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The Economics of Language Policy$

Michele Gazzola and Bengt-Arne Wickström

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034708

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034708.001.0001

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English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization

English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization

(p.433) 14 English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization
The Economics of Language Policy

Lauren Zentz

The MIT Press

Abstract and Keywords

The data presented in this chapter highlight the Indonesian state’s influence on citizens’ access to education as it implements policies that simultaneously aim to secure a national identity through enforcing Indonesian as medium of instruction in public schools and categorizing English as a Foreign Language. The state is in a double bind, and its policies are ineffective: in globalization, English cannot be avoided, but the state lacks the resources needed to meet internationalized standards with language and curriculum content appropriate to the needs of Indonesia’s student populations and the skills of its teachers. Because of these dynamics, the English language is accessed mostly by those who already have access to mobility, wealth, and “international standard” educations. The national categorization of English as a Foreign Language combined with a contradictory rush to get citizens English alone by increasing its distribution throughout educational curricula, promises nothing more than to reinforce levels of English fluency as indicators of individuals’ access to or marginalization from wealth and state-distributed educations. Beliefs that English alone will earn the Indonesian state and its citizens prosperous positions in national and global society act to conflate the English language with the other important material factors alongside which this symbol of wealth “hitchhikes” (Mendoza-Denton, 2011), and this has led to rushed and ineffective policy implementation on many levels.

Keywords:   Language policy, Nationalism, Indonesia, Global English, Globalization

14.1 English on the Rise

Rushes around the globe to get “the English language” are symptomatic of modernity’s continuing legacy in pointing to languages themselves as entities, or “instruments” (Kelman 1971), that can do things to or for people. Recently, though, scholars of language have pointed out that English alone does very little to or for people (Pennycook 2006). In discourses about English, its separation from the contexts to which it is attached risks erasing an understanding that there are many other goods that one must have access to in order to truly gain a position within a global “cosmopolitan” mobile elite society. A problem in talking about languages per se—for the purposes of this chapter, English per se—is that a focus solely on it leads us astray from the actual underpinning mechanisms that inspire English language usages. Here, we will examine such usages in in Indonesia’s local and national contexts.

A conceptual enumeration of individual languages is not to be dismissed in its entirety. It is interesting to know exactly how many English speakers there are at present, and it is important to investigate whether or not English is imperializing the world (Phillipson 1992). However, as we explore uses of English language within local contexts around the world, I believe that we are more informed by employing ethnographic research methods as a primary resource, and enumerations of languages as a complement. Such a methodological framework gives researchers the capacity to examine not only what language policies are implemented at “macro” levels and what languages are spoken by whom; they also provide a more robust demonstration of how policies are understood and executed at “micro,” “meso,” and “macro” levels (Blommaert 2005; Liddicoat and Baldauf 2008; McCarty 2011). (p.434) Furthermore, ethnography allows us to examine, through examinations of language use and of talk about language use, individuals’ motivated performances, representations of self and other, and deployments of acquired sociolinguistic resources within local language ecologies, all of which reveal how language forms circulate and flow through global, national, and local contexts (Blommaert and Backus 2011; Hornberger and Hult 2008).

My ethnographic investigations of language use in Central Java, Indonesia, thus far have aimed to clarify language functions in local contexts:

  • How is language used locally?

  • What do all languages in this local context, including English, signify in situ as an index to micro-, meso-, and macro-social, political, and economic forces that all reflect and inform the processes of this era that we call globalization? and of most direct relevance to the analysis at hand,

  • Why do people want English, how do they “get” it, why are they motivated to produce it, and what mechanisms are in place to control people’s access to and desires for English?

In this chapter, I argue that access to the prestigious and/or high mobility contexts where English might be used in the first place make all the difference in the world for people’s future prospects of mobility and wealth. Such access is delimited primordially by individuals’ and groups’ social and economic means—their locations in “centers” and “peripheries” within national and global economies (Blommaert 2010; Blommaert et al. 2005; Kachru 1985). Because it is not English alone, but access to resources that occur alongside English that truly matter the most, I therefore look beyond language per se to understand globalization’s impacts on language and education policies and on access to language resources in Indonesia.

The data that will be presented in this chapter highlight the Indonesian state’s influence on citizens’ access to education and to English as it implements policies that simultaneously aim to secure a national identity through medium of instruction (MOI; a list of abbreviations and their meanings is provided in this chapter’s appendix) decisions that exclude English while attempting to keep up with rapidly internationalizing education standards that require varying levels of English proficiency. Before situating and presenting the research context and relevant data in sections 14.2 and 14.3, I present a brief explanation of (p.435) current viewpoints and concerns regarding English’s role in “globalization” (section 14.1.1) and regarding the role of the state in shaping citizens’ rights and citizens’ access to resources (section 14.1.2).

14.1.1 English in Globalization

In globalization, increased rapidity in transportation, communication, and the development of economic markets and international organizations have led to rapid distribution of “scapes” (Appadurai 1996), or flows of hard and soft power representing privilege, prestige, mobility, and wealth. Politically, the United Nations, with its six official languages, maintains English as its most common working language (Duchêne 2008), and regional political organizations like ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and SEAMEO (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization) have adopted English as their official and/or working languages. In techno-and mediascapes, products now often spread faster than the time that would be needed for translation from their original languages, leading to the ubiquitous presence (in various forms) of English on televisions, the Internet, and computer programs. English at present is associated more and more with images of individual, national, and global prosperity, both politically and economically as well as through the “soft” global flows of media, mass communication, and mass transit. This increased semiotic/symbolic presence of English throughout societies, along with its official ratification by state and inter-state organizations, all contribute to a rush to distribute English language proficiency far and wide, both at macro, legislative levels by placing English into school curricula, as well as at micro, personal levels, where many people come to “want” and even need, English in their daily lives. In order to meet the demands—perceived or real—of the increasing global importance of English for all, then, nation-states around the globe are attempting to maintain rigid national linguistic identities while simultaneously rushing to get English to the masses through school curricula that are not always successful—though what such success would look like is also quite nebulous.

Currently, “[A]bout a quarter of the world’s population is already fluent or competent in English, and this figure is steadily growing—in the early 2000s that means around 1.5 billion people” (Crystal 2003: 6). Despite the large numbers of English speakers Crystal estimates, Mufwene (2010) and Gil (2010) have pointed out that the number of fluent speakers of “the English language” is very small outside of the (p.436) world’s four primary anglophone countries. Furthermore Pennycook (1994) asserts that despite large-seeming estimates of how many people speak English today, these numbers still only indicate that one in four people in the world have some level of fluency in English. While numerical indicators of speakers of English and their fluency are rare, recent work has shown that in the European Union, only 7 percent of nonnative speakers of English are fluent in the language (Gazzola and Grin 2013). Numbers of English speakers in Southeast Asia and in Indonesia are not available despite widespread talk of English’s spread to, threat to, and importance in the region. An individual on an online Yahoo! Answers forum discussion from 2012, citing his information source as “I’m Indonesian,” states that he thinks there must be about 5 percent of Indonesians who can speak English fluently (“What percentage of Indonesians” 2012), and Ethnologue’s English language page does not even include Indonesia in a list of countries where English is spoken (“English” 2014). We can assume therefore that fluent English use in Indonesia is negligible in quantity. Such small numbers of English speakers might lead one to wonder if the global rush to get English is a whole lot of hype—if the world is just stuck in a vicious cycle, with more and more countries sprinting toward English in attempts to get at least some level of English education to everyone, and if this sprint functions to increase perceptions that English is a ubiquitous need.

