AIYA Links, 21 November

In the news

On the AIYA blog

Events and opportunities

Monolingual Australia and the “Language” of Justification

When it comes to Language learning in Australia, it seems that the most common language being practised and used regularly is the “language of justification”. Whether it is politicians, language advocates, teachers or students, we all find ourselves at some point using this language in our attempts to further the cause of languages education. But what exactly is a “language of justification” and why does it matter?

Hello Pic

                    The Impact of Language Learning (Photo: ICDC College)

The language of justification is what emerges when a society’s overarching attitude towards languages is governed by what Michael Clyne calls a “monolingual mindset”. In such a society, the existence of a single and dominant language is seen as desirable, natural and vital to the maintenance of that society. The acquisition, study and existence of any other language is therefore viewed not as something which is intrinsically valuable to that society, but as something that needs to be justified in terms of the goals and rationales of the monolingual society.

The fragility of Australian languages education, combined with the prevalence of a monolingual mindset, has meant that those working in the field have found themselves repeatedly having to justify language-learning according to the rationales of public discourse. In Australia, this discourse has tended to focus on the economy, jobs, security and globalisation as justifying the learning of languages. Such a discourse serves to damage, rather than promote quality languages education and policy.

We don’t have to look far to find examples of the “language of justification” in action. At the political level, Lo Bianco and Slaughter have described changes to languages policy over the past few decades as a “policy parade”, moving through phases of being “ambitiously multicultural” to “energetically Asian” and more recently to being “fundamentally economic”. This view of languages seeks to publicly promote and justify language learning in terms of changing economic imperatives.

Meanwhile at the level of school curriculum the very language that is used to discuss education policy positions English as the superior and desired literacy standard, presenting all other languages as “additions” to this standard. While the Languages Curriculum is often accompanied by lengthy rationales, subjects such as English and Maths are explicitly described as “fundamental” for primary school learning, over and above Languages. In some parts of Australia, languages have been removed from the curriculum altogether in order to build literacy in English. The attitude that underpins such decisions carries misconceptions about the role of languages in building literacy in English, and in learning more generally. Any potential discourse about the transformative value of languages in education is therefore stifled by the need to “justify” language-learning.

At the school level, many of us would have been exposed to arguments about the benefits of language learning to future career prospects and aspirations. Those who have “mastered” a second language to help advance their career prospects are held in high esteem in society and within language-teaching communities. Without having to test the validity of these arguments, we can see that they subject discussions of language to economic justification. Hence, while the intentions of language students and educators are no doubt good, discourses within these communities can actually serve to reinforce monolingual mindsets.

It is clear that the monolingual mindset governs the way in which languages education is viewed, discussed and promoted in Australia. This is obviously a hard dilemma to escape, because in order to alter monolingual mindsets, vulnerable language programs and advocate communities must first appeal to them in some way that will be understood. It is possible, however, to avoid the language of justification- if not in the things we do, then in the very language we use to promote learning Indonesian, English, Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, Japanese, or any other language.

First and foremost, we must seek out opportunities to establish independent discourses about languages. We must seek to demystify the skill of language learning by raising awareness of the many and varying reasons for language-learning, as well as the diversity of language-speaking communities within Australia. We are languages advocates living and working in a multilingual society with a monolingual mindset. Our discourses must acknowledge and embrace Language acquisition as something natural and achievable for everyone, not merely as some sort of “complimentary” addition to an English-speaking Australia. Only then can we hope to escape the monolingual language of justification.

Jokowi: A Mental Revolution

Indonesia is celebrating a new era of democracy marked by the inauguration of its 7th President, Mr. Joko Widodo (Jokowi).  But, what makes him the new hope for Indonesia?

Joko Widodo

 Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo (Photo: ABC Australia)

Jokowi is a leader who inspires and listens to the voice of his citizens and is well renowned for his “blusukan style”, characterised by his visits to local people and talking directly to the citizens to solve their problems. He is making a real difference by closing the communication gaps between government and its people.

One of the main characteristics of Jokowi’s emerging vision for Indonesia is his mental revolution policy. The mental revolution policy focuses on changing the mindset of Indonesian people to have great manners and strong principles based on the value of Pancasila (Indonesia’s Ideology) towards great capacity of nation building. Pancasila is the philosophical basis of Indonesia’s life and society that consists of “Five Moral Principles”: democracy, the unity of Indonesia, social justice, civilised humanity and the belief in the one and only God. Pancasila embraces humanitarian principles that have become the true and core identity of Indonesia.

