Some Critical Issues In Teaching And Learning Process: Empowering Teachers’ Professional Development


Agustina, M. Pd.

Widyaiswara Pertama Balai Diklat Keagamaan Palembang,

Dosen IAIN Raden Fatah, e-mail:



Indonesia Policy Brief (2005) highlights some problems found in our education: not all children are in schools, the quality of schoolings in Indonesia seems low and declining, teacher preparations and attendances are inadequate, and schools are not regularly maintained. Of all above issues, what seem interesting are problems with the teachers: their qualification, teaching skills, welfare, and mindset. Thus, professional development for teachers becomes proposed solution to be done by teachers, either individually or in collective way. This article highlights not only the problems faced by teachers but also ideas for professional development activity.

KEY WORDS: Problems in TLP, Teachers’ Professional Development




Language learning and teaching is a complex package of issues. People say that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription to guarantee everyone’s success at the same rate. Many obstacles occur in the process of Teaching and Learning Process (TLP). Globally, education as a broad subject has also many complicated issues. There are many problems in our education inferred by Indonesia Policy Brief (2005). Some significant issues are highlighted as follows.


First problem mainly occurs is that not all children are in school. Indonesia has not yet achieved its goal of nine years of education for all since currently 20 (twenty) percents of children who should be attending junior high school do not. The amount of children staying on the streets seems significantly increasing, from 36.000 in 1997 becomes more than two hundred thousand in 2010 (Jakarta Post, February 9, 2010).

Secondly, the quality of schoolings in Indonesia seems low and declining. Expansion has not produced graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to build a strong society and competitive economy for the future. Then, teacher preparations and attendances are inadequate. Unlike many other countries, Indonesia enables all graduates of teacher training institutes to become teachers without pondering preparedness of those graduates to impart knowledge and skills under various school conditions. At the same time, it is difficult to fire teachers who cannot teach. In addition, according to a survey done for the World Development Report 2004, 20 (twenty) percents of our teachers were absent at the time of a random spot check in a representative number of schools. This means that 20 (twenty) percents of the funds that finance teachers has no direct benefit to students – simply because the teachers are not in the classrooms.

Another problem is that our schools are not regularly maintained. One of six schools in Central Java is in “bad condition,” according to school survey data from the Ministry of National Education, (MoNE, 1999), while at least one in two schools in Nusa Tenggara Timur, students sit in classrooms without the rudiments of instruction—textbooks, a blackboard, writing supplies, and a teacher who has mastered the curriculum. Indonesia needs to quickly catch up with its neighboring countries’ education standards. Indeed, a 2003 survey of Japanese manufacturing firms about their operations in other Asian countries reveals that Indonesia’s perceived low level of human resources and inadequate supply of management skills diminishes its appeal to investors. This must be a concern as Indonesia’s regional competitors are continuing to upgrade their education base.

Of all above issues, what seem interesting are problems with the teachers. Fuad Hassan, in his era as the Minister of Education and Culture, talks about the education development in our country, “Don’t talk too much about curriculum and system; the doers are much more important” (Rizali, Sidi and Dharma, 2009). He strongly believes that the main problem of education everywhere is on teachers’ quality, not on budgeting or facilities. He took Finland as the model where the competition to enter Education Faculty is much stricter than other prestigious faculties like Law and Medical Faculty. Malaysia also applies “five-year programme ‘tailor-made’ fot top sijil Pelajaran Malaysia” where the government promises the best graduates to be sent abroad to get education if they are interested in becoming Match and Science teachers. Through this program, they filter 500 the best graduates to be sent to Australia and England in these five years. They exactly look for only the best brains for this profession.

In USA, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation through Scholarship Rhodes Program launched a program to attract the best students to become teachers there. The foundation president, Arthur E. Levine, said that, “Research shows that providing excellent teachers is the single most important way to improve student achievement”.

The significant roles of the teachers bring us to the phenomena of problems related to the teachers in TLP. This article tries to highlight some of them and proposes alternative solution to overcome the problems.



There are at least five of the classroom’s most critical problems related to the teachers. The first thing is the teachers qualification. The New Meaning of Educational Change, 3rd Ed. Fullan (2001) in Rizali, Sidi and Dharma (2009) affirm that Classrooms and schools become effective when qualified people are recruited to teaching, and the workplace is organized to energize teachers and reward accomplishents is provided as well. The two are intimately related. Professionally rewarding workplace conditions attract and retain good people. It is emphasized that if we want to make any significant changes in education, the main focus should be put on teachers’ quality. Schools will be effective if we recruit the best people as teachers and create conducive workplace for them.

Whereas, Rizali, Sidi and Dharma (2009) note data in 2000/2010 showing that only 49,49% teachers at primary schools are categorized qualified based on their teaching qualification (at least Diploma 2). In Secondary schools, only 66,33% are qualified based on their teaching qualification (at least Diploma 3) and the rest is unqualified. This percentage is now much bigger since teachers should have at least S1 qualification. In the scope of Ministry of Religious Affair, it is obvious that many teachers haven’t fulfilled the qualification standard. It is noted that only fifty thousand out of one hundred eighty teachers of MoRA has finished their S1 degree.