14.1.2 The State as Creator and Restrictor of Rights and Access

Recent sociolinguistic research has imagined language as sets of resources or goods, commodifiable just like any other material that can be accessed or bought in limited quantity and when one has sufficient financial means and personal desire to buy them (Blommaert 2010; DaSilva and Heller 2009; Heller 2010; Heryanto 2006). Language legislation by states creates rights to languages (see Ruiz 1984; also see the 1996 UNESCO Declaration on Linguistic Rights (UNESCO 1996) and the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (United Nations 2007), which includes rights to languages), creates issues of inequity and uneven access to languages, and creates “… new privilege to consume … scarce” language resources (Heryanto 2006: 54). The creation of linguistic goods and the commodification of these goods through language legislation has occurred through the government’s delineation of where and when languages should be used domestically, and the consequent institutionalization and reinforcement of uneven distribution of ways of communicating through official (or not) standard (p.437) languages. In Indonesia, English, though it seems ubiquitous, is indeed a scarce resource, one that the government keeps scarce by categorizing it as a foreign language (FL; see UU [National Law] 24/2009, Kementerian Pendidikan Nasional 2011; Lowenberg 1991). However, efforts to categorize English as foreign language and thus limit its use in Indonesia are regularly contradicted because the language is simultaneously distributed as widely as possible through the requirement of notoriously ineffective English classes as a part of the national education curriculum (Sakhiyya 2011). Under these circumstances, English, seen to be necessary for upward and outward mobility by many Indonesians, is a commodified and restricted tool: paths to fluency in the language are not available through the affordable yet ineffective version of it taught through public schools; these hopes are instead realizable only for purchase outside of these public institutions, and at substantial cost. One way to buy English is to pay for private English learning at tutoring centers that have popped up “like mushrooms,” as one friend described to me—though many of them are only slightly less ineffective than the English teaching executed in public schools (see Lamb and Coleman 2008). Another way to access English has been to pay for access to International Standard Schools; these are public, English medium schools with a university-priced tuition and they will be discussed further below.

In this climate, individuals’ linguistic repertoires—that is, their unique, systematic ways of performing language—represent performances of status, stance, and amounts of access—not just to languages, but on a wider scale to government regulated educational resources and to the means to pay for access to the costly places where limited educational and linguistic resources are found. Such an ability to pay up front, of course, influences current and future opportunities for wealth and mobility, and the cycle of class reproduction continues (Blommaert and Backus 2011; Bourdieu and Passeron 1977; Heller 2010; Heryanto 2006; Jaffe 2009; Makoni and Pennycook 2006).

14.2 Language Policy and Planning in Indonesia

Many of the “new states”—the postcolonial states—of the world imposed Western national models onto sociopolitical histories that were much different from the national contexts of the West (Anderson 2006; Geertz 1977). Heryanto (1995, 2006) describes the “invention” of languages in Indonesia, when the Sumpah Pemuda [Youth Movement], (p.438) largely led by Dutch-educated Indonesian young men, officially declared that they would bring a newly independent nation-state together using one national language, a lingua franca form of Malay that they came to call bahasa Indonesia (see also Kaplan and Baldauf 2003; Sneddon 2003). With the adoption, modeled after colonial nations, of a unique and singular Indonesian language, early Indonesian political leaders immediately transformed the decolonizing nation into a modern, singular nation-state with its own emblematic national language.

Indonesia officially declared its statehood and independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1945, and in the national constitution the Indonesian language was officially declared Indonesia’s sole official national language. With nationalization came also a Western-style and compulsory Indonesian public school system, in which Indonesian became the required education medium. Dutch political influence rapidly diminished, and their language with it, as English was already well on the rise as a primary language of global importance. English was in fact immediately implemented as an obligatory foreign language subject in public schools (Lowenberg 1991). At this time globally, English, an increasingly former colonial language in many localities all over the world, was rapidly rising to dominance as a global lingua franca, supported by the birth of the United Nations with English as its primary lingua franca, and the US rise to power as the Western world’s moral and financial leader after having led the allied powers to World War II victory (Duchêne 2008; Graddol 1998). Dutch in Indonesia remained in higher education institutions for a brief period (Sneddon 2003), but it was soon forgotten as a language of Indonesia’s colonial past as Indonesia and the world came to see English as a primary key to entry into a globalizing community of nation-states. Since nationalization, English education efforts have steadily expanded. At the time of this study in 2009 to 2010, English language courses were a part of nationally standardized curricula, and private English language instruction centers continued to mushroom throughout the nation.

14.2.1 Indonesian Language Ecologies Today

The Indonesian national context is nuanced with complex messages about language use, including: widespread promotion of Indonesian as the official national language and the language of education; conflicting messages about use of its 300 to 700 local languages and about what counts as “a language” (see “Indonesia” 2014; Sneddon 2003; Zentz 2012); (p.439) increasing promotion of Mandarin foreign language education; the presence of Arabic as a religious language; and the continued categorization of English as a foreign language, with its overwhelming promotion as a required subject of study in educational settings. It is the double bind posed by the latter topic that receives the main focus of this chapter.

Categorized on the periphery of Kachru’s (1985, 2005) concentric circles of English language use, Indonesia is experiencing what I consider to be the above-stated “double bind” wherein English is at once resisted and greatly sought after, but where in either case, the economic, human, and material resources are not available to release the country from its simultaneous needs to internationalize standards, deliver quality educations, and maintain a national identity. The government stakes its claim in the regulation of language use by holding Indonesian in the position of the primary national, everyday language of schooling, government procedure, and mass media, while keeping English a foreign language subject required in schools starting from grade one. It is not a language of daily use nor of content instruction, save for in newer Sekolah Bertaraf Internasional (International Standard Schools, henceforth SBI, discussed at length below) as well as international schools attended by mostly foreign expatriate populations. In public schools at the time of this study, English was a required foreign language subject in nearly all grades, private English school numbers were large and increasing (see also Lamb and Coleman 2008), and SBI, in which English is a medium of instruction for certain school subjects, were rapidly on the rise. By 2009 there were 187 SBI throughout the nation (Soedibyo, cited in Sakhiyya 2011), and the government intended to reach a goal of one SBI per school level (primary, middle, high school, and vocational school) per district, for a total of approximately 1800 SBI, by 2014 (Sakhiyya 2011).

