Saturday, March 24, 2007

In Demand: Totto Chan's Tomoe Gakuen

Among the first things I worried about, during the process of moving back to Indonesia, was finding a school for our kids. A decent school in Bandung that they enjoy going to, that doesn't stress them out, that provides a pleasant learning environment. What I've heard so far, during my search, hasn't been satisfactory. Contradicting opinions always came up whenever we were considering upon one school after another.

Until the first days after our arrival in Bandung, I still had no clue where to start. Public schools are automatically out of count, because Dhanu and Lindri, being foreigners, are not entitled to enrol into one. International schools are also out of the question, because we have no means to pay the US$-rated fee (especially compared to Dhanu's former school in Amsterdam, where he went to for free). Besides, they would have English as their daily language, which would confuse our kids even more. So the choice narrowed down to private schools.

I was thinking of visiting some recommended private schools one by one, with the hope that they would still let our kids start school as soon as possible (the new semester has already started for a couple of weeks when we arrived).
But these schools.. well, my experiences of going to one for 11+ years (from Kindergarten to Junior High) are similar to what the students of such schools face nowadays. I don't mind the emphasize on discipline. What I do mind is when our kids are stressed out by too much homeworks, exams, intra- and extra-curricular activities. I tend to disagree when a child's achievement is valued by their (exam) grades and ranks in class. Moreover, there are still expenses for their uniforms, books and other necessities.
To tell you the truth, I was quite worried about kids nowadays who already measure 'friends' by their belongings. I heard of a 9-10 year old kid asking a new classmate, "What does your father do? How much does he make? What kind of car does he have?" Isn't that frightening?

I secretly longed for an elementary school similar to Totto Chan's Tomoe, where kids can be what they are: children who enjoy playing, exploring things and surroundings, and discovering their own interests - and are allowed to conduct such behaviours in school hours. And (with a faint hope) whose enrolling and monthly fees do not cost too much.

Lord Above be Praised, it only took within a week of our lives in Bandung until I got convincing recommendations from friends whose children go to this one school: Cendekia. Most of these friends are fellow alumnis (and lecturers) of the Faculty of Arts and Design ITB; the rest are their spouses and people I know from other sources. The way they promoted their kids' school is, "There's no homework!" or "They don't have to wear uniform!" or "We don't have to buy school books!"

We rightaway made a plan to visit the school, along with Dhanu and Lindri. I met some of these friends that day, who waited for us after they took their kids in. We were introduced to Pak Er, the headmaster, who then showed us around the school.
It is a small school, looking very homey and welcoming. They have daycare, playgroup and kindergarten classes as well, besides the elementary school classes. The ratio between teacher and students is 1:10. Dhanu's class-to-be, Grade 1, consists only of 8 students! This fact was what impressed me the most, knowing that Dhanu would need a lot of attention in his adjusting period.

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Dhanu entering the school yard

Pak Er continued to explain that the students go through the day not based on subjects (Math, Science, etc.) but by projects. And - as my friends said - if there's an exam, we (parents) are not notified and the kids would do their exam without being aware that they are being tested. I was told that graduates from Cendekia elementary school also did a standard test (from the government) and they could manage. The school focuses on developing children's social skills, or leadership skills (hence the name Cendekia Leadership School) - training them to be independent and outspoken, with manners. It is an Islamic school that emphasizes on the understanding of conducting properly in daily life based on their belief.

The school seemed friendly enough, so we agreed to have some days of trials for our kids. Surprise, surprise, our kids were allowed to start in the next day already! And they seemed eager to go, as well, after one week of 'doing nothing' at home (or being dragged around by me).
So, the next day, I took them there and left them for a full school hour (08:30-16:00). That day, on the move, I kept checking my mobile to see if the school tried to contact me due to our kid(s) having trouble. But nothing happenned; they were quite content.

