About Me

Welcome to my website!

I come from the UK originally and am of Welsh ancestry. I was educated at the Universities of Oxford (first degree in English Language & Literature), Leicester (PGCE teaching qualification in primary education) and Lancaster (postgraduate degree in Applied Linguistics). I taught for 14 years at the University of Leeds and still retain a close link with the institution.

I am interested in:
• language and development
• needs analysis and language planning
• language in education
• mother-tongue based multilingual education (MTB MLE)
• the inappropriacy of English in many contexts
• class size (learning and teaching in large classes).

Since the early 1970s I have spent much of my life in Indonesia, involved in teaching, project management, research and lecturing. My home is in Cinere, just south of Jakarta. I am particularly interested in:
• education policy and practice in Indonesia in general
• language policy in Indonesia
• English in Indonesia – its characteristics and the roles that it plays.

I have carried out research, consultancy and teacher development work in many other parts of the world apart from Indonesia:

• India
• Maldives
• Nepal
• Pakistan
• South Korea
• Sri Lanka
• Thailand
• Timor Leste
I have also spoken at conferences in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam.

Sub-Saharan Africa
• Côte d’Ivoire
• Gabon
• Kenya
• Nigeria
• Senegal
I have also spoken at a conference in South Africa.

Middle East and North Africa
• Iraq/Jordan
• Morocco
• Oman
• Saudi Arabia
• Yemen

Europe and North America
• Czech Republic
• United Kingdom
I have also spoken at conferences in Canada, Ireland and USA.

I have been writing about the issues that interest me since the late 1970s. I also have considerable experience in editing books (published by British Council, Cambridge University Press, Mouton De Gruyter, Multilingual Matters and others).

Conferences are a very important part of my professional life. I have been involved for many years in the organisation of two series of conferences:
• ITB-Leeds-British Council International Conferences on Language Education in Indonesia (held in Bandung, Indonesia, every two years since 1995)
• Language and Development Conferences (held in different parts of the developing world every two years since 1993).

Outside work, I collect traditional Indonesian textiles. I am interested in how they are produced, the meanings they have and the ways that they are used.


Research and consultancy

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Indonesia has been part of my life since 1972, when I first arrived as a volunteer English teacher. Between 1972 and 1984 I worked in four vocational and higher education projects in different parts of the country, where I taught English, trained teachers and designed learning and teaching materials. This was an excellent opportunity for me to learn about the extraordinary diversity of Indonesia and its education system

Experience in Indonesia, 1972-1984

• 1972-1975 Volunteer English teacher recruited by VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) in the UK. Posted to Departemen Kesehatan RI (Indonesian Ministry of Health). Taught English to doctors and nurses in Bengkulu, Lombok (NTB), Palembang (Sumatera Selatan), Lampung, Kendari (Sulawesi Tenggara), Aceh, and Pekanbaru and Bangkinang (Riau)

• 1975-1978 Consultant in English at Akademi Minyak dan Gas Bumi (Petroleum & Natural Gas Academy) in Cepu, Blora, Jawa Tengah. This was a government institution, under the Indonesian Ministry of Mines. Taught English to lecturers of the Academy, designed an English course for students of the Academy and translated conference materials from Bahasa Indonesia to English for the Ministry of Mines.

• 1978-1979 Language Adviser to PT Koba Tin, an Australian-Indonesian tin mining company in Koba, Bangka. Carried out a company-wide language needs analysis. Translated from Bahasa Indonesia to English a labour agreement between the company and the trades union, trained company translators and interpreters and taught English to company employees.

• 1980-1984 Consultant in English, Universitas Hasanuddin (UNHAS), Ujung Pandang (now Makassar). This was a project funded by the UK Overseas Development Administration (now Department for International Development). Undertook an analysis of the language needs of the university’s subject lecturers and their undergraduate students, designed an English study skills programme for undergraduates and trained two cohorts of newly recruited English lecturers.

It was while I was teaching at UNHAS that I began thinking and writing about the ways in which educational institutions reflect and reproduce the societies in which they are located. The edited book Society and the Language Classroom (Cambridge 1996) grew out of this experience.