English’s presence in Indonesia is much more complex than educational language legislation would have it, though: direct foreign media and foreign sourced entertainment have resulted in the regular display of English on television, in movies, on the Internet; and it is regularly seen on store and advertisement signs where, generally speaking, the flashier a sign (the more money behind it), the more English one might see on it (see figures 14.1 to 14.6). In the Indonesian public sphere, James Sneddon describes, “Speaking English or spicing one’s speech with English words, phrases and even whole sentences, is so frequent among educated people that the need to keep up puts enormous (p.440) pressure on many to acquire such skills” (2003: 176). Such performances are enacted among the upper middle classes, and it is also modeled in many venues, including in the widely circulated talk of pop culture stars; in newspaper articles, often co-occurring with Indonesian transliterations (these transliterations, Sneddon points out, are often just as foreign to the general reader as the English forms themselves); and in speeches by government officials, who “throw English expressions into their speeches, sometimes without a clear idea of what they mean” (ibid.: 177). Such acts of “Englishing” (Pennycook 2006), or performing English, represent attempts to enact, and have recognized by constituents and fans, certain personae, characterized by higher education, mobility, wealth, prestige, and contact with a world beyond Indonesia’s borders.

14.2.2 Data Collection: Learning about English in Betultujuh

The context in which the data for this analysis were collected is primarily the town of Betultujuh1, Central Java, population hovering around 175,000 (BAPPEDA 2010). During the 2009 to 2010 school year, I conducted an ethnographic investigation from the position of teacher-researcher at Central Java Christian University (CJCU) in the English Department (ED). Eight focal group participants were the primary informants of my study. They volunteered to participate in this yearlong study after I offered the opportunity to all students in a Sociolinguistics course that I taught during the first semester of the school year. With these eight students, I conducted five one-on-one interviews over the course of the year, and four group interviews with them split into two groups of four. I also spent leisure time, more and less per participant, with each of the eight, as well as with many other ED students and faculty members throughout the year. Other data that I collected outside of our interviews consist of papers that I assigned for our Sociolinguistics course, university and government publications, national English and Indonesian medium newspaper articles, and copious fieldnotes on informal conversations and interviews with other students, members of the town, government officials, and educators. By gathering such a wide swathe of data, it was my goal to collect information specific to these students’ lives and language learning trajectories, as well as bigger picture understandings of language in Indonesian society through my participants’ eyes (the eyes of a range of middle class and highly educated individuals) as well as the eyes of everyone I had the opportunity to interact with. These students were (p.441) certainly among Indonesia’s most fortunate: only 27 percent of Indonesia’s tertiary-school-aged population were enrolled in tertiary education at the time (5,364,000 enrolled out of 19,718,000 total in 2011; UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2014a,b). With their help, however, I was able to get a glimpse of the English language ideologies of people with less education when they talked about those whom they had surpassed in their educational trajectories. Also, when I walked through the streets and rode public transportation, my whiteness regularly triggered talk about English. My informal interviews with members of government institutions, and my readings of language and education legislation gave me a broad picture of language use in Java and of the language use visions and goals that legislators held.

There are no numbers regarding the amount of English spoken specifically in Betultujuh, nor in Central Java. I therefore rely on ethnographic description in order to paint an image of where, how and when English was used in Betultujuh. The only places where English might be expected to be spoken were at the local International School where foreign families who lived locally sent their children to be taught through English, and, occasionally, at higher echelons of nearby factories of international companies. Dian, a focal group participant, explained that her sister worked at a managerial level in a local CocaCola factory, and that there she conversed with her Indian boss in English. Two local spas located at the edge of town, very expensive relative to the local economy, served either tourists passing through for a night, or local wealthy residents. Food menus there tended to be only in English save for the names of local dishes (their descriptions, however, remained in English), and based on my own observations, I deduced that a sufficient number of employees at the spas spoke enough English to take care of guests’ basic needs. Elsewhere in town, English would only be found behind the closed doors of English language classrooms, mixed with Javanese and Indonesian at ED extracurricular activities, and on many signs and graffiti texts along the city’s central streets (see figures 14.1 to 14.6). On walks throughout the town, I noticed that the large majority of store signs, campaign banners, doctors’ and dentists’ office signs, were in Indonesian. As advertisement signs increased in size and cost, though, English found its way onto them more and more. Graffiti around town consisted of a mix of Indonesian and English (and I did come across one instance of the German phrase “Ich liebe dich” [I love you]). I did not notice Javanese, the local and predominant language, written in public places in town (p.442)

English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization

Figure 14.1 Typical mie ayam [noodles and chicken] stand in town. Prices here are very affordable, 4,000–6,000Rp.

English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization

Figure 14.2 Slightly nicer restaurant where prices are a bit higher but food is still typically Javanese.


English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization

Figure 14.3 Cigarette advertisement in town. Cigarette brands have the most money and the biggest advertisements in town.

but once, in old Javanese script2 (it is now commonly written in the Roman alphabet), shown below in figure 14.5.

Among the many university students, professors, legislators, and townspeople who shared information with me during my fieldwork period, the eight focal group participants in this study—all fourth-year undergraduate English majors—were at once knowers and possessors of the very limited commodity, “the English language,” and local citizens who lived within the social and economic systems and the institutions of Central Java that gave local forms of English specific (p.444)

English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization

Figure 14.4 English increases with Western style foods sold.

English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization

Figure 14.5 One instance of Javanese script that I have record of, with the Roman script street name below.


English on the Rise: Access and Resources in Internationalization

Figure 14.6 Presence of English greatly increased on graffiti and wall murals.

meaning and significance. They shared expert understanding in the linguistic and semiotic sign systems in place locally. From such positions they were able to deploy their great resources of both classroom knowledge and community experience in our research interviews in order to assess with me both the semiotic/symbolic and linguistic/grammatical-lexical significances and meanings of English locally. Their interpretations provided me with insight into the locally generated meanings of English forms, some of which had made their way around the world from anglo “centers” of English, and some of which were created locally. In our investigations together, we discussed who else in town might be able to understand the types of meaning available in each English display, and from this, we were able to gauge who it was locally who enjoyed access to which forms and meanings of English, and what their educational and socioeconomic standings locally might be.

These participants, among others with whom I spoke over the course of the year, admitted that English is not something for local Indonesian people to use when they are out and about in public places. As focal (p.446) group participant Angelo stated in our second research interview, it is completely inappropriate for Indonesian people to speak English together in public. He relied on his ED Sociolinguistics course terminology to describe his disapproval of two girls he had seen speaking English to each other in the town’s only shopping mall: “Pokoknya kecerdasan dia mungkin dalam mempelajari bahasa tinggi tapi sociolinguistic competencenya yang kurang” [The bottom line is maybe she has high intelligence for learning language, but it’s her sociolinguistic competence that’s lacking.] (Angelo Interview 2, November 27, 2009). In a later interview, Angelo took advantage of his awareness of my insatiable appetite for culinary adventures in order to provide the following analogy to describe local citizens’ motivations for speaking English in public (translation follows original)3:

…menurut aku, orang-orang yang ini. mereka baru awal-awal bisa bahasa inggris./okay./baru awal-awal bisa. jadi, merasa baru bisa: terus wah. mau dipamer-pamerkan. ya seperti halnya gini lah. uh: kau baru bis-baru menguasai satu resep masakan./satu apa?/satu-menguasai resep masakan. chinese food misalnya. no. not chinese food. indian food. yang bumbunya macemmacem itu kan?/mhm./and you master it. [dalam arti] kan setiap hari masak itu terus and: ingin orang-orang melihat semuanya. sehingga yang biasanya cuma masak untuk untuk eh: maybe, ya ma-usually you only cook for MD and MI4./u-huh/sekarang jadi masak untuk untuk, [prof]. and you cook and you bring it to common room, for for everyone to, um: to take uh uh give a taste. and: like later when you have group interview you cook and you share it with us./u-huh./mereka hanya seperti itu, karena, menguasai sesuatu yang di mata orang kebanyakan sulit. india. indian indian cuisine. itu kan bumbunya macam-macam. bumbunya ada yang, sampai sepul-uh the ingredients and the seasoning is very complicated. and once you master it well, pinginnya ya itu tadi./u-huh./everyone, everyone should see wah. I can. I’m mas-I’m mastering it.