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Dhanu shows his desk in his classroom

It's been almost two months now since Dhanu and Lindri became Cendekia students. So far, they never refuse to go to school and there's hardly any task that they have to do at home. They spend the rest of the day playing, until dinner time, and are happy to go to school again the next day. We had pleasant and informative conversations with their teachers and we know almost everyone in that school. Not to mention that we often get rides to school (thanks, Ira! :D) and from school (thanks to Ira, Mbak Dona and Bu Endang :D). Most importantly for us, Dhanu and Lindri are adjusting themselves happily in his new school. I think this is mainly due to the school's concept to recognize personality and characters of each child and to nurture his/her unique potentials accordingly. This school is definitely not a 'pupils factory' (borrowing Ivan Illich's term in Deschooling Society). In short, we are satisfied with how things are going so far. We might have found a 'Tomoe', and we need more of such!

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Dhanu and Lindri standing next to a staircase that goes to Dhanu's classroom


  1. Wow! Sounds good.... Memang kayaknya perlu lbh banyak sekolah spt ini di Indonesia. Pengelolanya berani juga ya melawan arus krn mungkin nggak banyak ya orangtua di Indonesia yg bisa diyakinkan bahwa school exams (and their results) are not everything. Am I correct?

  2. I'm glad it works out fine for Dhanu and Lindri. I could imagine your worry then and your relief now for finding such school :D

    PS: cek hape nih yeee sekarang :D :D :D

  3. huahuahua, i just wanted to say the same thing

    'cek hape yah ....' :p

    jadi kalo ak ke bandung bisa nelpon ke hpnya mba tita

  4. Yup, bener itu. Bahkan ada lho orang tua di sekolah ini yg usul, gimana kalo diadakan ulangan2 mid-semester, rutin, dll spt sekolah2 lain itu. Bagusnya yg lain gak setuju :P Jangan sampai esensi school is fun itu hilang :D

  5. ven & bul: hehehehh.. kalo nggak dipake, kan nggak menghargai kado :">

  6. hihihi..akhirnya malah ngomongin soal tita dan handphone-nya !

    asik ya sekolah ini, nggak kaya jaman kita dimana tiap sekolah berlomba-lomba menyiksa anak muridnya :p
    dari TK sampe SMP aku beneran tertekan saben harus ke sekolah. untung pas SMA sekolahnya asik, walaupun disiplinnya 2x lipet sekolahku yang dari TK-SMP itu.

  7. Ta, how lucky your children's are. I wish I had went to that kind of school back then. Mine was super traumatic. Some of the teachers like to slap & punish physically on us. Errrgh....

  8. Ikutan seneng sama pilihan sekolahnya yang bagus [udah liat2 di MP dhanulindri ;;) ]...Salam kangen buat Donna ya Plon!

  9. What's missing in schools nowadays is the romance of learning and education.....everything is about statistics and numbers and hence translates into the materialistic questions of the 10-11 year old kids... I remember when I was that age (a LONG time ago :-)) all what was on my mind was to have as much FUN as possible playing games and learning. Sadly the world has changed and hence I imagine schools will need to change to accomodate a more competitive future out there.......Your kids are lucky to go to this school - they seem to be very innovate in the curriculum.

  10. What's missing in schools nowadays is the romance of learning and education.....everything is about statistics and numbers and hence translates into the materialistic questions of the 10-11 year old kids... I remember when I was that age (a LONG time ago :-)) all what was on my mind was to have as much FUN as possible playing games and learning. Sadly the world has changed and hence I imagine schools will need to change to accomodate a more competitive future out there.......Your kids are lucky to go to this school - they seem to be very innovative in the curriculum.

  11. Waaa...senangnya di bandung udah ada tomoe gakuen juga..selama ini gua baca di tentang sebuah sekolah di kemang. A very much dedicated teacher (and school) !! Bener2 totto chan versi indonesya. Senang deh bacanya.