Jokowi’s mental revolution policy is an answer to Indonesia’s need for a breakthrough in its human and social development, especially to remove the habits of corruption since the Orde Baru (New Order) era. The New Order was the period under the second Indonesian President Suharto (1965- 1998), thas was characterized by extravagant nepotism and government corruption.

The implementation of the mental revolution policy is highlighted in the education sector. Jokowi believes that the effectiveness of the mental revolution should be developed from the start of primary education. In Jokowi’s opinion, Indonesia’s primary schools students should be educated about the importance of character development, manners, and etiquettes. These subjects should comprise 80% of the curriculum and students should spend the remainder of their studies focusing on scientific discovery.

As students reach junior high school, there will be a greater emphasis on scientific learning, but the essence of character development, manners, and etiquettes must remain strong according to Jokowi and his new government. Jokowi states a 60%: 40 % proportion in favour of character development.

Jokowi emphasises the science education on the high schools education stage as 80% and 20% for the manners education, character development, and etiquettes. He also wants to build more vocational schools for Indonesian students. Jokowi contends that developed countries such as Japan, Germany, and Republic of Korea are growing because of the enrichment of practical skills, which are acquired in vocational schools.

He has confidence that the implementation of his mental revolution policy will foster a new Indonesian generation. The new Indonesian generation with a great mental outlook and work culture with integrity and strong competitive advantages. A new generation that in the long run will increase productivity for the nation and the country. As Mr. Joko Widodo states, “It’s good to be an important person, but it’s more important to be a good person, and what’s most important is to be a good important person.”

To learn more about the 7th President of Indonesia, Mr. Joko Widodo, you can visit his website or Facebook page.

AIYA Links, 14 November: Jokowi steps out


In the news

On the AIYA Blog

Events and opportunities

Review: ‘Risky Business’ by Ari Sharp

Sometimes, it seems Indonesia can be its own worst enemy. Over a dinner in Jakarta recently, a businessperson with long experience interacting with Indonesian policymakers lamented that politicians and bureaucrats here ‘had begun to actually believe their own rhetoric’.

The easy years of the commodity prices boom, he said, gave rise to a complacency that prompted some Indonesian bureaucrats to essentially tell foreign investors that — no matter what the issues with the investment climate — they’ll come anyway because Indonesia is too important a market to ignore. From the economic disaster of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-98 to the commodities boom years under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia swung from despair to hubris mighty quickly, some foreign observers worry.

Australian journalist Ari Sharp is one of them. In his new book, Risky Business: How Indonesia’s economic nationalism is hurting foreign investment—and local people, Sharp provides a reality check on the Indonesian boom narrative, using stories of troubled foreign investment projects to illustrate how ‘through a combination of legislative edicts, ministerial utterances and dubious court rulings, Indonesia’s elite has sought to demonstrate that the country is not open for business’.

A few tales stand out: the Australian mining company which discovered a huge coal deposit in Kalimantan, only to be pushed off its concession by a politically-connected firm after some suspicious court decisions; threats of revoking visas made to executives of ExxonMobil to speed up production at a local field; the crazed Attorney-General’s Department prosecutors pursuing Chevron executives for trumped-up corruption allegations in the face of bafflement from regulators, the industry, the anti-corruption commission and the mining ministry; and, of course, the complete debacle that was the recent ban on the export of raw minerals, enacted with apparent disregard for its effect on the Indonesian economy.

Written from the perspective of a journalist and editor (Sharp spent two and a half years at the English-language Jakarta Globe newspaper), rather than a businessperson or consultant, the nine case studies which the book deals with illustrate convincingly that Indonesian policymakers often display little regard for what might be described as Creating a Healthy Investment Climate 101: the rule of law, policy stability, and functional communication with the private sector.

This could easily have turned into an exercise in tiny-violin-playing on behalf of multinational corporations (won’t somebody think of poor old ExxonMobil?), but to his credit Sharp always keeps the Indonesian public as his main protagonist. If the Indonesian government restricts imports of food to ‘promote’ local production, he points out, the ones who suffer are poor Indonesians when food prices spike. When Indonesian authorities give foreign resources firms a hard time, it’s the Indonesian economy which misses out on jobs and capital. And so on. The overriding theme is that Indonesian elites are often happy to place some notion of national ‘dignity’ and disdain for foreign companies over hard-headed analysis of what’s best to grow the economy—or worse, cloak rent-seeking behaviour in the language of economic nationalism.