… in my opinion, people that here. they are just starting to be able to speak english./okay./just starting to be able to. so, feeling like they newly can: then wow. they want to show it off. yeah the thing it’s like this see. uh: you have just-have just mastered a food recipe./a what?/a-you’ve just mastered a food recipe. chinese food for example. no. not chinese food. indian food. its spices are all sorts of things right?/mhm./and you master it. [meaning that] you know every single day you cook it and: you want all people to see it. to the point where those who you usually cook for uh: ma-usually you only cook for MD and MI./u-huh./now you come to cook for for, [prof]. and you cook and you bring it to common roo:m, for for everyone to, um: to take uh uh give a taste. and: like later when you have group interview you cook and you share it with us./u-huh./they’re just like that, because, you’re mastering something that in the eyes of most people is difficult. india. indian indian cuisine. that see the spices are all sorts. the spices there are, up to ten-uh the ingredients and (p.447) the seasoning is very complicated. and once you master it well, you want like what I said earlier./u-huh./everyone, everyone should see wow. I can. I’m mas-mastering it. (Angelo Interview 3, February 1, 2010)

Just like showing off a new style of cooking that one might have recently learned, English, according to Angelo, is a commodity rarely accessible, and perhaps not evenly sought after, by all Indonesian people. It is considered a language and a subject area difficult to master for most; not quite like learning the simple spice combinations of Chinese cooking, but rather, just like the incredibly complex and intricate combinations that Indian cuisine is known for. Perhaps, then, someone who has acquired the English language commodity would like to show it off just as a food aficionado would want to show off a new, complicated, and rarely accessible style of cooking s/he had just learned; however, this display of access to spices new, novel, hard to acquire, and expensive, would only be appropriate among friends, and perhaps more importantly, among friends who equally had access to more expensive international cuisines and who shared interest in cooking in the first place. Through this analogy made amusingly and personally relevant for my own understanding, Angelo was pointing out that in local society it was inappropriate to show off in public one’s (relative) mastery of English. One must, rather, be demure and save that new skill for the privileged places where it belongs in the Indonesian context: in the English classroom, within the walls of the English Department, with international friends, and with local friends who equally share access to and interest in the English language. Angelo’s opinion was not unique; it was in fact an opinion I often came across when talking with ED students and while scanning through online blogs and editorials that lament the nation’s increased use of English, or mixing of English with Indonesian (see also Lowenberg 1991; Stevens 1973). English remains, in Indonesia, an essentially foreign language that only the most privileged within Indonesian state territory have access to.

To show off one’s English locally is therefore not just a display of English per se. Instead, I approach individuals’ displays of English as displays of everything that the English language “hitchhikes” (Mendoza-Denton 2011) along with: access to higher education and wealth; or, in the case where one “spices” his/her speech with English words without having those material goods, aspirations to them, or at least to be seen as the persona that they are publicly embodied by (see also Errington 1995 for language-emblematic enactments of personae in (p.448) Indonesian national space). It is these ostentatious presentations of “linguistic wealth” that Angelo and others claim are inherent in local speech displays of English that turn himself and others off. From this introductory glimpse at the situation of English locally, I turn to data that explore the government’s role in making and reinforcing English’s role as “linguistic wealth”—wealth demonstrated through linguistic performance—in order to explore citizens’ access to it.

14.3 Model before Content: Globalization, Economic Interests and the English Language

In contemporary ethnographic understandings of language learning and schooling, language “goods” are accessed—or not—largely through state educational systems, which, as common knowledge would have it—and as Blommaert (2010; Blommaert et al. 2005) has pointed out by examining English usage in a peripheral space in South Africa—are far from equally resourced. Forms of English produced by individuals therefore symbolize their access to state institutions, which are themselves distributed throughout the nation unequally, endowing those educated in the “centers” of globally peripheral Indonesia with greater likelihoods of accessing the English of the “anglo center.” Specifically, those with sufficient wealth access the most privileged loci of English within the center. This “center English” tool, along with greater access to privileged education resources both public and private, guarantees those at the centers of the centers the best jobs, and the cycle of the wealthy’s access to wealth continues (Blommaert et al. 2005). This is also, of course, a notion exemplary of social reproduction theory (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977).

In the following analysis of the government’s direction of Indonesian education standards toward internationalized norms, I explore how educational access in general, and access to English specifically, work hand in hand to guarantee students educational and socioeconomic opportunities or to deny them these resources. Ideologies wherein English primarily indexes a limited access commodity and secondarily indexes wealth, prestige, and access to education are reflected and reinforced within state educational ideologies and the state-controlled, unequal provision of educational access. This next examination of the Indonesian state’s pushes for English and for internationalized standards in its education system will demonstrate how modernist language ideologies and the educational system’s (p.449) simultaneous commodification of, as well as resistance to, English have led to an upward spiral of marginalization and lack of access to quality educations for Indonesian citizens. I show how a government push for English language under the belief that this will decrease unemployment is ideologically questionable; how the rapid implementation of SBI has sometimes led to learning situations where language competency requirements prevent content from being conveyed; and in the section immediately below, how one state tertiary education institution’s lamination of Indonesian language onto curriculum content adopted directly from Western English medium models prevents students from accessing the curriculum content adopted, unless they have already enjoyed privileged access to English outside of their undergraduate programs.

14.3.1 Internationalizing and Indonesianizing Higher Education

Midyear in my time in Central Java, I became friends with a Performing Arts major, JM, who was preparing her final performance to complete her undergraduate requirements. As we became friends, I learned from JM that she had previously majored in the English Department at our university, and had then decided to come back to complete another undergraduate degree in music. Her position, in which she was able to complete two undergraduate degrees, was certainly one of privilege. Her English language knowledge also enabled her to work as an English teacher in various departments in the university, and was key to her success above other students in her major department:

Today at lunch with JM, she told me that FSP (Faculty of Performing Arts) students take two semesters of English but some of their classes use English texts. In one class she took, their primary text was all in English and she got 14.5s out of 15 on tests while the other students got 4s and 5s. She helped them every once in a while via text message, but she couldn’t always respond to their questions. …

JM is an English teaching assistant/teacher in FTI (the Information Technology Faculty). She said that in the FTI they take 8 semesters of English. I’d said to her that I’d helped some FTI students with their abstracts for their final theses because they had to be in English. She said, “Yeah and that’s them with 8 semesters; imagine the FSP students with only two. And plus the language of English in FTI is very difficult. …” She said that in FSP they just learn simple present and past tenses—the classes are so basic. That’s also the type of classes she teaches in FTI.

