Teachers’ dilemmas and resolutions when recontextualising Indonesia’s official policy to their contexts

Year: 2019

Author: Qoyyimah, Uswatun, Exley, Beryl

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

An educational context that is dynamic has consequences for teachers’ work. Teachers inevitably experience dilemmas when they must implement government policy reforms in their classes to meet prescribed standards.

This paper examines how teachers’ awareness of structural and relational conditions mitigates dilemmas and facilitates resolutions around curriculum recontextualisation. Bernstein’s concept of recontextualisation and an elaborated theoretical perspective for understanding teachers’ professional judgement are presented to reveal whether teachers encounter dilemmas in curriculum reform and whether they display consistency in their patterns of resolution for such dilemmas. Bernstein (2000) outlines two main agents involved in the recontextualisation process: the official recontextualising field (ORF) and the pedagogic recontextualising field (PRF). The ORF represents the state and its ministries, while the PRF consists of educators in schools, including teachers. Hence, the theories of recontextualisation and dilemmatic space are synthesised to explain teachers’ dilemmas and resolutions in recontextualising an official curriculum by undertaking a two-dimensional analysis involving vertical and horizontal analyses. Vertical analysis can be illustrated by the teachers’ relational positioning compared with the more powerful agent, which outlines the official curriculum, syllabus, and administrative standards. Horizontal analysis can be described as teachers’ relational negotiations within their context with students and other educators/teachers.

This theoretical lens is applied in an empirical study of how Indonesian teachers situated in differently resourced sectors understand and navigate the dilemmas precipitated by the introduction of character education.

The data of this study were obtained from transcripts of interviews and fieldnotes of classroom observations with nine teachers from public and private secondary schools in East Java, Indonesia.

The results suggest that different dilemmas and resolutions were produced by a stratified education system, most notably in terms of the professional learning opportunities of different school sectors. Teachers who experienced more systemic privileges and support reported considering more aspects in the dilemmatic space. In contrast, teachers who received less systemic support remained focused on managing their contextual problems. Additionally, the teachers’ dilemmas had a significant impact on all processes relating to curriculum implementation: the more elements the teachers considered in the dilemmatic space, the more conscious efforts the teachers made to ‘act for the best’ in terms of adapting and developing the curricula to suit their context. Conversely, when teachers oriented to fewer elements in the potential dilemmatic space, they reported investing less effort in engaging with the ORF initiative. Consequently, teachers who encountered more dilemmas demonstrated ‘richer’ recontextualisation.