to outside Java, and 255 to international. Many texts contained topics on global issues. As Teaching and Learning Program Guidelines prescribed international relations for grade 1, term 3, and grade 3, term 2, many textbooks discuss international agencies such as the United Nations and UNICEF, and events such as Earth Summit.

TABLE 20. Category of Geography by Publisher, f=440
Category: Geography
JavaOut of JavaOut of IndonesiaTotal
IKIP Malang11133559
Tiga Serangkai13123358
Bina Pustaka Tama822131


The curriculum attempts to be diverse, touching on topics from science and technology to environment. In general, textbooks comply with Teaching and Learning Program Guidelines and cover the prescribed themes evenly.
   Do textbooks incorporate students' diverse ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds? This study found that there is room for improvement. The textbooks were centralized and limiting.
   To what extent do the textbooks incorporate the students' diversity? One area of concern is the underrepresentation of women and bias that favors males, especially in the use of habitual sex discriminatory and stereotyping language.
   The distribution of socioeconomic class representations did not portray reality of class stratification in Indonesia or diversity of students' socioeconomic status.
   It is not surprising that the non-Javanese subcategory was much less represented than the Javanese and international subcategories. While exposure to global issues and concerns is justifiable to expand the students' horizons, the representation of local cultures other than Javanese is very low, considering the immense variety of ethnic groups and local cultures. Students from non-Java ethnic groups might feel alienated by textbooks that seem foreign, irrelevant, and unfamiliar.
   Do the textbooks meet the principles and underlying concepts set in Teaching and Learning Guidelines and use the meaning-based approach to multicultural perspectives? The claim that they do is questionable. This study concludes that learners' experiences and backgrounds could have been validated more adequately to make the learning process and lessons more meaningful.


Adjusting to gender-inclusive language and new terms may seem a waste of time to teachers and textbook writers, but once they get past the first awkwardness of using police officer for policeman, chairperson for chairman, and they or he/she for he, they may notice changes in their own thinking. More important, they will acquire the habit of scrutinizing their speech for sex discriminatory or stereotyping expressions.
   Textbook writers must take care that what they write is inclusive and nondiscriminatory. Educators must address the inequities in the curriculum and learning materials.
   While knowledge of different people and lifestyles may make students less fearful of diversity, their motivation to reach beyond their class barriers rests on their self-confidence, ability to empathize with others, and anticipation of satisfaction from expanding their social relationships. Students of underrepresented groups are likely to be ambivalent about their group identification. In a society where personal worth is often equated with wealth, shame over low income is common. Students may question their personal worth when they learn about people with lifestyles that are beyond their reach.
   Can we--and should we--help low-income students feel good about the fact that they are poor? People's aspirations are often formed at an early age by their adult models and their living conditions. Should these constraints be reinforced by extolling the virtues of poverty? Students should feel competent and affirmed on a personal level. Educators--including textbooks writers--can help them by conveying that students' families' ways of life are not the only ones and are often the result of social injustice rather than personal failure. If students cannot distinguish between these social and personal issues, educators can empower them and help them expand their ideas about possibilities and aspirations. At the same time, textbooks should validate students' lifestyles and philosophies.
   Javanese cultural dominance and the alienation of indigenous cultures in national policies have recently become issues. Social scientists and representatives of ethnic groups have asked for autonomous governance. This drive for autonomy should also include implementing curriculum and using teaching-learning materials that are relevant and meaningful to the students in their own local, cultural, and ethnic context. Designing a curriculum and developing learning materials that reflect multicultural perspectives may not be easy. One set of books will not be adequate to incorporate the various components of Indonesian cultures. Local autonomy should extend to promoting education that is relevant to the local context. Scholars and educators from all regions should be encouraged to get involved in determining curriculum content. The central ministry should endorse more than one set of textbooks, and schools should have a choice of various textbooks to use.
   While the Department of National Education may still need to set goals and prescribe themes in the national curriculum, development of learning materials should be left to local scholars, educators, and textbook writers. Some regions are advanced enough to have their own resources and develop their own learning materials, but while many regions still lack resources and power, this fact should not be used to justify delaying local autonomy. Where local educators and scholars may not be ready to develop their own materials, curriculum developers and textbook writers at the national level should involve their local counterparts as partners and empower them to develop their own curriculum later.
   Meanwhile, teachers should be aware of the growing diversity in schools and the implication of using a certain set of curricular materials in their classrooms. Social scientists and commentators often point to Indonesia's rich cultural blend. It is equally true, however, that tackling diversity is difficult, especially in schools. However, as Aristotle saw it, the challenge of ethnicity is one of augmenting familial love, expanding the natural links to one's own "kind," so that these links also include others who are more distantly related, rather than doing away with the initial links and bonds as such. Today, for a variety of reasons, unity above diversity, and schools as cultural melting pots are ideas being challenged: "Absence of diversity would lead to the dehumanization, mechanization, and utter impoverishment of human beings" (Fishman 1989). Recently, pitched battles and wars for more autonomy have been waged by various ethnic, racial, and religious groups. Demand for autonomy is soon likely to include a push for more control over the curriculum and emphasis of local heritage in classrooms. Teachers often face the dilemma of respecting differences while including and respecting all students in the classroom. Not surprisingly, teachers may feel ill-prepared to address the diverse cultural, personal, religious, socioeconomic, and ethnic diversity of their students. Multicultural issues should be tackled in professional development so that teachers can learn how to recognize and accept differences while providing a common set of norms and values to bind students together.