(Fieldnotes, May 27, 2010)

In the state’s rush to achieve internationally competitive education standards and practices while simultaneously aiming to educate all (p.450) students through the medium of Indonesian, students sometimes get caught in a no-man’s land of the state’s battle for an internationally recognized yet independent identity, as they access education based on Western/international models that has been imported without the infrastructure necessary to properly convey their curricular content. This ad hoc creation of an education system that aims to adopt international/Western standards while trying to use local/national resources has led to attempts to fill educational spaces with source-model English language materials that students can access materially and superficially, but that they clearly cannot access in the full sense of the word, as JM indicated to me. This is corroborated by another piece of evidence that demonstrates the Indonesian government’s attempt to achieve the international standards of “developed”—most explicitly below, OECD—countries. I argue that both of these examples demonstrate that a rush to achieve international standards without the infrastructure to do so may lead to an occasionally hollow educational process, above, where English is used when students do not necessarily understand it, and below, where English is enforced as a medium of education while teachers cannot necessarily speak it. Both of these cases threaten failure for students who have not had the privilege of learning much English outside of their major coursework, they promise continued privilege for those who already “have” English, and they promise the acquisition of little course content even in Indonesia’s most privileged educational contexts.

14.3.2 Internationalizing and Anglicizing Secondary Education

School standard internationalization is also currently taking place in Indonesia’s implementation of secondary education institutions labeled as SBI.

Under this system, curriculums have generally been adopted from OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries—such as the UK’s Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), or the US-based International Baccalaureate (IB).

(Jakarta Post, May 10, 2010)

An Indonesian Department of Education document explains the goals of SBI education:

  1. 1. SBI melaksanakan standar proses yang diperkaya dengan model proses pembelajaran di negara negara maju.

  2. (p.451) 2. Proses pembelajaran menerapkan pendekatan pembelajaran berbasis teknologi informasi dan komunikasi, aktif, kreatif, efektif, menyenangkan, dan kontekstual.

  3. 3. SBI dapat menggunakan bahasa pengantar bahasa Inggris dan/atau bahasa asing lainnya yang digunakan dalam forum internasional bagi mata pelajaran tertentu.

  4. 4. Pembelajaran mata pelajaran Bahasa Indonesia, Pendidikan Agama, Pendidikan Kewarganegaraan, Muatan Lokal, dan Pendidikan Sejarah menggunakan bahasa pengantar bahasa Indonesia.

  5. 5. Penggunaan bahasa pengantar bahasa Inggris atau bahasa asing lainnya dimulai dari kelas IV untuk SD.

  6. 1. SBI shall carry out processual standards that are enriched with learning process models from developed countries.

  7. 2. Learning processes shall implement information and communication technology-based studies that are active, creative, effective, fun, and contextualized.

  8. 3. SBI shall use English as the medium of instruction and/or other foreign languages that are used in international forums for particular subjects.

  9. 4. Studies of the Indonesian Language, Religious Education, Citizenship Education, Muatan Lokal/Local Content, and History Education shall be carried out through the medium of Indonesian.

  10. 5. The use of English or other foreign languages as the medium of education shall begin in the fourth grade of elementary school.

(Departmen Pendidikan Nasional 2012b)

In a set of bullets answering the question, “Why SBI?,” the Department of Education states:

  • Meningkatkan kualitas dan daya saing lulusan di tingkat regional dan internasional.

  • Sebagai antisipasi peningkatan migrasi tenaga kerja internasional.

  • Meningkatkan daya saing tenaga kerja Indonesia di pasar kerja internasional.

  • Mempertahankan peluang kerja tenaga kerja Indonesia di pasar kerja nasional yang dibentuk oleh Perusahaan Asing di Indonesia.

  • To improve the quality and competitiveness of graduates at regional and international levels.

  • (p.452) In anticipation of increased migration among the international workforce.

  • To improve the competitiveness of the Indonesian workforce in the international market.

  • To sustain employment opportunities for Indonesian workforces within the national labor market established by Foreign Companies in Indonesia.

  • (Departmen Pendidikan Nasional 2012a)

A further reason given for the creation of SBI states that “[b]anyak orang tua yang mampu secara ekonomi memilih menyekolahkan anaknya ke Luar Negeri” ([m]any parents who are financially well-off choose to school their children outside of the country) (Departmen Pendidikan Nasional 2012c). As the elite citizens of Indonesia send their children to find better educations (and better English, arguably) outside of the country, the government claims that it finds it necessary to enter Indonesian education standards into the global education market dictated by the “keunggulan tertentu dalam bidang pendidikan” (particular excellence in the field of education) that OECD and/or US/UK educational standards exemplify (Departmen Pendidikan Nasional 2012a). In order to keep wealthy Indonesians at home, the Indonesian government is creating schools that will shape its own citizens within national boundaries and under a nationalized identity, while also giving them the tools that would make them globally competitive—and perhaps send them right back out of the country to represent Indonesia in the world marketplace. The Indonesian government is competing to sell education to wealthy Indonesians as a globally competitive product, and to provide education that puts students on equal footing with students in more developed nations.

SBI aim to put Indonesian students on equal footing with “developed” nations by conforming to internationalized standards and increasing English medium learning. However, as one professor in the English Department—who was also a mother trying to get her child into Betultujuh’s local SBI-aspiring school—told me, SBIs require that incoming students pass a very rigorous test to get in, and also they cost just as much as college to attend, with very few academic and need-based scholarships available:

BT and SF (two high school students I held conversation classes with) also told me about how, for public schooling, both SMP [middle school] and SMA [high school], you have to take a test to get into the school. For SMA, test difficulty depends on school, and renowned schools have hard tests. Plus, from my conversation with [prof cited above], tuition depends on the school as well, so (p.453) that SN [National School] or SBI tuitions are incredibly expensive. She told me that the local SBI-aspiring high school costs Rp10.000.000/year (the equivalent of $1,000 USD) and so does the FBS at CJCU. I later asked BT and SF about SMP: What if a student can’t pay? They said there are dispensations from the government and also you can get academic scholarships. BT got one in SMP that paid for 3 months of his school tuition.

(Fieldnotes, January 26, 2010)

Further information concerning the problematic implementation of SBI came forth during my first stay in Central Java during the summer of 2008, when I was told that there had been instances in these schools where administrators placed teachers with strong English proficiency in subjects that they were not qualified to teach; and vice versa, that they assigned English curricula to teachers who were specialists in the field of study but could not speak the prescribed language of instruction. This was also described in a 2009 article in the Jakarta Post:

Teachers in Jakarta may not be ready to take up the challenge of teaching subjects in English, as stipulated by a current government policy that requires every province to have at least one international-standard school.

“Some teachers still struggle to teach the English language in English, let alone teach other subjects using the language,” Itje Chodidjah, the British Council’s educational advisor said on the sidelines of a symposium on bilingual education, which was attended by representatives of 10 countries.

In 2006, the government introduced the English Bilingual Education (EBE) policy and designated 112 schools to start pilot programs in English.

“The need to master English is becoming more pressing,” Suryanto, the director general of primary and secondary education said at the event, adding that fluency in English would open many doors.

However, the English language capability of teachers, even in the capital city, may not be strong enough to implement the policy.

(Jakarta Post, June 10, 2009)

In 2010 I brought up this accusation in my conversation with a representative in the regional Department of Education office:

I asked him about what I’d heard from people and had read about English in SBIs: that in some cases either an English teacher is invited to teach a subject area, for example, science/math, that s/he does not know, because s/he can speak English; or a science/math teacher is asked to teach in English without knowing enough English, to the point where the subject material is not conveyed to the students. He said yes that has happened, and what they think is best is that the teacher be a specialist in the field first, and then they can keep working on English. But if the teacher doesn’t have it (English) yet, s/he can get things across in Indonesian in terms of the important content to be learned. … So, teachers need to be majors in the subject first, and then English, if used every day and written in every day for a while, will come along.

(Fieldnotes, April 4, 2010)

(p.454) Similar to the Faculty of Performing Arts’ provision of English texts to students within a curriculum that was implemented before it had the appropriate resources to do so, limited elite-access SBI also evidence the implementation of internationally standardized frameworks that sometimes have nothing inside because the models installed do not have the resources necessary to fill curricular requirements.

These pieces of data have more recently been corroborated by other research on data collection: Zacharias (2013) cites national newspapers that report the same information and describes the individual processes of 12 SBI teachers in dealing with proficiency difficulties and their own discomfort with SBI language policy; Sakhiyya (2011) and Dharma (2012a, b) describe some problems that SBI cause, including these same concerns about English, and both address the problem of policy-initiated reinforcement of the reproduction of privilege. They argue that public schools, which SBI are, should not charge tuition.

In the implementation of SBIs, the rush to get English-medium education in place has left many teachers unable to communicate lessons and students unable to understand them. In tertiary education, the rush to maintain the use of the nationally emblematic Indonesian language within an internationalized curriculum has led to the adoption of original English-language curricular materials without the resources necessary to translate them all into Indonesian. Both of these cases have potentially left the students who enjoy the state’s most privileged educational opportunities with occasionally superficial, hollowed-out educational experiences. The titles are there, but the content is not. Despite the state’s attempts to compete in a global education market by distributing, in SBI, English as MOI, or in tertiary education, curricular materials hailing from English medium source books, students’ privileged access to these goods due to local material and human resources risks exacerbating the cycles of reproduction of wealth and poverty domestically—that is, those accessing these types of education still need access to extra, costly resources outside of school in order to truly access all of the information that they come across in these schools. These policies and the failures in their implementation seem to perpetuate inequality among Indonesian students, and they are therefore unable to lift Indonesia up and out of its position on the periphery of the global marketplace and the international community of nation-states (see also Blommaert et al. 2005; Blommaert 2010).

(p.455) The two examples discussed above on the double bind in which Indonesia finds itself demonstrate that internationalization of state education standards cannot be effectively instantiated without English. But when English is used, a lack of resources for fluent English acquisition risks inhibiting students’ learning of curricular content. The “foreign language,” English, is seen to be of essential importance domestically, hitchhiking along with internationalized standards. In tertiary education, on the one hand, the inevitability of English is resisted to no avail through the implementation of Indonesian medium schooling; SBI secondary schools, on the other hand, rush to implement English-medium schooling, but also to no avail. When added to the list of reasons provided by other scholars of English usage in Indonesia, these examples give reason for suggesting that English be assigned a separate category of “additional language” (Lowenberg 1991, Bernsten 2000). This is not a trivial difference, and it is, I believe, a more accurate representation of English’s ubiquitous presence in Indonesia. As it stands, it seems that the Indonesian government’s efforts to maintain English’s status as a FL entirely contradict their efforts to incorporate it into curricula in different amounts at earlier levels while denying its inevitable presence in tertiary curricular materials. Such contradictory conceptualizations and behaviors are a part of a government machinery that thwarts its own attempts at improving citizens’ educations and potentials for mobility. The government’s declared efforts to strengthen Indonesia’s position within the global marketplace are ineffective in part because the mis-labeling of English as a foreign language that is used strictly in international domains (Lowenberg 1991) belies English’s ubiquitous presence and erases the fact that public education does not have the resources—the material, financial, and linguistic power—of the OECD states that they attempt to model themselves after. Indonesian labor emigration statistics further support my assertion that English is inseparably associated with and largely limited to higher education and elite mobility, and I now turn to these data.

14.3.3 Upward Mobility, Outward Mobility, and English’s Mixed Promises

Returning to my conversation with the Department of Education representative cited in section 14.3.2, I also noted in our conversation his explanation to me that it was important to teach Indonesian citizens English in order to decrease high national unemployment numbers:

(p.456) I asked him what’s the importance of English and he talked about how the population is so high here, in order to decrease unemployment we need more people to be able to work outside the country. He said the problem is not that people are incapable or unwilling to work, but rather that they don’t have the, for example, English to get them work.

(Fieldnotes, April 11, 2010)

Within the elite educational institutions described in the previous section, such a push for English clearly makes sense. SBI and higher education institutions participate in global cityscapes wherein English is indeed often a lingua franca. But can the spread of English alone do much to decrease Indonesia’s 7.1 percent unemployment rate in 2010, a number that masks the extremely high rate of 21 percent among the 15-to 29-year-old age group (World Bank, cited in “Indonesia Investments” 2014)? To assess what potential English might therefore have in decreasing national unemployment by increasing citizens’ nationexternal mobility, I investigated Indonesia’s economic migration statistics to see what really were the primary forms of labor emigration. The numbers of emigrants who find work in countries where English is a lingua franca, or in employment fields in which English is a working language, are evidently so small that they are negligible—not even mentioned in labor emigration estimates. The estimates showed instead:

Migrasi tenaga kerja di Asia sebagian besar bersifat temporer, dengan kebanyakan pekerja mempunyai kontrak selama satu atau dua tahun. Selain itu, migrasi tenaga kerja di Asia didominasi oleh pekerja berketerampilan rendah, umumnya dipekerjakan di proyek bangunan, rumah tangga, pertanian, industri pengolahan dan sektor jasa. Bagi beberapa pekerja, alasan untuk bekerja ke luar negeri adalah agar mereka bisa mendapatkan gaji yang lebih besar untuk membantu keluarga mereka dan diri mereka sendiri. Pada saat mereka bekerja di luar negeri, banyak dari mereka mengirimkan uangnya ke rumah untuk membantu membiayai kebutuhan sehari-hari keluarga, biaya pendidikan anak atau membayar utang mereka.

A large portion of workforce migration in Asia is for temporary work, most workers having one-or two-year contracts. Aside from these, workforce migration in Asia is dominated by low-skilled laborers, generally employed in construction, housekeeping, farming, processing industries, and the services sector. For many of these laborers, the reason that they find work outside of the country is so that they can earn better wages in order to help their families and themselves. During the time in which they work outside the country, many of them send their monies home to help pay for their families’ daily needs, their children’s education tuitions, or to pay off their own debts.

