A national model for handwriting education consisting of huruf lepas, or loose letters, and huruf sambung, or cursive letters, is used in Indonesia, and all schools must teach students according to this approach.
Education in Indonesia falls under the purview of the Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, or Ministry of Education and Culture, except in the case of religious schools that are the responsibility of the Kementerian Agama, or the Ministry of Religious Affairs. It is divided into four stages: elementary (grades 1–6), junior secondary (grades 7–9) and senior secondary (grades 10–12), which are compulsory; and optional higher education. While some private schools exist, a vast majority of elementary level students attend public schools. The national language, Bahasa Indonesia, is written in Aksara Latin, or the Latin script.
The Kementerian published the latest version of the national curriculum in 2013, though two updates, the Darurat Kurikulum or Emergency Curriclum and the Merdeka Kurikulum or Independent Curriculum, were made available in 2021 and 2022 respectively. These updates were created in response to the learning losses that students faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, the Model Silabus: Sekolah Dasar / Madrasah Ibtidaiyah (Tematik Terpadu), or the Model Syllabus: Elementary School / Madrasah Ibtidaiyah (Integrated Thematic), was also published by the Kementerian.
While the national curriculum does not mention handwriting, the Model Silabus highlights that students must gain proficiency in handwriting in grades 1–3. According to the document, students are introduced to handwriting in grade 1, and in grade 2, they learn to use cursive writing, uppercase letters and basic punctuation properly.
Sample pages from teaching book Dasar-dasar menulis tegak bersambung , 7a. ed, Edu Book For Kids. Pribadi, B., 2015. Bhuana Ilmu Populer.
In 1983, a standard, national model for handwriting education was introduced by the Kementerian through an official decree. It was updated in 2009, but the original is still preferred. According to the model, students first learn huruf lepas, or loose letters, followed by huruf sambung, or cursive letters. Across the country, handwriting is taught using this model, and it is featured in workbooks produced by popular private publishers in Indonesia.
Adoption and use of Aksara Latin
In the context of Indonesia, it is important to understand that the adoption of the national language and Aksara Latin, the script used to write it are relatively new.
Bahasa Indonesia, which is a standardised variety of Malay, was proclaimed the national language of Indonesia in 1928 during the independence struggle, and was later ratified as the national and official language of the country through independent Indonesia’s 1945 constitution. On the other hand, the use of the Latin script for writing local languages dates back to the late 19th century and is a result of Dutch colonisation. Before Latin, Jawi and Pegon scripts were used to write Malay and Jawanese respectively. The usage of Bahasa Indonesia in the Latin script was further cemented during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in 1942–45. While the Japanese were keen to teach hiragana and katakana to the local population, the urgent needs of communication due to World War II forced them to fall back on Bahasa Indonesia.
It was only in 1901 that Dutch linguist CA van Ophuijsen published the first standardised orthography of Malay in the Latin script. The system in use today is called the Ejaan Bahasa Indonesia yang Disempurnakan, or the Enhanced Spelling of the Indonesian Language. A joint effort of the Indonesian and Malaysian governments, it came into effect as recently as 1972.
At the time of Indonesia’s independence in 1945, barely 5% of the population was literate in Aksara Latin, and only 3% were enrolled in formal schools. This was seen as an issue of grave concern, and several steps were taken by the government to remedy the situation. Between 1966–79, Indonesia adopted a new literacy method introduced by the UNESCO called “Traditional Literacy”. It also implemented the Presidential Assistance Program for Elementary School in 1974 and the Six-Year Compulsory Education Program in 1984, both targeted towards increasing elementary school enrolment. Not only did enrolment rates reach almost 100% in the 1980s, but the literacy rate in Indonesia stood at 96% in 2020.
Through decrees by the Director General of Basic Education at the Kementerian — No. 094/C/Kep/I.83 of 1983, and Penegasan Ukuran Tulisan Tangan Keputusan No. 0521/C2/U.88, or Affirmation of Handwriting Size Decree No. 0521/C2/U.88, of 1988. — a national model for handwriting education in Aksara Latin was also codified.