For the past few days I’ve been attending a conference in Salatiga, a small town in Central Java, Indonesia. It’s a relaxed and attractive town lying at the foot of two mountains, Mount Merbabu and Mount Telomoyo, surrounded by rice fields and relatively cool because of its elevated position. Each year for the last six years, the Satya Wacana Christian University has organized an international seminar focusing on topical areas of research and practice in English language teaching. This year the theme of the conference is Research in Teacher Education: What, How and Why? I was invited by Christian Rudianto, one of my former Masters’ students and the Chair of the Organising Committee, to give the opening plenary and a follow-up workshop on action research. The other plenary speaker was Dr Willy Renandya, from the National Institute of Education, Singapore, who spoke about the challenges of choosing and focusing topics for research. One of the main aims of the conference is to enable teachers from all over Indonesia, as well as pre-service teachers doing their Bachelors’ courses at the university, to attend a conference locally and to get the opportunity to hear and meet international speakers, without incurring the high costs associated with most national and international conferences. The conference always attracts international teachers as well, for example, this year from Malaysia, and from Iran at previous conferences.
The range of papers, most of them research-based, was impressive with five parallel strands offering 60 presentations over the two days. Presentations ranged across topics such as teachers’ views of teaching English as an international language, the attitudes of pre-service teachers towards research, the theory and practice of computer-mediated communication in ELT, critical incidents from teachers’ action research journals and promoting reflective teaching in teacher training programs. Many of the papers were directed towards researching various approaches towards teacher education, particularly looking at the role of small-scale research or exploratory teaching projects in a teacher education programme.
While the conference programme itself was very engaging, another highlight was the cultural evening organized by the students for the end of the first day. Participants were not only treated to some delicious traditional Indonesian food but also to a programme of singing, music and dancing all performed by students at the university. Students performed traditional music, involving drumming and songs from various regions of Indonesia, as well as Javanese traditional dances, and extended dance versions of well-known folk tales. The whole evening was capped off by some extremely energetic and rhythmic performances by dancers from the Papua region of Indonesia, who then enticed the audience to join in. Yes, I have to admit I didn’t escape – but it was a lot of fun! I’m very glad I had a chance to attend this conference and to be involved in such productive debates about the challenges but also the developments in teaching and researching English in Indonesia.
23 November 2012