Indonesia-watchers with pre-existing knowledge of the book’s case studies will probably be left wanting more in-depth investigation of processes which Sharp describes largely based on media reports. But as the author points out, the book is first and foremost aimed at readers overseas with an interest in Indonesian affairs. Aside from its accessibility to non-experts, these readers will benefit from the fact that Sharp is a good writer, his journalistic experience and sense of humour giving him a knack for storytelling.

So the big question is whether the picture Sharp seeks to draw from these case studies is an accurate one. Needless to say, the book’s general attitude towards free trade and investment is what would be denounced as neoliberalisme in Indonesia. The book’s publisher, Connor Court, is known for its focus on conservative screeds from authors like Cory Bernardi and Ian Plimer, so the free-market bent of the book is not surprising. This doesn’t necessarily make it wrong—indeed, most Australians would recognise the book’s remedies for Indonesia’s investment climate funk as common sense economics.

I do wonder, though, whether the case studies’ being weighted towards resources projects overstates how bad things are overall. As Sharp mentions in his conclusion, there are plenty of success stories of foreign firms’ involvement in consumer services in Indonesia, for instance. Another tremendously important issue for Indonesia is growing its labour-intensive manufacturing sector, which is being held up not by economic jingoism (Indonesians love their Samsung phones and Levis), but the more mundane issues of poor infrastructure and rigid workplace relations laws. It is only in particular sectors, it seems, where foreign investment really pushes the buttons of protectionists.

In the highly-politicised resources sector, researchers like the ANU’s Eve Warburton caution against reading the current nationalist climate in the resources sector as a cloak for rent-seeking, seeing ‘a strong ideational component to the rise of [economic] nationalism in Indonesia that deserves greater…attention’ from those commenting on the foreign investment regime there. While Sharp does put the current nationalist zeitgeist in historical perspective and rightly identifies rising inequality as aiding popular disillusionment with globalisation, I though there was room for a more detailed explanation for outside readers of the deep ideological roots of Indonesian protectionism.

With those few issues aside, Risky Business is overall an insightful, useful and timely book for Australians, given the tendency of our political leaders and pundits to shy away from the tough realities of Indonesia’s political economy which hold up greater economic integration between us and our neighbour. In his debut book, Ari Sharp has delivered an entertaining (sometimes perversely so) and critical look at Indonesia’s foreign investment scene which deserves to be widely read by those keen to go beyond marketing slogans.

You can order Risky Business online through Readings, Amazon or the Book Depository. Thanks to Ari Sharp for providing a review copy.

AIYA Links: 7 November

In the news

On the AIYA Blog

Events and opportunities

Not just fun and games: AIYA ACT’s “Indonesia Day”

On Wednesday the 17th of September the AIYA ACT Chapter hosted approximately 250 students from years 7 to 12 from across the ACT. The students had an opportunity to experience Indonesian culture, language and history not offered in the classroom.


The students began the day with a breakout session of language, where students practised their introductions with students from different schools. Each student in year 7 and 8 wrote a postcard that will be sent to a school in Yogyakarta in the hope that an exchange of language and friendship can be developed between the two cities.

The year 9, 10, 11 and 12s had the opportunity to learn the Balinese Kecak dance from Mas Gede from the Indonesian Embassy.

After morning tea, the year 7 and 8s moved into workshops where they had the opportunity to learn dances from the Poco-poco to Sumatran dances, cooking, bargaining skills, negotiating skills, angklung and how to wear traditional clothes. These workshops gave students a unique opportunity to engage in a particular part of Indonesian culture and learn more about the Indonesian way. These workshops were led by PPIA ACT, the Australian Indonesian Families Association, master of all things language, Dr George Quinn and students from the ANU.

The year 9, 10, 11 and 12s spent the hour and half with Associate Professor Greg Fealy and PhD candidate Tom Power who gave a thrilling lecture on Indonesian politics and the recent Indonesian election. Students engaged deeply in a topic that would help them understand the complexity of Indonesian politics and the Australian–Indonesian relationship.

Lecture by Associate Professor Greg Fealy and PhD candidate Tom Power on Indonesian politics and the recent Indonesian presidential election
Lecture by Associate Professor Greg Fealy and PhD candidate Tom Power on Indonesian politics and the recent Indonesian presidential election

At lunchtime, students ate Indonesian snacks including martabak and perkedel. After a quick snack we got into the games with an Independence Day style celebration. First up was the Krupuk challenge where about 100 krupuk Palembang were tied to trees and students raced to finish theirs the fastest —without their hands. Students also had the opportunity to try their hand at the eggplant race popular in Java. Students tied an eggplant from their waist and raced to hit a small ball the fastest across the finish line. Many laughs were had as students struggled and fluked their way across the line.

