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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 (

Since 2010 I have been a member of the editorial review board of the journal Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics (, published by Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia.

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