  12. chic: aahh.. masa2 itu :) aku jd kepikiran wkt kita les di bam, yg dilatih apa ya? kemampuan nginget2 rumus secara instan? ;))

    lex: I'd also never forget how they confiscated my comics and MAD magazines and how I got summonned to the BP (consultation) room for making caricatures of our teachers.. oh well..

    makplon: udah disampein, tadi, waktu kita ditebengin pulang! (dan dijajanin bapau :D)

    roel: dedicated students, too.. although they don't know it yet :P

    riz: you're right about us humans being mere numbers nowadays. in current society you are recognized by your social security numbers and bank accounts. therefore i'm glad to find a learning place where my kids can be regarded as growing individuals.

    sikoni: eehhh ada kamu! :D katanya sih (sebab ini tidak didasari riset data) mulai banyak sekolah macem gini bermunculan di indonesia. kecil2 tapi banyak. bagus deh, jadi semoga makin banyak anak berkesempatan dapet pendidikan a la tomoe :)

  13. wah, cucok bgt konsep sekolahnya Ta, lega banget bisa ktemu sekolah kayak begini utk Dhanu & Lindri. jam sekolahnya juga bersahabat banget.

    terharu deh liat foto yang bawah, Dhanu pegangin tangan Lindri, nice banget... :D

  14. Iya Lita lega bangettt.. Gue udah niat nyari sekolah yg beginian (wkt itu berharap banget di Bdg ada) sejak elu cerita2 juga ttg sekolah anak2mu :)

    Begitu pagi2 dateng ke sekolah, si Dhanu narok tas di kelasnya (di atas), terus dia turun lagi nyari Lindri, lalu mereka main bareng di playground sekolah. Atau Lindri yg ke atas - malah dia udah bbrp kali ikutan duduk di kelasnya Dhanu pas pelajaran.. haha.. Ternyata, biar keliatannya spt berantem mulu, mereka saling mencari kalo kepisah ;)

  15. Happy to hear that you've found an ideal school for your kids, more so after the huge transition in their lives - moving from one country to another.
    Also, I agree with you that the materialistic attitude of today's kids is quite prevalent, even in Malaysia (perhaps, sadly everywhere?).

  16. Yes, it's such a relief to know that our kids are comfortable where they are. One worry gone! (Another worry was gone when we got re-united our shipped stuff! :D)

  17. Good to hear the kids love their school!

    I think this school is a dream for kids but also for their parents. I wish we had a school like this here in Holland

  18. The school Dhanu went to wasn't so bad (De Community School, a public school). It is, in a way, very similar to where he goes now: he didn't have to bring any books, the class has changing themes, and there's a lot of playing going on. Moreover, elementary school in The Netherlands is free! That's what we can't afford here :)

  19. Menarik sekali sekolahnya..
    Sayang ada di Bandung saja ya

  20. Tita, congrats! Gw juga baru tau Tita dah di Bandung, sorry yah... Abis jarang bisa online lagi, dah ga ngantor lagi. Gw juga lagi nyari kalo2 ada sekolah model Tomoe deket2 rumah, adanya jauh2... cape di jalan. Welcome back home ya!

  21. Tita,
    syukurlah kalau putra dan putri kamu dapat beradaptasi dan menyukai sekolah baru mereka. Biar bagaimanapun suatu perubahan situasi dan lingkungan akan membuat anak2 stress berat.
    Salam sejahtera

    kim soan

  22. Iya Kak Kim, ini yg penting, makanya saya senang banget ketika anak2 juga menikmati sekolahnya ini. One worry gone! :D

  23. Thanks! Iya udah di Bandung sejak bbrp bulan lalu, dan masih dalam proses menetap

  24. yang model begini, mestinya di jakarta sudah banyak juga. entah kalau di daerah2 lain.

  25. Pyuh, baca diawal aku juga deg2an banget Mbaaaaaaaaa :-)

    *huhuhuhuhuhu, insyaAllah pingin bikin yg kek gini ah di Banjarmasin nanti, someday* :-D

  26. wah ayo, pasti bisa! makin banyak anak2 yg menikmati proses belajar, mudah2an makin waras bangsa kita :)

  27. I,m happy for you for finding the kind of school where the environment your kids will find ok for them

  28. Tita, senang banget yah bisa ketemu sekolah spt ini di Bandung. What a pleasant surprise! Happy for you.... :)

  29. this school under Yayasan Cendekia Muda? I wonder if this is the same school?

