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Catholic teacher shortage alarms Indonesian educators

Ministry says country is short of 42,000 Catholic religion teachers

Catholic teacher shortage alarms Indonesian educators

Educators in Indonesia are becoming concerned about an acute shortage of Catholic religion teachers in schools. (Photo by Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP)

There is growing concern in Indonesia’s education system about an acute lack of Catholic religion teachers at both state and private elementary and junior high schools.

Catholic educators in particular fear young Catholics will lose out when it comes to their formation, while the ministry fears such a shortage may have an adverse effect on the country's secularism.

Indonesia currently has 11,000 Catholic religion teachers, however, there are more than 147,500 schools serving nearly 35.8 million students, according to the Education and Culture Ministry.

For Maria Eka Mei, a Catholic religion teacher at Marsudirini Catholic Elementary School in East Jakarta, a reluctance among Catholics to become religion teachers is behind the shortage.

"Some friends tell me that Catholic religion teachers have a huge responsibility but are low paid," she told ucanews.com.

Her school has more than 500 students, about 300 of whom are Protestant and Muslim, while the rest are Catholics.

"Yet, there are only two Catholic religion teachers, including me. We have to teach 24 hours a week," she said.

She also claimed strict requirements have also contributed to the situation.

"Only Catholics who learn to become catechetics can become Catholic religion teachers," she said, adding that not many people want to take these classes.  

Last week, Eusebius Binsasi, director of the Directorate General for Catholic Community Guidance at the Religious Affairs Ministry, raised the shortage issue during a graduation ceremony at Kupang Archdiocese’s Pastoral School.   

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According to him, 42,000 teachers are still needed since many elementary and junior high schools do not have Catholic religion teachers even though they have Catholic students.  

He told ucanews.com that the ministry is looking at ways to recruit more Catholic religion teachers in schools.    

Meanwhile, Franciscan Father Vincentius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, stressed the importance of providing Catholic religion teachers with adequate formation training in order to improve their quality.

"We held such a program in areas served by Kupang Archdiocese as well as Atambua and Weetebula dioceses last September and is planning to hold a similar program next year," he said.


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