Thanks to the kind donation from Indocafe we ran a quiz competition with questions about Indonesia and students had the opportunity to win $10 vouchers for lunch at the Indocafe.

At the closing ceremony Amrih Widodo and Zara Maxwell-Smith spoke about the opportunity to keep studying Indonesian in year 11 and 12 through the ANU and made important points about the benefits and importance of studying Indonesian.

In the ACT, there are serious fluctuations of Indonesian language students. With only one private school in Canberra teaching the language of our closest neighbour. In the three colleges (year 11 and 12) that study Indonesian: Narrabundah, Dickson and Burgmann College teachers struggle to keep numbers up: a maximum of 30 students graduate year 12 with a major in Indonesian each year. With much fewer of those students pursuing Indonesian at a university level.

Programs such as the ANU Secondary School program make it possible for students to continue studying Indonesian despite not having Indonesian at their school, but requires a large commitment from the students.

If Australia is serious about the future of the Australia–Indonesia relationship we need to ensure that students are engaging and studying Indonesian in those early years. It is important that days such as Indonesia Day continue to act as an important way to engage students on a cultural and political level so that students understand the true importance of studying Indonesian. We need to ensure that there is funding available for students to participate in events such as these.

Students also need to have access to Indonesia and visit the country. Overseas trips are important for encouraging passion and commitment to Indonesian. It also creates confidence amongst students in their language skills.

Students learning the Kecak dance
Students learning the Kecak dance

We would like to praise the teachers who spend countless hours organising high school students to come to events such as these ones and work tirelessly to encourage students to continue pursuing Indonesian. We must never underestimate the power and influence that these teachers have in the future of the relationship.

Australia has a culture of mono-lingualism and a lack of understanding of our closest neighbour. But through the expansion of our schools programs and by creating momentum behind the relationship with our most important neighbour we can improve the relationship for the future.

Indonesia day this year allowed students to gain a slightly deeper understanding about the great country that is Indonesia and the benefits of studying such an exciting and diverse language and culture. But, there is a lot more work to do before we can ensure that secondary Indonesian language studies are sustainable for the future of the relationship.

A big thanks goes out to everyone who helped us to organise, volunteer and fund the day!

AIYA Links, 31 October: Working Cabinet


In the news: Jokowi’s team

Events and opportunities


Photo above:

AIYA Links, 24 October: the new president

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In the news: a new president


Events and opportunities

Presiden Jokowi: Inauguration Day As It Happened

Indonesia welcomed its seventh President to Istana Merdeka yesterday, on an inauguration day that was part ceremony, part street party, and full of colour and excitement.

This morning, we’ve picked out some of the most interesting stories and themes from social media over the last 24 hours.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and AAP’s Gabrielle Dunlevy kicked things off with atmospheric photos of Jakarta at dawn.

The Papers 

The Jakarta Globe took a measured tone to the big day

While Kompas reflected on the grassroots movement which lifted Jokowi to the Presidency.

  Anticipation Building  

The free food on offer attracted attention early on.

Local media stuck to the big issues   

Meanwhile the now Vice-President, Jusuf Kalla was busy getting ready. How cute!  

Before heading over to the DPR for the swearing in ceremony, Jokowi fronted the press with his family. Indonesia’s new first lady Iriana has so far taken a more low-key approach than her predecessor, Ani Yudhoyono.


 The Ceremony Begins

Former President Habibie sitting next to Megawati, who made an appearance at an inauguration ceremony for the first time since losing office in 2004 — it’s a touchy subject.

Secretary of State John Kerry represented the United States at the ceremony.

…but he wasn’t the only foreign dignitary in attendance — Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysia’s Najib Razak and the Sultan of Brunei also attended.

 Here we go!

Jokowi’s Inauguration Speech

Water was one of the major themes of Jokowi’s address.


Watch the speech in full:

The market liked what it saw, too:


It was a diverse crowd:

All up, the journey from the MPR to Monas took two hours.

Celebrations went on late into the night:

In between meetings with foreign leaders, Jokowi made an appearance on the stage at Monas:

All up, celebrations ran well past midnight:

This morning, it’s back to business as usual in Australia.

This morning’s papers

A quick sampling of commentary from this morning’s papers in Australia, Indonesia and overseas: