Elementary school students in Makassar, South Sulawesi. (Antara Photo/Dewi Fajriani)

Start 'Em Young: Homeschooling and Risk of Radicalism


NOVEMBER 29, 2019

Jakarta. Researchers say certain homeschooling systems could be vulnerable to the spread of radicalism and even serve as a platform to spread radical religious views to young children. 

In a study about the relation between radicalism and homeschooling, researchers from the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN) Jakarta said on Thursday they were able to map out several typologies for existing homeschooling systems in several cities in Indonesia and found that within those typologies, Islamic-based Salafi-exclusive homeschooling was prone to the spread of radicalism.

Research coordinator Arief Subhan said his team studied 56 homeschooling institutions in Jakarta, Depok, South Tangerang, Bandung, Solo, Surabaya, Padang and Makassar, and were able to put them under two big umbrella categories: secular-based and religious-based. 

Religious-based homeschooling could be divided into Islamic-based and non Islamic-based. Islamic-based homeschooling is then further classified into Salafi-inclusive and Salafi-exclusive.

Arief said several defining characteristics make Salafi-exclusive "homeschoolers" different from their peers. First, they tend to focus only on their community and not socialize with people from other religions. Salafi-exclusive homeschooling also develops its own courses in addition to compulsory subjects, which are religious studies, civics and the Indonesian language.

"They run a higher risk of being exposed to or even spreading radicalism. They are exclusive and never socialize with people outside of their own community. They also never report their curriculum to the authorities," Arief said.

The study also found that Salafi-exclusive homeschooling is mostly carried out independently with the parents acting as the head teachers. Arief said this allows the parents' idealism to play a huge part in the children's education. 

"The main reasons [for this type of homeschooling] are religious. The parents think the most important thing to study is the Quran, and they believe sending their children to conventional schools is not going to be enough to study the holy book in any real depth," Arief said.

According to the researcher, homeschooling could easily become a two-edged sword. 

"In other countries, homeschooling is mostly done for religious reasons, but in Indonesia, I think the case is different," Arief said, while mentioning that bullying and special needs are often cited by parents as the reasons for homeschooling their children.

"However, its flexibility allows people with radical religious views to indoctrinate their own children," Arief said.

Another researcher involved in the study, Tati Rohayati, said weak enforcement of homeschooling regulations has turned it into a potentially fertile breeding ground for radical ideologies.

Homeschooling is regulated under a 2014 Education and Culture Ministry regulation, but Tati said the ministry still needs to come up with a clear technical manual on its implementation. It should also provide a more rigid supervision of homeschooling institutions.

"Some cities have no database on homeschooling at all. In those cities, officials often do not even understand the difference between homeschooling and a community learning center [PKBM]," Tati said.

PKBM is a non-formal education institution that caters to poor residents who cannot afford to continue their formal schooling. It issues school certificates to students after they take an equivalency test, known locally as "kejar paket" ("chasing diploma").