Articles, Opinion|

IHF/Maulady Virdausy Fahmy


“Don’t say ‘kah’, but say ‘droeneuh’.” In Acehnese, the word ‘kah’ means ‘you’ in a coarse sense, while the word ‘droeneuh’ also means ‘you’, but in a polite sense. That’s how my late father often admonished me, and even my friends. He would reprimand us when we chose coarse diction when speaking to each other.

That is the memory I remember most about my late father. He paid such great attention to morality. So often, to the extent that he himself realized and often disclaimed like this, “It may not feel important now, but someday you will realize how important this is.”

Honestly, at that time, I wasn’t so sure about the importance of this matter. The teachers at school didn’t emphasize it much. As far as I can remember, advice on the importance of doing good deeds was mostly conveyed only up to primary school level. The higher the level of education, the less seriously character-related matters were discussed, especially during college.

The seriousness of this matter is most evident in the implementation of the National Examination (UN). There are schools involved actively in cheating during the UN graduation. Only up to the primary school level, in my experience and perhaps also the experience of most of us, teachers and schools did not “assist” their students to pass the UN.

This reality led the Indonesia Heritage Foundation (IHF), known in Indonesian as Yayasan Warisan Nilai Luhur Indonesia, to realize that the biggest challenge facing Indonesian education in facing the 21st century is building the nation’s character. IHF questions why so many Indonesians are aware of and understand morals and ethics, yet do not demonstrate behavior in line with these principles.

IHF not only questions but also conducts studies and develops education on the 9 Pillars of Character as well as educational strategies in the form of a Character-Based Holistic Education (PHBK) learning model. This learning model is a sincere effort to find a way out of the deadlock.

One of the founders of IHF, Ratna Megawangi, in her book “Character Education: The Right Solution for Nation Building” (2016), also mentions the teachers’ involvement in UN cheating. This shows that this phenomenon has been happening for a long time, at least since the National Examination was still called EBTANAS.

“Even the author’s sibling once recounted the experience of their child during the EBTANAS exam at a public school in Bekasi. It turned out that the teachers at that school distributed several answers to all the students, the reason being to ensure that their school achieved a high rank in the average NEM [Pure EBTANAS Score] achievement. This shows that the teachers, who surely know that leaking exam answers to their students is wrong, still choose to do so (p. 134).

The Effective Functioning of Moral Knowledge

Regarding this issue, Ratna Megawangi often emphasizes the urgency of the cognitive aspect, loving and desiring, as well as practicing in character education.

Moreover, the cognitive aspect does not need to be discussed much anymore in the Indonesian context. Civic education and religious education have been emphasized from primary school to university. For certain regions, such as Aceh Province, which formally implements Islamic law, Religious Education “feels everywhere”. However, there is no significant difference compared to other regions in Indonesia regarding the alignment between behavior and known moral principles.

Furthermore, what needs to be emphasized are the other two aspects. First, the aspect of love and desire to do good (loving and desiring the good). This aspect is referred to by Jean Piaget as the source of energy for the effective functioning of moral knowledge, thus producing someone with consistent character (p. 137).

In Ratna’s view, this aspect is the most difficult to teach because it involves the emotional domain (right brain). However, this can still be cultivated, even in high school students (p. 138).

Practicing Good Deeds Continuously

The second aspect is acting the good, or performing good deeds. This aspect pertains to how the love and desire to do good that one already possesses can be manifested in tangible actions.

According to William Patrik, as quoted by Ratna Megawangi in her book, one of the reasons why someone may not be able to behave well, despite knowing it cognitively, is because they are not trained to perform virtues or moral actions. Therefore, in character education, continuous training and practice are necessary (p. 134).

The analogy of character development with muscle strengthening is very appropriate. Building muscles to become strong requires continuous training. Similarly, with character, one can develop character by engaging in continuous practices and exercises, ideally starting from a young age.

I recall what my father used to say. It turns out he was right, that eventually I would understand how important it is to align behavior with moral principles. That’s why he repeatedly emphasized it, from when I was young until our last meetings. The weakening of positive values, such as politeness, honesty, and empathy, in some segments of society today feels very real. In various places, we are witnessing a neglect of morality in forms never seen before.

Translator: Pangkuh Aji
 Teuku Zulman Sangga Buana
Editor: Dewanti Nurcahyani

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