Creative Education helps English teachers in Indonesia

Using art works from Prudential Eye and the British Council Collection, the Creative Education programme encourages the development of 21st century skills, rich language and creative thinking in students. The British Council Indonesia Foundation delivered the programme 2015 in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Banten, Flores and Sigli. The programme was supported by local teachers associations, local education authorities, and Prudential Indonesia. 

The 22 half-day workshops were attended by 591 senior high and vocational schools teachers, media representatives, and 500 university lecturers and students.

Almost all participants agreed that they gained new insight and knowledge about creative methods of teaching English. According to them, the workshop was very motivating and inspiring, also made them realise that they had been teaching English in a non-efficient way.

The paper below looks at how the Indonesian Resource Pack has helped the English teachers because it is aligned with the English curriculum, and the structure of the activities can help teachers build students’ critical and creative thinking skills in language-based activities which can be integrated into many areas of the curriculum beyond language learning.

Resource Pack: A Breakthrough for English Lesson in Indonesia

By: Itje Chodidjah

The ‘Teacher Creativity Resource Pack 2015’ (the Pack) is a breakthrough for English teaching in Indonesia. It fits the need of English teachers for materials which encourage interactions in the classroom. The use of visual images in the Pack provides teachers with the opportunity to explore students’ thinking and language skills at the same time. More importantly, the activities create authentic learning experiences to support the expectations of the English curriculum in Indonesia, and provide teachers with opportunities to generate quality language interactions in the classroom. 

1. Introduction

From 2002-2013, the English curriculum in Indonesia has experienced three changes, from KBK (Competency based Curriculum) to KTSP (School Based Curriculum) to the 2013 Curriculum. For the English subject area, however, the core content and approach have not changed significantly. The aim remains the same i.e. developing students’ language competence with emphasis on reading and writing. In KBK as well as KTSP, English language is positioned as a functional tool for communication with a focus on reading and writing. 

The Communicative approach, adopted before, was considered to be too broad to be implemented and therefore the new curriculum was developed based on a functional linguistic approach. This is to make sure that the English introduced at school is functional enough for the learners to communicate ideas.  As language is a tool to convey meaning, the curriculum developers believed that the systemic functional linguistic approach, introduced by M.A.K. Halliday, would be the most appropriate to support the fundamental principles of the English curriculum in Indonesia. 

Halliday (1994) stated that language is a system for making meanings. By using language, those meanings are transferred in text format. Halliday (1985:10) further mentioned “any instance of living language that is playing some part in a context of situation, we shall call a text. It may either be spoken or written, or indeed in any other medium of expression that we like to think”.  Hence, the definition of “text” has broadened significantly. Anything that denotes information is a text: books, magazines, paintings, sculpture, photographs, videos, posters, objects, people etc.

The genre based approach is considered to be the most appropriate to be adopted for the new curriculum, because it gives more room for students and teachers to go through the process of using, deconstructing and producing text. It is also based on the perspective that learning to read and write is not different from learning to speak (Emilia, 2011). Therefore, in conducting lessons in a genre based approach, teachers are expected to apply the following learning cycles in developing students’ literacy. The cycles are (1) Building Knowledge of Field ; (2) Modelling of the Text, (3) Joint Construction of the Text, and (4) Independent Construction of the Text. These cycles can be applied in producing oral as well as written text (see Cornish 1992; Hammond et al 1992; Burns, Joyce and Gollin 1996; Feez with Joyce 1998). 

2. Implementation of a Genre based in the classroom

The application of a genre based curriculum requires teachers to use methodology that helps students to develop literacy. Feez and Joyce (2002: 24) indicate that, “Approaching language learning from the perspective of texts requires an accompanying methodology which can enable the students to gain the knowledge and skills to deal with spoken and written texts in social contexts.” This means that in conducting an English lesson, teachers should be able to breakdown the lesson into a series of meaningful activities that lead the students to the production of a text. In the building knowledge stage, for example, a teacher should elicit to  bring out the knowledge students have on a particular topic. From this point, the teacher can build a model using familiar vocabulary to make students aware of what kind of topic they produce. The interaction between the teacher and students, or amongst the students, leads to the production of the type of text the lesson requires.

3. Teachers’ Challenges 

Although a genre based approach has been applied in Indonesia since 2004, many teachers still find it challenging to apply effectively in the classroom. In most cases, the challenge lies in translating the curriculum to meaningful classroom activities.  A teacher of English attending a training session in Banten, for example, mentioned that she often still focuses on teaching the structure of language in the class rather than the text structure and its features.  To cope with these challenges, most teachers rely on the textbooks that the school has chosen. Some textbooks give room for teachers to be creative with the materials and activities, but this requires the allocation of development time on their part.  However, many textbooks still focus more on the linguistic aspects of a text which is more rule-based and can be easily put in written form, rather than the use of English as a literacy tool, which is more complicated. 

The challenges faced by many teachers in the class range from a lack of guidance on how to develop activities that can help students to build knowledge on the topic, to the production of different types of text. This might be caused by limited non-textbook resources that can be readily accessed by teachers. Some teachers, who have been lucky enough to attend training on material development or those who are naturally creative, will try to find alternative instructional materials from different sources. 

4. Resource Pack 2015 as a breakthrough

The Teacher Creativity Resource Pack has been designed and developed by the British Council, as part of the Creative Education Programme, in association with the Prudential Eye Programme. The Pack uses art as a trigger for the development of 21st century skills, rich language and creative thinking. The activities are designed to be interactive and to generate responses from pupils. In 2015, a number of Teacher Creativity workshops were delivered to English teachers using the Resource Pack, and the training was aligned with the most recent Indonesian English curriculum objectives. The Pack has been enthusiastically received by almost all participants because it includes activities appropriate for the level of students and the activities are designed to trigger interactive and creative thinking and responses.  

The Resource Pack for teachers is a good example of instructional English materials that make the process from Building Knowledge of Field to Independent Construction of the Text simple and structured. Each activity begins by showing an image of an artwork (which may be a painting, photograph, installation, sculpture etc), and then moving to interpreting the message.  Directed brainstorming sessions allow for ample student discussion time, which is a supportive strategy to the writing process.  From these conversation activities students start to build the text. 

There are two key reasons why the Pack helps English teachers. Firstly, it is designed on a text-based approach and is aligned with the English curriculum in Indonesia. There are at least four text types discussed in the Pack; recount, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative. The worksheets provided in the Pack move from simple to complicated vocabulary.  Secondly, the structure of the activities can help teachers build the students’ critical and creative thinking skills as they participate in language-based activities. The Teacher Creativity workshops help teachers understand how the Pack can be integrated into their daily classroom practices.

Furthermore, the activities provided in the Resource Pack can be integrated into many areas of the curriculum beyond language learning. The materials are open ended allowing teachers to adapt the activities as necessary for their individual cohorts.  Thus the Resource Pack can benefit English teachers by creating engaging lessons that support 21st century learning. 


Burns, A. and Joyce H. 2007. Adult ESL programs in Australia. Prospect Vol 22, No 3 2007

Emilia, E. 2011. Implementasi Pendekatan Genre-Based in Indonesia. Paper presented in a seminar in Isola Bandung 11-12 February 2011

Feez, S., & Joyce, H. (2002). Text-Based Syllabus Design. Sydney: NCELTR, Macquarie University.(2002:24)

Halliday, M. A. K. (1985). Part A. In M.A.K. Halliday and R. Hasan. Language, context, and text: aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective. Geelong, Vic.: Deakin University

Halliday, M.A.K. 1994. Introduction to Functional Grammar, 2nd ed. London: Edward Arnold

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