To develop a multicultural curriculum for peace and development, the following are recommended:
  1. The Department of National Education should ensure that the curriculum respects diversity.
  2. The department should endorse more than one set of books to provide a larger choice.
  3. Schools should be free to choose textbooks that are suitable and relevant to local contexts as long as these textbooks comply with the goals, objectives, and principles set in Teaching and Learning Program Guidelines.
  4. Educators and textbook writers should ensure that textbooks do not contain discriminatory and stereotyping language and content in relation to gender, socioeconomic, local cultures, and ethnic diversity.
  5. Educators--especially from outside Java-- should be encouraged and helped to develop curricular materials and write textbooks suitable and relevant to local needs.
  6. Textbook writers at the national level should involve local educators as partners and empower them to develop learning materials that address the diverse cultural, racial, personal, and academic needs of their students.
  7. Teachers should be aware of the growing diversity in schools and always attempt to create a learning environment in which differences are recognized and accepted while providing students with a common set of norms and values.


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Prescribed Themes and Suggested Subthemes in the 1994 English Curriculum in Senior High Schools

Grade 1 (136 x 45 minutes)Grade 2 (136 x 45 minutes)Grade 3 (170 x 45 minutes)
Term 1Term 2Term 3Term 1Term 2Term 3Term 1Term 2Term 3
General school
Special school
Nonformal education
Science contest
Distance-learn-ing scholarship

Clean water

Family Life
Family welfare
Family planning

Maintaining health
Health insurance

National, regional, international championship
Health sports
History of sports
Famous sportsmen and women

Buying clothes
Being well-dressed

Travel agency
Tourism promo
Mass Media

Industrial waste
Natural disaster

Culture and Art
Ethnic groups
Local languages
Local arts-crafts

Cattle feeding
Fishermen and women
Agriculture tools
Social organizations
Social rehabilitation centers

National heroes
National days
World history
History artifacts
World figures

Communication and Information Technology
Telecommuni-cation information system
Career and profession
Work opportunities
Job vacancies

International Relations
Student exchange
International trade
United Nations
Amnesty International
Capital market
Money and banks
Globalization and trade
Small industries

Science and Technology
Air traffic
Effects of medical technology
Famous figures in science and technology

War and peace
General election
Obligations and rights
State ideology
Political parties

Cultural and Art
Ethnic groups
Local languages
Rituals: weddings, deaths
Arts and crafts

Environment and Preservation
Air, water, and land

Trade and Industry
Shopping center
Home industry
Small and heavy industry
Business patron
International Relations
Student exchange
United Nations
International trade
Non Aligned
Earth heat
Oil and gas steam
Liquified Natural Gas

