Ki Hajar Dewantara (2 May 1889 - 28 April 1959), born Raden Mas Soewardi Soerjaningrat into a noble Javanese family of Yogyakarta, was a pioneer in the field of education in Indonesia. He was the founder of Taman Siswa education system.
Ki Hadjar Dewantara studied at ELS (Europeesche Lagere School), then he continued his studies at Kweekschool (Teacher School) and Stovia (Javanese Doctor's School).
Active in the nationalist cause, he belonged to a faction favouring direct action and the use of Western methods to diminish the power of the Dutch. He was a member of the Bandung chapter of Sarekat Islām (“Islamic Association”), but later became co-founder of the influential Indische Party. The famous ironic article “If I Were a Netherlander,” he wrote contributed to his exile to the Netherlands between 1913 and 1918.
In the Netherlands he became converted to the idea of using Indonesian cultural traditions to cope with the challenges posed by Dutch colonial rule. He felt that education was the best means to strengthen Indonesians, and he was deeply influenced by the progressive theories of the Italian educational reformer Maria Montessori and by the Indian poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore.
His first Taman Siswa schools were established in Java in July 1922. Instruction, carried on informally, emphasized traditional skills and values of Javanese life, particularly music and dance. Western subjects were taught, too, in order to help students cope with the demands of modern life.
Overcoming initial official hostility, the Taman Siswa schools had spread throughout the archipelago and were by the late 1930s subsidized by the Dutch colonial government. Based on traditional Javanese concepts, the Taman Siswa schools appealed primarily to those segments of Indonesian society termed abangan, in which the Islamic faith is less deeply entrenched. In 1949, he was chosen for Minister of Education and Culture.
The 2nd of May is Indonesia's National Education Day, named in his honor.
The obverse of the 20,000-rupiah banknote contains the likeness of Ki Hadjar Dewantara.
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