It was also at UNHAS that I first became aware of class size issues. (At that time, undergraduates in all faculties studied English in classes of up to 120.)

In 1984 I returned to the UK and taught briefly in the Department of Linguistics in the University of Lancaster and then for fourteen years first as Lecturer and later as Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Leeds.

In 2001 I came back to Indonesia for the second time and have been living here ever since. I have a house in a peaceful corner of Cinere, beside the river Kali Pesanggrahan, on the border between Depok and Tangerang Selatan, south of Jakarta. So far I have spent approximately 25 years of my life in Indonesia.

During this second period in the country I have been working as an independent researcher and consultant, mostly in Indonesia but also in other parts of Asia and Africa. My interests have broadened far beyond the teaching of English.

Over the years I have been involved in several projects and activities with the Indonesian Ministry of Education (which periodically changes its name; currently it is Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan).

Involvement with the Indonesian Ministry of Education

• 1997-2000 I worked with the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC, Pusat Pengembangan Kurikulum) through UK ODA’s Curriculum Capacity Project. Carried out an initial analysis of staff development needs, coordinated two training programmes at the University of Leeds for CDC staff and provided training in Jakarta on qualitative research.

• 2001 Body for Research and Development in Education and Culture (Balitbang Dikbud). Funded by the World Bank, I provided input to the Committee on Educational Reform (Komite Reformasi Pendidikan), which led eventually to the 2003 Law on Education (Undang-Undang tentang Pendidikan).

• 2005-2008 I was Team Leader (School Based Management) of the Decentralised Basic Education Project (DBEP) funded by the Asian Development Bank. Working with 12 District Managers and 200 field facilitators, we supported almost 5000 primary and junior secondary schools in the poorest parts of 20 districts in Bali, NTB and NTT. We helped schools to develop annual work plans, provide scholarships for the poorest pupils and community-school relationships. I initiated four research projects to investigate the impact of our work (financial management in decentralised schools, committee-school relationships, factors contributing to success in outstanding schools, analysis of school profiles and financial utilisation reports from 3000 schools).

• 2008-2010 I was a Consultant in Continuing Professional Development to the BERMUTU (Better Education through Reformed Management and Universal Teacher Upgrading), funded by the World Bank. My task was to help to formulate an overall framework for the future development of the teacher workforce in Indonesia.

• 2011 I helped to organise and contributed to a Policy Dialogue on Languages in Education held jointly by the Ministry of National Education and the British Council.

• 2012 For six months I contributed to the creation of a comprehensive description of education in Indonesia, for presentation to OECD (Asian Development and the British Council).

Apart from the Ministry of Education, I have also had extensive contacts with the British Council in Indonesia over the last four decades.

British Council in Indonesia

1972-1975 The VSO programme in Indonesia at that time (where I was teaching English) was administered by the British Council.

1980-1984 The ODA project in Universitas Hasanuddin – where I was a consultant – was administered by the British Council.

2005-2008 The Pesantren Education Development Programme, in which I was centrally involved, was managed by the British Council for the UK Foreign Office.

2005-2010 The British Universities’ Scholarship Scheme for Universities in Aceh – which I helped to establish – received important assistance from the British Council in Indonesia.

2009 I carried out a Survey of University Language Centres in Indonesia for the British Council.

2009 I undertook a Baseline Study of English in Bilingual Education in Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea. This gave rise to the British Council’s involvement in investigating the impact of the ‘International Standard Schools’ (Rintisan Sekolah Bertaraf Internasional) Programme in Indonesia

2010 The British Council asked me to carry out a survey of Initial Teacher Education Programmes in Indonesia.

2011 I carried out a survey of Indonesian higher education institutions’ expectations of international academic collaboration, at the request of the British Council.

Between 2003 and 2004 I coordinated a joint team of nine researchers from the Province of Riau in Sumatra and the University of Leeds, UK, in carrying out a Survey of Education in Riau (commissioned by the then Governor of Riau). We visited schools and education authorities in every district and prepared a detailed report with recommendations for improving education in Riau.