Foreign currency

Women's Roles
Women workers
Women leaders (national and international)


List of English Textbooks Used in senior high School in Indonesia

Grade I
No. Book titleWriters/EditorsPublishers and city
1 English in Use for SMU IABrendan Heasley and MaskurPenerbit Erlangga, Jakarta
2 English in Use for SMU IB

3 Komunikasi Aktif Bahasa Inggris IASri Lono Widodo, Soegeng HS,Tiga Serangkai, Solo
4 Komunikasi Aktif Bahasa Inggris IBSri Mulyono
5 English '94 for SMU IAlbert Tupan and Kistono AbdoelrachimBina Pustaka Tama, Surabaya
6 English for the Senior High School IAIKIP Malang TeamIKIP Malang, Malang
7 English for the Senior High School IB

8 Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IDedy Suryana, et al.Yudhistira, Jakarta
9 LKS Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IASri Muryati, et al.
10 LKS Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IB

11 English for SMU IAToto Ciptono and SuparnoRefika, Bandung
12 English for SMU IB

13 Bahasa Inggris IArtono Wardiman and Nan Sobariah HadiGaneca Exact, Bandung
14 Learn Grammar the Easy Way ILim Luck Nio and A.Mus. A. Interaksara, Batam

Grade II
No. Book titleWriters/EditorsPublishers and city
1 English in Use for SMU IIABrendan Heasley and MaskurPenerbit Erlangga, Jakarta
2 English in Use for SMU IIB

3 Komunikasi Aktif Bahasa Inggris IIASri Lono Widodo, Soegeng HS,Tiga Serangkai, Solo
4 Komunikasi Aktif Bahasa Inggris IIBSri Mulyono
5 English '94 for SMU IIAlbert Tupan and Kistono AbdoelrachimBina Pustaka Tama, Surabaya
6 English for the Senior High School IIAIKIP Malang TeamIKIP Malang, Malang
7 English for the Senior High School IIB

8 Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IIDedy Suryana, et al.Yudhistira, Jakarta
9 LKS Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IIASri Muryati, et al.
10 LKS Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IIB

11 English for SMU IIAToto Ciptono and SuparnoRefika, Bandung
12 English for SMU IIB

13 Bahasa Inggris IIArtono Wardiman and Nan Sobariah HadiGaneca Exact, Bandung
14 Learn Grammar the Easy Way IILim Luck Nio and A.Mus. A. Interaksara, Batam

Grade III
No. Book titleWriters/EditorsPublishers and city
1 English in Use for SMU IIIABrendan Heasley and MaskurPenerbit Erlangga, Jakarta
2 English in Use for SMU IIIB

3 Komunikasi Aktif Bahasa Inggris IIIASri Lono Widodo, Soegeng HS,Tiga Serangkai, Solo
4 Komunikasi Aktif Bahasa Inggris IIIBSri Mulyono
5 English for SMU III
Grafindo Media Pratama, Jakarta
6 English for the Senior High School IIIAIKIP Malang TeamIKIP Malang, Malang
7 English for the Senior High School IIIB

8 Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IIIDedy Suryana, et al.Yudhistira, Jakarta
9 LKS Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IIIASri Muryati, et al.
10 LKS Communicative and Meaningful English for SMU IIIB

11 English for SMU III (Natural Sciences)Toto Ciptono and SuparnoRefika, Bandung
12 English for SMU III (Social Studies)

13 Bahasa Inggris IIIArtono Wardiman and Nan Sobariah HadiGaneca Exact, Bandung
14 Learn Grammar the Easy Way for the SMU III Book IIILim Luck Nio and A. Mus. A.Interaksara, Batam
15 Learn Grammar the Easy Way for the SMU Book IV

16 Learn Grammar the Easy Way for the SMU Book V

* Part of this paper was presented at the 35th Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Language Centre (SEAMEO RELC) Conference, Singapore, 17-19 April 2000. This paper is taken with the author's and publisher's permissions from SEAMEO Jasper Monograph Series (Year 1997-2000, Series 5-8).