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Language Laboratories
Language Laboratories
(Indonesian Context)

Primary Issues

The affectiveness of language laboratories in Indonesian schools is currently very low and is solely dependent upon the individual skills and resourcefulness of the teachers and headteachers within the schools. This situation exists because; the existing language laboratory model most commonly used is not practical, the implementation of quality language laboratory installations in schools is not monitored (no strict quality standards appear to exist), and operational issues (including proactive and reactive maintenance, spare parts, maintenance, training, and materials budgets,) are not being affectively addressed. Language laboratory installations are not usually based upon long-term planning for sustainability and lack coordination. Technology planning, teacher training, and the production of teaching materials are issues that must be addressed before equipment is installed.

The Existing Situation

In 1982/83 500 Tandberg (System 500) Audio Active Comparative (AAC) language laboratories were installed in Indonesian schools. Many of these original Tandberg laboratories are still in operation. However, there is enormous variation in the level of their serviceability, and acquisition of spare parts is now a serious problem. There have been "waves" of new installations (mainly Panasonic language laboratories) continuing through till today.

Towards and Improved Model

The main prerequisites for almost any professional or semi-professional employment in Indonesia are foreign language and computing skills. In the workplace the main emphasis is upon oral/ aural communication. Considering that nationally only about 30% of SMU graduates continue on to tertiary education (70% go into the workforce) the emphasis upon workplace skills (communication) must rate at least equal if not higher than the need for reading and writing skills (usually considered to be more academically oriented). It is clear that the current (low) time allocation allowed for language skills practice in school study programs is one of the key issues which needs to be addressed.

Any new Indonesian Model must address the following factors;
  • practical language skills acquisition (listening and speaking practice, exposure to native speaker voices, confidence building exercises)
  • class size (currently the maximum number of students is 48), flexibility of teaching style (the communicative approach to language teaching employed is not reflected in the current model's design)
  • ability to monitor and work individually with students (in any mode of learning).
  • systems for routine preventive maintenance.

This floor-plan shows a 24 student position U-shaped laboratory. It is an attempt to address the myriad of issues specifically associated with the needs of school language programs. The primary focus while designing this new language laboratory model was quality. The initial concern which needed to be addressed was class size. Laboratory sessions, by definition, must provide an opportunity for monitored experimentation, with assistance available as required. Attempting to monitor and assist 48 students in a 45 minute teaching session (minus lesson introduction and review time) is not realistically feasible. The original concepts for addressing this issue centered around reducing the class size (by half), and dividing the existing laboratory space with a glass partition. In the second (glassed-in,) self-access (SA) area facilities such as cassette recorders, video/TV, and learning kits related to curricular needs would be provided (extra cassette units no longer used in the old labs, most schools have a video and TV somewhere, and the SA materials could be produced from materials in the library and the school's Languages Other Than Indonesian (LOTI) collections).

However, upon visiting many school libraries to review resources (and resource needs) for the establishment of SA facilities a common phenomena was uncovered. Almost every library visited was empty except for the librarian or a staff member who was "supervising the books". Upon enquiry as to why the libraries were not being used by students the reason given was that the students were all in classes. It then became apparent that teachers do not normally utilize library facilities as part of their classroom teaching strategies. Libraries basically function as "book storerooms" (gudang buku). This being the case it appeared logical and far more beneficial to focus upon improving/ upgrading the library facilities rather than to construct a special (used only by language students) glassed-in area. Language laboratory classes could be divided into two (24 students in each) with the non-laboratory group being scheduled into the library. This plan also more effectively utilizes the library staff, and allows the language teacher more freedom to focus upon the language laboratory learning activities.

A further free benefit of this approach is that the enhanced library facilities will become available for use by the whole school community during library open hours. This concept raised another important issue (possibly one of the most important) required to be addressed by schools generally - "library access". School libraries are normally only open during class time, and for a short period afterwards (typically 15 minutes) to allow students to borrow books. The concept of students going to the library to study after class is not supported. In Indonesia, where families are generally large and private space at home is minimal, it is often difficult for students to concentrate on homework, or to find a quiet place to read. Reading, and an interest in reading (minat baca) are fundamental to developing an educated society. However, the current school library hours generally do not support and encourage students to use their facilities. This is not a situation confined only to schools some tertiary institutions also have relatively short library hours. The Indonesian National Library states that school libraries should 'become centers of learning and teaching' ("sebagai pusat belajar mengajar"). However, this is a very different role to their current situation.

The new language laboratory model, upon implementation, has the potential to generally improve the quality of language learning programs through the:

  • improved teacher/ student ratio for macro and specific skills training and also for individual student skills assessment,
  • improved flexibility of teaching modes,
  • provision of a venue for role-playing and direct interactivity to enhance speaking/ listening practice sessions, and to help increase student self confidence (center of U-shape),
  • elimination of partitions between students during practice sessions which will stimulate student/ student interaction and further support the development of self confidence,
  • improved teacher access to students for monitoring during cloze and other listen/ write exercises,
  • improved visibility of teaching aids (white/black boards, OHPs, etc.),
  • increased student use of self-access and library facilities.

NOTES:

1. It is hoped that increased exposure and access to libraries will encourage students to use library facilities more (generally) and help improve student reading interest levels (crucial). A further desired outcome of introducing self-access is that students may become more aware of their responsibility for their learning, and learn how to learn independently (mandiri). This is a skill which must be addressed in preparation for both tertiary studies and workplace participation.

2. It is most important to note that the consideration of any form of educational technology (including computer aided learning) will similarly require a careful analysis and understanding of all needs and sustainability issues long before implementation commences. In order for any educational technology to be effective, efficient, and sustainable it is imperative that it is thoughtfully integrated into a supportive system which best meets the needs of curriculum, teachers, and students. THE SUPPORT SYSTEM MUST COME FIRST - THEN THE TECHNOLOGY.

3. You may have noticed that most of the discussion in this brief paper centers around the modification of existing laboratories. If you are thinking of installing a laboratory please feel free to discuss it with me.

4. Please read the notes about Language Laboratories here!

Send Us Your Comments to:

Phillip Rekdale
Education & Technology Consultant:

Recommended Reading:
TECHNOLOGY IN THE SERVICE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING:
THE CASE OF THE LANGUAGE LABORATORY (PDF)

LANGUAGE LABORATORY RESEARCH STUDIES IN
NEW YORK CITY HIGH SCHOOLS
A DISCUSSION OF THE PROGRAM AND THE FINDINGS

Language Laboratory Suppliers Indonesia

Global University Entry