I have had extensive contact with the Islamic education system in Indonesia.  Between 2005 and 2008 I coordinated a series of five training courses held at the University of Leeds for representatives of 100 pesantren (traditional residential Islamic schools, similar to madrasah in other parts of the Islamic world). The focus of the training was on education management and inter-faith communication.  The programme was funded by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, managed by the British Council and coordinated by Nahdlatul Ulama.

2005-2010: I helped to found the British Universities’ Scholarship Scheme for Higher Education Institutions in Aceh and acted as adviser to the scheme until it ended in 2010. This post-tsunami scholarship programme provided opportunities for lecturers of Universitas Syiah Kuala and the State Islamic Institute (IAIN) in Banda Aceh – both of which lost large numbers of teaching staff in the tsunami - to take postgraduate degrees in the UK. We obtained supporting funds amounting to US$440,000 from the Indonesian Government’s Board for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh (BRR) which enabled scholarship candidates to undertake extended English language preparation at the Indonesia-Australia Language Foundation’s Centre in Surabaya, East Java. Further support was received from the British Council and the British Embassy in Indonesia and from British Airways. More than 50 people studied for Masters degrees and one took a PhD; thirteen UK universities participated in the scheme.

In 2009 I was invited to become a member of the Board of Consultants to Dayah Jeumala Amal, a progressive pesantren (madrasah) in Lueng Putu, Pidie Jaya, Aceh (www.jeumalaamal.org/index.php/foundations/struktur).

Since 2010 I have been a member of the editorial review board of the journal Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics (http://ejournal.upi.edu/index.php/IJAL/about/editorialTeam), published by Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia.

In 1982 I was awarded the Final Diploma in Bahasa Indonesia by the Institute of Linguists in London.

Conferences and talks

University Of Leeds

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Class Size

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Indonesian Textiles

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I am inspired by these messages and sentiments.


Oh mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.

(Qur’an, V.49: 13)

I take this to mean that ethnic – and, by implication, linguistic – diversity is a divine blessing, to be treasured and celebrated. If all of humanity were homogeneous in culture and language there would be no incentive to travel, to interact and to learn from one another.


Human solidarity is the only true wealth in life, mutual responsibility the only ethic.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French novelist, 1900-1944)

I have not been able to trace the origin of this sentence. It is quoted in an article by Robert Macfarlane, ‘Air of danger’, published in The Guardian on 23rd April 2005 (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/apr/23/featuresreviews.guardianreview30). In fact from the article it is not entirely clear whether Saint-Exupéry himself wrote this or whether it is a summation of Saint-Exupéry’s philosophy written by William Rees, who has translated his work into English. Whatever the case, I find the sentiment inspiring; it takes us far above the petty sectoral and group squabbles that divide us from each other.


The quail coos and the nightingale sings,
Each in its own language.
Punjabi is the language of your mothers and fathers.

(Babu Rajab Ali, Punjabi poet, 1894-1979)

The poet reminds us that every language reflects and influences the culture of its speakers. All languages must be respected and maintained. To deny one’s own language is to deny one’s ancestry.


Orang Indonesia adalah siapa sadja jang menganggap Indonesia tanah airnja, tak perdoeli apakah ia Indonesia moerni ataoekah ia poenja darah Tjina, Belanda, dan bangsa Eropa lain dalam djasadnja.

(Ki Hadjar Dewantara, Indonesian political thinker and educationist, 1889-1959)

Ki Hadjar Dewantara – originally Raden Mas Soewardi Soerjaningrat – wrote these words in the magazine Hindia Poetra in 1919, twenty-six years before Indonesia declared independence and thirty years before it finally gained complete freedom from the Netherlands. His statement shows an extraordinary degree of tolerance and openness: ‘An Indonesian is anyone who believes that Indonesia is their nation, regardless of whether they are pure Indonesian or whether Chinese, Dutch or other European blood flows in their veins.’ Ki Hadjar Dewantara was Indonesia’s first Minister of Education after independence.


Email : h.coleman@leeds.ac.uk