  30. This one is under Yayasan Karya Cendekia. I don't know if they are related.

  31. Hi mba tita....boleh kenalan gak? aku tertarik dengan blog mba ttg toto's chan tomoe gakuen. Boleh tau alamat "cendikia leadership school" yang di bandung dan contact personnya? thx ya......
    Salam kenal -Liza di jakarta-

  32. buset itu teh si snowy, kecil pisan haha! g liat ke toko tintin, emang mahal banget yah ta.. ckckck

  33. iyaah.. makanya begitu ada yg diobral, langsung ambil - meskipun snowy-nya kecil banget (tapi bordir lho) :P

  34. sayangnya ga juga...serupa tapi tdk sama..
    dulu pak Buchori sempat 'ikut' di sekolah al muslim tambun, bekasi
    juga sekolah sejenis di bandung (dulu banget)
    tp perkembangan terakhir..nih sekolah yg benar2 sesuai dgn konsep yg dimau pak Buchori...
    semoga seiring waktu, sekolah ini, ada di jakarta juga ya
    krn saya juga berencana menyekolahkan anak disekolah pak Buchori...
    (sekarang sih belum beruntung diberi anak)
    secara..kalau di bandung..waduh...masa anaknya kost sih..

  35. Sis, tinggal di kanayakan bukan? ibu guru Maya tanya2 terus ke aq kenal ma ibu tita ga? Mingkin maksudnya sis Tita yg ini yak? Salam kenal.. :)

  36. iya kami di kanayakan. salam kenal juga :)

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  38. hey tita, iseng nge google jadi nemu thread ini lagi... jadi di baca lagi! :D

    "full school hour (08:30-16:00)" .. apa ini termasuk ekskul atau memang core hours sekolahnya?

    Toby rencana nyari sekolah tuk kls 1 sd nanti, cendekia sounds like a fun school to go to. Dulu kan sempet visit untuk daycare, tapi ngga kesempetan jadi sekolah situ krn masalah pindah2 jkt bandung. Lindri tahun depan kelas 1 juga?

  39. full school hour itu udah termasuk ekskul (berenang, bela diri, dan pilihan2 lain).
    tapi sekarang jamnya udah beda, sejak mereka pindah ke awiligar. sekolahnya cuma sampe jam 15.30.

    lindri sekarang sudah kelas 1, jadi tahun depan kalau lancar naik kelas 2. senang kalo bisa satu sekolah sama toby! :)

  40. oh begitu.. kalo ngga ikut ekskul sampe jam berapa tiap hari?
    trus kalo masuk perlu testing atau bagaimana ya? dulu lindri dhanu saat masuk udah bisa bhs indo atau gimana?

    sori banyak nanya..hihi.. ya asik deh kalo bisa barengan :)

  41. kalo udah SD, harus full day itu..
    entah kalo pertama2 ya, mungkin bisa ditanya2 dulu sama kepala dan manajer sekolah. masuknya nggak pake testing, dateng aja dulu utk ngobrol2 dan nyoba2 dulu.

    dhanu waktu masuk bhs indonesianya belom beres, tp nggapapa. banyak anak2 baru pindahan jg yg bhs indonesianya belum lancar, nggak masalah, karena akan selalu ada perhatian ekstra sih. lagipula bahasanya toby kan inggris - sedangkan di cendekia ada aturan "english day" (semua berbahasa inggris) 3 hari/minggu.

    nggapapa, silakan nanya. nanti kalau sudah hari masuk sekolah lagi (tgl 28 sept), mungkin malah bisa langsung nanya2 juga ke pak ade (kepsek) atau bu endang (manajer sekolah) via email.
    btw, ini alamat blog mereka

  42. wah terima kasih tita atas infonya! memang banyak yg pindahan dari luar ya. asik deh kalo begitu jadi toby ngga kaya alien .. hihi.

    nanti akan ku coba kontak mereka , tapi ko ngga nemu ya di blognnya? bisa minta email addressnya (japri?) :).

  43. ini alamat emailnya: (dapet alamat email itu dari FBnya grup cendekia :D

    coba nanti abis lebaran/ setelah masuk sekolah, mau aku tanyain kalo2 ada alamat email yg langsung ke orangnya.

  44. hey thanks! wah asik deh , nanti bisa ikutan add friend dong :D.. i'll check it out :)