‘Discipline’ vs science: 5.30am school start in Indonesia

FILE PHOTO: An Indonesian town is starting school at 5.30am despite science suggesting the opposite.

The early bird catches exhaustion. Starting school early in the morning has been found in numerous studies to result in a lack of sleep and decreased focus among students.

In 2014, a landmark study suggested that school should never start before 8.30am. Additionally, a 2017 study found that starting classes at 10am led to a 20% improvement in the national academic benchmark and a 50% decrease in student illness. However, a city in Indonesia has made a controversial decision to prioritize a child’s discipline by starting school at 5.30am.

The pilot project has been launched in the Indonesian city of Kupang. The capital of East Nusa Tenggara will see twelfth-graders at ten high schools starting classes at 5.30am. The scheme was announced by Governor Viktor Laiskodat last month with the belief that school at the crack of dawn will strengthen children’s discipline.

Parents have raised concerns that their children are too tired by the time they get home, given that schools in Indonesia typically begin between 7am and 8am. Now, students are waking up at 4am and walking to school in the dark, or waiting to take motorbike taxis for their safety, as one mother complained.

“It is extremely difficult, they now have to leave home while it’s still pitch dark. I can’t accept this… their safety is not guaranteed when it’s dark and quiet.”

A 2014 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that middle and high schoolers start classes at 8.30am or later to allow enough time for sleep. Marsel Robot, an education expert from Nusa Cendana University, agrees.

He says the Kupang policy will not improve the quality of education as Kupang policymakers claim is their goal. He warned that sleep deprivation could harm the health of students over time and cause long-term negative shifts in behaviour.

The policy has also faced challenges from local lawmakers, who described it as a “baseless policy” and called for the time shift to be reversed. But, the government remains steadfast in its unfounded belief that learning at dawn somehow builds discipline.

They have even extended the 5.30am start time to the local education agency, forcing civil servants to also wake up pre-dawn and head to work.

Studies have shown that starting school later can benefit students’ health and academic performance. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that delaying the start time of high schools by just 25 minutes was associated with significant improvements in attendance, academic performance, and mental health.

Another study by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience published in 2017 followed students starting class at 8.50am for one term, then 10am for two terms, and back to 8.50am for the fourth term. They reported significant advantages of a late start.

“Implementing a 10am start saw a decrease in student illness after two years of over 50% and reverting to an 8.50am. start reversed this improvement, leading to an increase of 30% in student illness. The 10am start was associated with a 12% increase in the value-added number of students making good academic progress (in standard national examinations) that was significant and equivalent to 20% of the national benchmark.”

World News

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

Related Articles