(IOM 2012)

(p.457) The only countries listed in statistical accounts provided by both the International Labour Organisation (2012) and the International Organization for Migration (2012) show that the primary countries of labor emigration from Indonesia are Malaysia, Singapore,5 Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Korea, and the United Arab Emirates, with Malaysia and Saudi Arabia receiving overwhelmingly larger portions of these workers.

Among the members of broader Indonesian society, who for the most part do not have access to SBI, nor to higher education, nor to fluency in a standard English, the most common international employment opportunities that people discussed with me during my fieldwork, which is supported by the information data above, were both documented and undocumented positions taken as Pekerja Rumah Tangga (PRT)—housekeepers—in neighboring countries and in the Middle East’s Muslim majority countries. English in these countries is limited (e.g., in Malaysia and Singapore) and rare to nonexistent (in the Middle East), and Malay, mutually intelligible with Indonesian, is common in the former. Within institutionally ratified employment migration counts provided by the IOM (from which nonlegalized forms of migration—which are abundant—are excluded), the only places where English use is mentioned are in Malaysia’s requirements that PRT have a certain level of either Malaysian or English language proficiency, and in Singapore’s PRT support offerings in the form of (among a list of other items) English and Mandarin language education. Despite these organizations’ mention of English in both of these countries’ PRT standards, for prospective Indonesian PRT, Malay’s presence in both of these countries as a common lingua franca, and therefore the prospective employee’s not needing to learn a new language, was commonly described to me as the reason for which PRT migrate so readily to these two locations. The foreign labor opportunities that currently decrease unemployment among the general Indonesian population therefore seem to be positions in which English use is negligible, and they are largely sought out by people with little education.

Perhaps, then, the numbers of emigrant laborers that the government is trying to increase are in white collar jobs where English truly is a language of importance. By instituting SBI perhaps the government is trying to increase white-collar labor emigration (see “Why SBI?,” above in section 14.3.2), which would make Indonesian educational success more visible on an international scale and/or could ensure that as many white-collar positions as possible in Indonesia are held by (p.458) Indonesian citizens. However, even if these possibilities are increased, the numbers of these schools, and thus of the students who attend them, are so small and so limited to the already privileged that it seems that any hopes for decreasing unemployment across the Indonesian population by increasing English language proficiency is a rush toward a commodity that, when treated alone, holds empty promises. It seems to be the case that ideologies about and efforts toward increasing English in the nation do not increase the number of white-collar, mobile workers but that they simply change the educational and medium-of-instruction options that are available to the already privileged, which may or may not make these people themselves more able to compete in elite international markets.

14.3.4 The Cycle: English Increasing English’s Importance?

Two focal group participants in this project, Nisa and Angelo, had been forced by their elders to major in English, contrary to Nisa’s desire to major in psychology and Angelo’s to major in performing arts. Their elders had claimed that an English major was more practical, and that it would more likely guarantee them financial security in the future job market. In a group interview one day, when I asked Lidya, Dian, Ayu, and Dewi—all members of the focus group—why they had majored in English, Dian responded:

kita merasa seperti apa namanya, kita lebih, contohnya kaya kita masuk ke english department. kita merasa bahwa prospek kalau kita bisa apa, menguasai, bisa master bahasa inggris tu kita akan mendapatkan pekerjaan yang lebih mudah. jadi kita mikir kalau bahasa jawa kan cuma lingkup pulau jawa, tapi kalau bahasa inggris kan lebih mengglobal. apa, kita lebih, kaya gimana, ya, prospek bahasa inggris pokoke lebih baik.

we feel like what is it, we are more, for example like if we enter in the english department. we feel that the prospects if we can what, master, can master the english language we are going to get work more easily. so we think javanese covers only the area of java island, but english see it’s more globalized. what, we are more, like how is it, yeah, the prospects with english are better.

(Lidya, Dian, Ayu, Dewi, Group Interview 1, November 3, 2009)

For Dian as well, an English major presented hope for better and more mobile employment prospects.

After an ED-organized career presentation one day, ST, a fourth year English major I often spent time with outside of classes, expressed that she was rather perplexed to find out that there were very few prospective jobs for her in which English might be useful:

(p.459) ST then talked about a girl who came back (many of the presenters at this thing were former ED students) to talk to them about being a banker. The girl said that her English was 100% useless in her job. ST had thought that for her interest in economics maybe banking would be good, but when she heard this it quickly changed her mind. She had asked, I think, if there were certain positions in the bank that used English. She said someone told her that in the treasury she could. (Fieldnotes, March 26, 2010)

While there are no numbers regarding where English majors end up professionally and what jobs in Indonesia typically require English, it seemed to be the case based on my observations and conversations with students and faculty that most people coming out of the ED, which provided an English major primarily directed toward creating English teachers, were prepared to either become English teachers or to enter a job for which simply a general undergraduate education was important, regardless of one’s major. Otherwise stated, the English major was designed for solely the use of English—it did not necessarily provide any other field specific skills that something like psychology or fine arts did. It seems that the only job being an English major guarantees, then, is to be an English teacher, unless the English Department (as others do) were to host different content area specializations such as English journalism, which is intended to directly filter students into employment in the nation’s two national English language newspapers. Other employment options in which English was used required further education in a specific field of study, such as what it would take for ST to work in a bank’s treasury, or what it would have taken for research participant Satriya to become an ambassador to the United States of America, which he described to me as an aspiration of his early in our year together. This combines with the observations above in leading me to suggest that the ideology that English per se is a commodity that once achieved will give an individual greater access to a diversity of jobs and to mobility in life is regularly contradicted: educational access and privilege are what gain a person mobility; English happens to hitchhike along for the ride—and subject area specifically at that.

14.4 Discussion: Jumping the Gun on International Standards Implementation

There has been a one-to-one connection drawn in Indonesian ideologies wherein English has come to signify prosperity or the potential for (p.460) it. In our semester final Sociolinguistics paper, focal group participant Ayu described a future linguistic repertoire that she imagined for herself, as well as what languages Indonesia needs in order to prosper:

For the conclusion, I will still use those three languages in the future. I will use Indonesian to speak with people from Indonesia, I will use Javanese to speak with people from Java, and I will use English to help me earn my living because it is the international language, and this country will develop well if its residents are smart. Using English will enable people to master many subjects in the world, such as tourism, technology, science, and many other fields. So, people will get a good job easily when they are able to communicate. To communicate itself doesn’t mean only speak with the local people, but it is more on the communication in the world because from that, people will learn from foreigners directly. It means, they are not only learning by theory, since they directly practice it with those they learn from.

(Ayu, Sociolinguistics Final Assignment)

Through the examples offered in this chapter, I have shown that ideologies that English alone will earn the Indonesian state and its citizens prosperous positions in national and global society act to conflate the English language with the other important material factors alongside which this symbol of wealth “hitchhikes” (Mendoza-Denton 2011). Students who majored in English at CJCU did seem to at least have guaranteed jobs if they decided to become English teachers, but it often seemed to me that the country’s insatiable appetite for English teachers represented systemic beliefs—in government institutions; as evidenced by the mushrooming of private English language teaching centers; and in individuals’ assertions—that increasing the distribution of English alone could help the nation of Indonesia advance its interests in becoming one of the world’s prosperous and competitive nations. Evidence here has shown instead that English alone serves merely as an indicator of one’s access to education and to extracurricular educational resources: higher education equals access to higher levels of English proficiency; greater access to other costly outside resources equals even greater English proficiency; and all of these, when combined, equal greater mobility in life and work ventures.

