Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Muchtar Ahmad, an educator from West Nusa Tenggara, believes in this statement. He always feels the need to develop his competency in education to make greater changes. One way to make it happen is by finding a scholarship to support his career in education.
One day, a friend told him about PRESTASI scholarship which he then applied. After going through various selection stages, from administration to interview stages, he finally got the scholarship. Through PRESTASI scholarship, he chose to pursue his Master's degree in Indiana University Bloomington, USA, in Instructional Systems Technology program.
"In Instructional Systems Technology, I learned how to increase the achievement in learning/training by implementing relevant theories, approaches, strategies, methods and technology," Muhtar said.
Muhtar did not only take the regular subjects, but he and his colleagues who comes from similar program sometimes also get involved in some projects related to his study. Some of the projects were about needs assessment, instructional design and development, and also program evaluation.
Muhtar also join the Sunday School held by the Islamic Center of Bloomington. His task was to assist the local teachers observe the teaching and learning process and to discuss with them regarding the possible strategies, approaches, and methods to improve the learning quality.
After finishing his study in the U.S., Muhtar returned to Indonesia to practice his new knowledge and experiences. Muhtar was then assigned to be the headmaster in Peduli Anak Elementary School, a private school in West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
"Most students of Peduli Anak Elementary School are street children from Peduli Anak Foundation, the rest are poor children from the villages around the school", Muhtar said.
As headmaster, he is responsible not only for managerial aspects – like coordinating with other units in the school and to doing administration work – but also the leadership aspects; Muhtar is also responsible to supervise classes and to help teachers improve their learning quality regularly.
To improve the learning quality and at the same time to practice what he gained in the U.S., Muhtar conducted a special program called Social and Emotional Learning. This program aims to help students improve their social and emotional skills.
"The students of Peduli Anak Elementary School are mostly homeless children whom Peduli Anak Foundation is taking care of. It can be said that, before living in the house provided by the Foundation, they were the victims of either physical or psychological abuse. I have observed that these conditions have become their psychological problems. It also becomes their main obstacles to improve their academic achievement. During my first 6 months working in Peduli Anak Elementary School, some children still shows impulsive behavior and bullying among their friend. Therefore, I develop a subject which I called Social and Emotional Learning." Muhtar explained.
Muhtar added, Social and Emotional Learning subject has been taught in Peduli Anak Elementary School since the academic year of 2016/2017. Through this subject, the students are taught to develop their social and emotional aspects in their life such as moral learning lesson and how to socialize with friends in a good way. Although there was no formal assessment regarding this program, but through observation there is a significant and positive changes in the students' behavior.
Peduli Anak Foundation is also impressed. The foundation supports the development of Social and Emotional Learning subject initiated by Muhtar in Peduli Anak Elementary School, West Nusa Tenggara.
Muhtar, who likes playing table tennis, admitted that he was very fortunate to get the opportunity to purse his Master's degree from PRESTASI scholarship program. The scholarship has helped him to improve his skills and to build his creativity to contribute in educating the people in Lingsar, West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. According to Muhtar, up until now PRESTASI continue to support the alumni to contribute in their workplace optimally.
Muhtar also motivates Indonesia's young generation, "The dynamics of our life ‘offers' plenty of useful lessons for us. We only need to be humble to admit that we are not perfect. There is always space to do self-improvement, develop and increase the quality of life. It's the must-have asset for young generation as the future leaders to change the world.