TNI to teach nationalism, marching at schools during student orientation

Source – July 3, 2019
Hadi Tjahjanto and Muhadjir Effendy at press conference – July 21, 2019 (Puspen TNI)
Hadi Tjahjanto and Muhadjir Effendy at press conference – July 21, 2019 (Puspen TNI)

Haris Prabowo – It will not only be senior students and teachers who will be guiding new students during school orientation programs. Even the TNI (Indonesian military) – whose principle duty is defense and war – will now be involved.

This was revealed by Education and Culture Minister (Mendikbud) Muhadjir Effendy during a coordinating meeting with TNI commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto on Friday June 21.

The policy will apply to all schools in Indonesia, even those located in remote regions. Tjahjanto said that they will invite personnel from district military commands (Koramil) and those on duty in navy and air force bases to take part. “Including in boarder areas”, said Tjahjanto.

The military personnel will be employed over a period of two weeks.

Effendy hopes that military personnel can teach several things to students, from primary school to senior high school students and their equivalent, from character building to reinforcing basic materials related to nationalism, defending Indonesia’s territory and loving the motherland.

All of this will have the aim of making students “choosing self defense as an influence and understanding that can have an influence on the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia]”.


The policy has been criticised by several parties. Indonesian Education Monitoring Network (JPPI) National Coordinator Ubaid Matraji for example says that the policy will tend to be haphazard and has no basis.

“How can it be that it is only the TNI that understands nationalism? This must be questioned”, Matraji told Tirto's reporter on Tuesday July 2.

Matraji is concerned that if the principle aim is “instilling nationalism” – including parades and marching, as cited by Effendy a “an example of the most basic form of fostering nationalism” – then the nationalism that will be taught will be doctrinaire nationalism, “not nationalism built based on reflection, a deep understanding and critical reasoning”.

Inviting military personnel to train students is also an example how little faith the government has in the quality of its own teachers, added Matraji. Teachers are actually capable of doing this so there is no need to go to the trouble of seeking help from the barracks.

“Better to improve the quality of teachers than seek outside alternatives which also don’t have the skills and have no relevance”, he asserted.

Criticism has also come from military researcher and Indonesian Defense and Strategic Studies Institute (LESPERSSI) Director Beni Sukadis. According to Sukadis the TNI is a tool of the state which should not be involved in civilian affairs.

“I’m concerned. If seen from the TNI’s tupoksi [basic duties] and role they should not be allowed to be active in civilian affairs. This is also like a MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] with the Kemendikbud [Ministry of Education and Culture]”, Sukadis told Tirto’s reporter. “But regardless of whether or not there is a MoU, it’s also a problem because the TNI can’t make MoUs”.

Sukadis remarks were made bearing in mind that the TNI is not an autonomous institution and is under the authority of the president, so it cannot make MoUs with other institutions. This issue was once taken up by National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) Governor Agus Widjojo.

“The longer it has a role in civilian affairs, the TNI will progressively neglect is original role. What’s the point of them being in schools? Their primary duty is maintaining national defense, not training [students] to march. That’s too technical and not within its scope”, he said.

Speaking in the same vein as Matraji, Sukadis is also concerned that the Ministry of Education no longer has faith in teachers employed within its own institution.

Aside from these experts, the move has also been criticised by netizens. On the Ministry of Education’s thread which announced the cooperation with the TNI, several people conveyed their objections, and offered alternatives.

Twitter user @arinadinahanifa for example proposed that student orientation material should emphasise aspects that actually touch on daily life such as how to reduce and sort rubbish, or how not to waste food. “Is this not nationalist enough?”, they asked rhetorically.

Another Twitter said that parades and marching “won’t help me survive in life and won’t add anything to my knowledge”.

‘It’s not like that...’

Ministry of Education and Culture Inspectorate General Muchlis Rantoni Luddin has responded to the flood of criticisms against his institution. He believes that the ministry’s policy decision to involve the TNI is not an effort to bring the military back into civilian affairs.

“It’s not like that. The TNI, right, is only one of the institutions which is involved in PLS (Introduction to the School Environment) [orientation]. There’s also the Scouts, the BNN [National Narcotics Agency], the PMI [Indonesian Red Cross]. So it’s not permanent, just during the PLS”, said Luddin when contacted by Tirto’s reporter on Tuesday evening.

“Because we know that there are other disciplines for which we don’t have expertise which is only held by specialist institutions”, he said.

Luddin concluded by saying that concerns about the TNI’s involvement are overblown. “The public doesn’t need to worry about attempts to revive ABRI’s dwi-fungsi [the Armed Forced dual socio-political role under Suharto’s New Order dictatorship]. There isn’t any such thing”, he said. ( – Pendidikan)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Tentara Didik Siswa Baru: Memang yang Paham Nasionalisme Cuma TNI?”.]