In SBI and tertiary education, the Indonesian government is rushing to achieve international visibility and viability through international and Western hegemonic standards by implementing curricula that mimic internationalized standards, yet they do not have the language resources necessary to execute these models and make them effective for Indonesian students. In the case of CJCU’s Faculty of Performing Arts, a curriculum based on Western models and the study of Western (p.461) music styles and theories asks students in an Indonesian medium university to study English source materials that have not all been translated into Indonesian. The faculty simultaneously does not and cannot provide the English training or the translation resources necessary for its students and instructors to benefit from the English texts that are required for curriculum completion. In International Standard Schools, a rush to get international standards into national schools in order to keep the nation’s wealthiest within the country and to simultaneously make them globally competitive, has led the government to implement English-medium curricula that it does not have the English-language-proficient teaching forces to fulfill. In all of these cases, students and teachers have found themselves at impasses where language and content were not compatible and prevented knowledge transmission from taking place.

These educational examples demonstrate that rushed implementation of international standard curricula without the language and/or translation resources necessary to execute these standards in the languages of the government’s choosing risks compromising the educations and the mobility of students in even these most elite and privileged Indonesian schools by providing educations that superficially meet international standards but often in practice cannot communicate their content. The state is in a double bind: in globalization, English cannot be avoided, but the state lacks the resources needed to meet internationalized standards with language and curriculum content appropriate to Indonesia’s student and teacher populations. Fluency in English is thus distributed at best to those who already have access to mobility, wealth, and international standard educations. The national categorization of English as a foreign language, combined with a rush to get citizens English alone by increasing its distribution throughout educational curricula, promises nothing more than to reinforce differential levels of English fluency as indicators of individuals’ access to or marginalization from wealth and state-distributed educations.

14.5 Conclusion: The Double Binds of Indonesian Education in Globalization

The evidence in this chapter has demonstrated that it is not access to English but primordially to wealth, mobility, and education in general that gives and perpetuates opportunity in Indonesian society. English is merely part and parcel of such socioeconomic standing. English on (p.462) its own (languages and their registers in general) therefore acts to do very little for people. It instead serves as an indicator—perhaps the globalization era’s most salient indicator—of the social locations in which people have found themselves during their lifetimes, and the access people have to unevenly distributed political and societal institutions (Blommaert and Backus 2011; Zentz 2015).

The states and nationalisms that structure global society today inherit, resist, and perpetuate legacies of the colonial and postcolonial establishment of state models founded in centuries-old and now relatively stabilized Western polities (Anderson 2006; Bauman and Briggs 2003; Duchêne 2008). The actions that educational policy makers have taken more recently in order to compete in the contemporary climate of economic pressures and ideological flows are representative of what we term the globalization era (Albert 2007; Appadurai 2001; Blommaert 2010; Castells 2004; Helmig and Kessler 2007). State institutions today are firmly entrenched in economic and informational flows beyond their control, and this is currently manifest in a simultaneous rejection of (for the sake of national identity) and engagement in intense scrambles for (for the sake of economic aspirations and ideologies of development) the English language. Amid such tensions, much funding is committed to English language education and conformity to “OECD country norms” when perhaps it might be better spent to fund the distribution of more general educational resources first. The global planning specifically of English language distribution must be locally grounded, and in my view, it could be more fittingly re-categorized into its own unique category of “additional language”: a language used less frequently than a second language, yet more frequently than a foreign language (Bernsten 2000; Lowenberg 1991). It should continue to be suitably parsed into specific purposes programs that truly correspond to students’ personal and professional communicative needs based on the markets they are working to enter and the languages used within them (while this latter categorization is happening in many contexts, its effectiveness of record has been very low; Lowenberg 1991, and as attested by JM in section 14.3.1). The individuals are few who might need to speak a center-oriented “global English” most likely to be found in the boardrooms of international companies or international higher education spaces (Blommaert et al. 2005; Kachru 1985; Lowenberg 1991). Legislators and educators must work to ensure that anybody who might need access to English will have access to it, and to do so, pragmatic approaches that consider the contexts of English’s use and (p.463) the resources devoted to its distribution must continue to be explored with a critical eye.

It would be quite impossible, as Duchêne (2008) points out, to simply erase the models of modernism and start afresh; however, within them, the global and state hegemonies, the tendency to enumerate distinct language entities, the monolingual homogenizing forces inherent in the nation-state structure, and the continuing driving forces of globalization, must be examined thoughtfully and critically, and it is up to researchers and legislators to work together to understand these legacies and current contexts. Critical awareness of what access to languages does to and for people, and indicates about people, could help governments, curriculum developers, and educators alike to be aware of such dynamics in order to continue to work to create access to the right kinds of English in order to get students what they need within their globalized, local contexts (Canagarajah 1999, 2008). Without the critical awareness that an examination of English use in situ provides, we risk perpetuating policy failures in the form of inappropriate distribution of institutionally regulated resources, such as “languages” and curricula, that inevitably reinforce local and global marginalization instead of the opening of avenues to prosperity that the world’s nation-states should aim to provide.

  • ASEAN:

    Association of South-East Asian Nations

  • CJCU:

    Central Java Christian University

  • ED:

    English Department

  • EFL:

    English as a Foreign Language

  • FL:

    Foreign Language

  • FSP:

    Fakultas Seni dan Pertunjukan: Faculty of Performing Arts

  • FTI:

    Fakultas Teknologi Informatik: Faculty of Information Technology

  • IOM:

    International Organization for Migration

  • MOI:

    Medium of Instruction

  • OECD:

    Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

  • PRT:

    Pekerja Rumah Tangga: housekeeper

  • SBI:

    Sekolah Bertaraf Internasional: International Standard School


    South-East Asian Ministers of Education Organization

  • SN:

    Sekolah Nasional: National School


    United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization


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Albert, Mathias. 2007. “Globalization theory”: Yesterday’s fad or more lively than ever? International Political Sociology 1: 165–82.

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(1.) The names of the town, university, and participants in this study have all been anonymized.

(2.) It should be noted that as my own understanding of the local linguistic landscape has evolved, so has my assertion that this one instance of Javanese script was the only instance of Javanese around, see O’Connor & Zentz (2016).

(3.) Transcription notations in this chapter use minimal detail. Periods indicate a pause at the end of a full utterance; commas indicate a pause mid-utterance; and colons indicate a lengthened sound.

(4.) In this research, primary focal group participants have received alias names. Non-focal group participants who informed my learning and who entered into my fieldnotes have received initials in order to preserve their anonymity.

(5.) In neighboring countries Malaysia and Singapore, English is a lesser spoken language among linguae francae such as Malay and dialects of Chinese (“English,” 2012), but I have not found numbers detailing in how many homes it is the primary language of communication.