The second problem is related with the teachers teaching skills. The potrait of schools is represented by their teachers. Big ambitions to reach “international level school”, for instance, will be diminished if the teachers are not in “international level”. To see the facts, teachers’ quality in our country are still much left behind to construct significant changes (Rizali, Sidi and Dharma: 2009). They are still “teacher’s centered” and don’t internalize the essence of curriculum. To make it worse, the government applies Final Examination (Ujian Nasional) to determine the students’ success in learning, which is cognitive-based and not matched with Competence-based Curriculum. Citing Suyanto (2005), they say, “Product-oriented assessment tends to produce instant output and stagnant, event contra-productive instructions at schools”.

Here teachers’ teaching skills are significant matters. As Harmer (1998) says, although the character and personality of the teacher is a critical issue in the classtoom, by far the greatest number of responses so the question “What Makes a Good Teacher?” were not so much about teachers themselves, but rather about the relationship betwee the teacher and the students. Class management –the ability to control and inspire the class- is one of the fundamental skills of teaching. Teachers find it much easier if their students believe that they are genuinely interested in them and available for them. Thus, a simple answer to the question “What makes a good teacher?” therefore is that a good teacher care more about their students’ learning than they do about their own teaching.

The next popular issue is the teachers’ welfare. As Setiawan (2008) says, teachers in our country are classified into marginal society. Winarno Surakhman criticitized this in his poem “Kapan Sekolah Kami Lebih Baik dari Kandang Ayam”. The portrait of  Oemar Bakri as Iwan Fals sings is also the real phenomenon. There is era when groups of teachers not more than just a tool of political regime to seek power.  Whereas, Rizali, Sidi and Dharma (2009) say, professional teachers should not only well-performed, but also well-trained, well-equipped, and well-paid. We can compare to the condition in Singapore. The recruitments of teachers are done seriously, and due to lack of human resources (only four millions people) the government invites foreigners to be teachers there. In university level for example, NTU and National University of Singapore (NUS) offer promising compensations and payment a high as Harvard Business School. The government absolutely thinks seriously to attract the best talents and brains to be teachers.

Another issue deals with the teachers’ mindset. Changing education is all about changing paradigm. The paradigm of teachers to educate, not only teach; to transfer skills and attitude, not only knowledge, should be posesesed by all teachers. Good teachers should care more about their students’ learning than they do about their own teaching, as Harmer (1998) says.



Considering all problems with teachers of TLP as described above, professional development for teachers becomes proposed solution to be done by teachers, either individually or in collective way. Murray (2010) highlights some reasons for teachers to pursue professional development and techniques that teachers have found help them feel empowered and motivated in their English language classrooms.

One of the main reasons to pursue professional development is to be empowered –to have the opportunity and the confidence to act upon your ideas as well as to influence the way you perform in your profession. As teachers, we have the capacity to empower ourselves if we keep in mind the following precepts: be positive; believe in what you are doing and in yourself; be proactive, not reactive; and be assertive, not aggressive. Feeling empowered can also manifest leadership skills, and teachers empowerment leads to improvement in student performance and attitude.

Teacher development opportunities can take many forms. Some are individual or informal while other occasions are collective or structured. The most obvious professional development activity for teachers is reading journals (and maybe even writing and article for one) keeps them informed about new trends and research developments.

Here are some activities for professional development:

  1. Individual technique: keep a teaching journal, analyze a critical incident, participate in workshops and conferences
  2. Collaborative technique: share journals, try peer mentoring and coaching, form a teacher support group, join a teacher support network, form or join local and national teachers’ associations, urge your association to connect with other associations, become active in an international professional association


However, in our country, the government shows their concern to improve our educational quality by launching teachers education revitalization program (program revitalisasi pendididikan guru/Lembaga Pendidikan Tenaga Kependidikan) name as BERMUTU (Better Education through Reformed Management of Universal Teacher and Upgrading). It can be expected that this kind of projects will contribute much to the professional development of the teachers of ELT so that the problems will be minimized.



Many problems occur in teaching and learning process especially issues related to the teachers. Some of them are teachers’ qualification, teachers’ teaching skills, teachers’ welfare, and teachers’ mindset. Globally, these problems can be minimized through professional development done by the teachers. However, professional develoment is an ongoing process, one that evolves as them assess and reexamine their teaching beliefs and practices.



Harmer, Jeremy. 1998. How to Teach English. Essex: Longman.  Indonesia Policy

Brief. 2005.…/Education.pdf.

Retrieved at December 12, 2010.

Murray, Alice. “Empowering Teachers through Professional Development”.

English Teaching Forum .Vol. 48 Number 1 2010.

Rizali, Ahmad, Indra Djati Sidi, dan Satria Dharma. 2009. Dari Guru

Konvensional Menuju Guru Profesional. Jakarta: PT Grasindo.

Setiawan, Benny. 2008. Agenda Pendidikan Nasional. Jogjakarta: Ar-Ruzz