The following principles, laid down in 1922, demonstrate many of the tensions outlined in previous posts about Ki Hadjar Dewantara and the Taman Siswa movement. There is the tension between the independence (kemerdekaan) of the individual and the needs of a constructive, orderly social life. The call to turn to ‘our own culture’ even whilst smattering the text with Dutch words. And the wary relationship between the Taman Siswa movement and the state.
As far as I am aware this is the first time they have been translated into English.
Fundamental principles of the Taman Siswa, 1922*
1. The right of a person to self determination (zelf-beschikkingsrecht) in a manner mindful of social solidarity (maatschappelijke saamhoorigheid) is our first fundamental principle.
Order and peace (order and tranquility, Orde en Vrede) are our highest possible principles. There is no ‘order’ if it is not based on peace. Converseley noone will live peacefully if he is blocked in all the conditions of his life. Growth in accordance with character (natuurlijke groei) is very much required for all progress (evolutie) and must be given as broad an independence as possible. Therefore, education that is based on the conditions of compulsion-punishment-order (‘regeering – tucht en orde’ are the terms in education science) we regard as violating the spiritual life (hidup kebatinan) of children. What we use as a tool of education is nurturing with great attention to get the development of the child’s life, physical and non-material (lahir dan batin) in accordance with their own character. This we call the ‘Among method’.
2. In this system teaching means educating children to become people who are liberated in their spiritual life (merdeka batinnya) liberated in thought (merdeka pikirannya) and liberated in their energies (merdeka tenaganya). Teachers should not just give knowledge that is necessary and fine in itself, but also must educate the student to be able to search themselves for knowledge and make use of it in works (amal) of public interest. Knowledge that is good and necessary is that which is beneficial for the material and non-material needs in social life.
3. With regard to the future, our people are in a state of confusion. Often we are tricked by conditions that we view as necessary and in harmony with our lives, whereas those needs are actually those of other peoples, which are difficult to be attained with our own means of living. Thus we often damage the peace of our own lives.
Furthermore, we often prioritise teaching that only aims for the freeing of thoughts (intellectualisme), whereas that teaching only brings us to a phase of life that is unfree and separates the educated from their people (rakyatnya).
In this age of confusion it should be our own civilisation, our own culture we use as signposts, to search for a new life, that is in accordance with our characters and that gives us peace in our lives. With the civilisation of our own nation we will then be fit to have relations on equal terms with foreign peoples.
4. Because teaching that is only received by a small part of our people is not beneficial for the nation, the biggest group of the people must get sufficient education. The strength of the nation and the country (negeri) is the sum of the strength of the its people. Therefore it is better to push forward education for the common people (rakyat umum) rather than enhance instruction, if this effort at enhancement were to reduce the distribution of teaching.
5. To work according to the fundamental principles with freedom and without impediment we must work according to our own strengths. Although we don’t reject help from others, it must be rejected if that help will reduce our independence in material or non-material terms. That is the path of those who do not want to be bound or subjected by power, because they have the will to work for their own strength.
6. Because we rely on our own strength, all the expense of our efforts must be borne ourselves with money from regular income. This is what we call ‘zelfbedruipingssysteem’ which is the instrument of all businesses that want to live in continued independence.
7. By not being bound in material or non-material things, with holiness of heart, we aim to get close to the child. We do not request certain rights, but surrender ourselves to serve the child.
*Source: Asas-asas dan dasar-dasar Taman Siswa (Ki Hadjar Dewantara) (Madjelis Luhur Taman Siswa, Yogyakarta, 1964); appendix pp. 26-8.