Sabtu, Juli 20, 2024

Unquiet Scholars

Donny Syofyan
Donny Syofyan
Dosen Fakultas Ilmu Budaya Universitas Andalas

Indonesian lecturers are under pressure to produce more scientific works and get them published in internationally accredited journals. By “international”, it usually means English. This obligation has been given a further implication in that it serves as a condition for the lecturers’ eligibility to be promoted for certain civilian ranks and, in case of professors, for their honorary allowance to be paid.

The current graphic, though, shows Indonesian lecturers still produce less than what are expected of them. What makes the situation sentimentally worse is they publish less than the scholars from our neighbouring countries, particularly our closest neighbour, both culturally and geographically, Malaysia.

It is believed that many explanations as to the low number of international scientific publications produced by our lecturers. There are two possible obstacles our scholars face; language barrier and systemic undervaluing.

To begin with, to compare our lecturers with those of Malaysian’s in terms of publication should be put on a fair perspective. For one thing, the language of publication, more often than not, is, unfortunately, not Malay or Indonesian in which we certainly excel the most, but English. English is used as a second language in Malaysia, but is taught as a foreign language in Indonesia. Such status matters considerably as it affects the degree of exposure English has to the people.

Put it simply, English is more grounded, more settled in Malaysia. Consequently, Malaysian scholars are likely to find it easier to write, hence to publish, in English than ours. For that, it is unfair if we put the blame regarding the matter at hand on the lecturers alone; the “cultural” status of English here should be considered as well. Otherwise, it is like asking lecturers to write advanced English journal articles in their beginner’s English.

Such (English) language barrier is likely to be encountered even by lecturers who graduated from English speaking countries, let alone by those who did not. It is not to underestimate the local graduates’ skills in English as English has been required as a part of condition of entry to Indonesian schools or universities. Like it or not, anyone who study overseas are more conditioned to English in a way or another.

Therefore, if we insist on comparing our scholarly publication to Malaysia’s, there are two things to pay heed so that we are not biased. One is the content aspect; the other is the container. Our weak point may be more on the container part: how to write what we have researched in grammatical and acceptable English. Otherwise, we will not learn about our scholars being hired to teach in and publish on behalf of Malaysia. Having said all that, we should not rush the lecturers to publish internationally.

Another issue relates to how lecturers are systemically treated. This is, in particular, linked to their welfare. It is true they, although not all, have been paid their certification fee, but not without compensation in return. It is also true that they get honorarium from the research funded by the government or else, but, in return, they have to deal with lots of paperwork that can distract their philosophical or intellectual mind.

Even so, the income the lecturers earn is not so much that they are the highest paid public servants in the country. Their fellow public servants of other government departments, let’s say of the Ministry of Finance, state-owned companies, and their kinds, have long enjoyed more income without seemingly added duties.

The fact that our lecturers (and teachers) are less paid than other governmental workers is an irony. On the one hand, we don’t pay our lecturers or teachers well, which can make them better off. On the other hand, we expect the best result out from them. It may be wise to learn from Finland, whose education system is currently on top of the list and where teachers are paid much better. Thus, teaching has become a serious, wanted, and prestigious job there. The logic to this policy is crystal clear:  if we want our children to get the best education, they must be taught by the best (wo)men on the job.

If money is the only reason to employ these able individuals, then so be it. If money is the only force that can drag our best graduates to teach in our schools and universities, then so be it. I raise this point because I once heard a VIP government official commenting on the cause of our lecturers’ low international publication. He said it was in part due to the “human resources” of the lecturers; many of them were not the best graduates as the best ones opt to find other jobs, which pay better than teaching. Maybe, he is right.

Donny Syofyan
Donny Syofyan
Dosen Fakultas Ilmu Budaya Universitas Andalas
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