Promoting “Unity in Diversity”: Education Reform in Indonesia

ELLEN MYERS — Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan


“Unity in Diversity” is one of the most significant founding mottos created during the process of nation building in Indonesia.  This motto aimed to capture the ideology behind unifying the world’s largest archipelago that is home to people of vast ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds.  The belief that Indonesian citizens could live together in harmony despite these differences was paramount to the idea of what it meant to be Indonesian. My paper will explore through Western and Indonesian scholarly works, the national, political, and sociocultural significance of religion in Indonesia and it’s significance within the concept of citizenship. I will explore the evolution of Islam in Indonesia and will address the current state of religious affairs in the country. I believe that this topic is significant because in 2016, growing trends of Islamic radicalism have spurred situations that may threaten the freedom and diversity known to Indonesia’s citizens.  As a result of these issues, there is a growing demand for reforms in Indonesian education, particularly within the Islamic school systems in order to combat radicalism.


Ellen Myers is a first year master’s student in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.  Ellen’s research interests aim to explore the ways in which young Indonesian Muslims are navigating their expression of identity and Islamic piety through social media.  Furthermore, Ellen is interested in how their online presence interacts within both the public and private sphere of their lives. Ellen received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan in anthropology.  Upon completion of her degree, Ellen taught English in Indonesia as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.  As an undergraduate, Ellen was selected to travel to Indonesia for the United States/Indonesia Pilot Program at the University of Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta.  Through this program, Ellen worked with Indonesian Muslim students to learn about religious pluralism, multiculturalism, and democracy between the United States and Indonesia. Ellen has had additional teaching experience in China where she taught adult intermediate-upper advanced level English classes for the English First company in Shanghai.


Full paper — Myers 2017 (DOCX)

Slideshow — Myers 2017 (PPTX)