Makassarese and buginese local wisdoms in scl-based writing class

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Department, Faculty, University, country

Abstract: This descriptive-qualitative case study aims to (1) identify the values of Buginese/Makasaresse local wisdoms that shape the learning process of Hasanuddin University students attending the Writing2 (MBI2) subject in the even semester, 2014; (2) find out which of the local wisdoms that strongly shape the student-centred learning (SCL) process in the Writing II class. The study focused on students’ classroom interaction. Data were collected from classroom observations, questionnaires, interviews and teachers’ note on the learning process in classroom. This study found that what is thought as Buginese or Makassarese local wisdoms especiallyrespect to older people and mutual help can both support and inhibit the SCL process in MBI2.

Keywords: local wisdom, student’s interaction, respect to the elderly, mutual help

Abstrak: Penelitian deskriptif kualitatif ini bertujuan untuk (1) mengidentifikasi nilai kearifan lokal Buginese/Makassarese yang membentuk proses belajar mahasiswa Universitas Hasanuddin yang mengikuti kuliah Menulis Bahasa Inggris 2 (MBI2) di semester genap 2014; dan (2) mengetahui kearifan lokal mana yang kuat membentuk proses SCL di kelas MBI2. Fokus penelitian ini adalah interaksi mahasiswa dalam kelas. Data didapat dari observasi kelas, kuesioner, interview, dan catatan dosen tentang proses belajar di kelas. Penelitian ini menemukan bahwa apa yang dianggap sebagai kearifan lokal Bugis / Makassar, khususnya hormat kepada yang lebih tua dan gotong royong, dapat mendukung sekaligus menghambat proses SCL di kelas MBI2.

Kata kunci: kearifan lokal, interaksi mahasiswa, hormat kepada orang tua, gotong royong


December 2013 edition of Identitas reported the sixth-year implementation of student-centred learning (SCL) in Unhas which does not seem to show any difference with the previously practised teaching-centred learning. What may have triggered this unchanged learning process ?

SCL is a learning approach which was highly influenced by Lev Vigotsky, as cited in Brown (2007), who said that students are responsible for their learning. Students reconstrut what they learn in class into something relevant to them and become independent of their own learning inside and outside the class. It is clear that students, as the primary factor in learning process, belong to the society where they they live or come from. This means that the students and the society are interchangably influenced one another. This impliesthat the efforts to implement SCL in Unhas are inseparable from the traditions in the society. This further indicates the necessity to study relevant local wisdoms, which occurs in SCL-based classrooms in Unhas.The local wisdoms here refer to all products, processes or traditions rooted in Indonesian society, especially in South Sulawesi, and are apart of the traditions influencing Indonesian people’s activities in their community.


A. The main features of student-centred learning

Donnelly & Fitzmaurice’s (2005) review on SCL from lecturers’ and students’ perspectives highlights a number of important SCL features in teaching English at university. One of them is the better interaction between teachers and students. The hierarchical relationship between teachers who are often associated as the knowledge provider and students who receive the knowledge is minimized in such a away that teachers do not merely teach but listen to students’ needs and facilitate their learning activities in classroom.

Learning in Vigotskyan view is a social interaction which plays an important role in developing students’ cognition. Such social interaction can be seen when learners interact with their classmates during their learning activities and from the culture or traditions ascribed to students’ life. Brown (2007) cited Vygotsky who claims that everything is learned from our interaction with others and the result of the learning is integrated into our mental structure.

Meanwhile Donnelly & Fitzmaurice (2005) believes that sociocultural belief on second language learning considers that learners’ behaviour in class can be well understood when teachers involve them as individuals and as groups of learners where the learning strategies are used and developed.Their utterance and behaviour in class reflect their cultural traditons which form their learning process. Thus, quoting Jang and Jimenez (2011), it is socioculturally important to study learners’ traditions. They say that the strategies used in class are inseparable from the relationship between learners and their teachers in class.

In their review of two different forms of SCL in higher eduction namely collaborative project based learning and problem based learning, Donnelly & Fitzmaurice (2005) clarify the roles of teachers and learners. Teachers in student-centred learning are involved more in designing and assessing the project or problem based learning. Quoting Aspy et. al. (1993), they also highlight teachers’ roles to keep students on track, avoid negative feedback, and assume the role of fellow learner.

In student-centred learning, teachers and students should work out together clearly defined criteria of asssessment in which students are allowed to assess their own learning and their peers’ based on their individual or group learning targets (Savin-Baden & Major, 2004). Such an assessment, which should help students monitor their own learning, includes among others the team skills, interpersonal skills and communication skills and need to be clear, positive and specific.

The important feature of student-centred learning lies on the student’s range of roles and responsibilities. They should take initiative on their own learning goals, identify their learning strategies, decide some procedures to reach the goals, and evaluate learning outcomes.To reach these goals they should shift their paradigm from being a passive listener and note taker to critically question the raised arguments and actively contribute to solving problems emerging in their learning process, and above all they should keep being motivated to reach their learning target. In this way the knowledge students acquired is no longer the one directed by the teacher. Instead the acquired knowledge is blended with their own specific target.

B. Review of studies on SCL practices

In her study of communicative approach in improving students’ academic reading achievement, Irmawati (2012) reported that minimum contribution in class discussion activities and teacher domination in learning process are two major factors that inhibit the learning in classroom. This finding is relevant to student-centred learning with its communication skill as one of the important skills required from students.

Nguyen (2011) who researched on the problems faced by Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian students during their study in Australia found that the students are difficult to express their views due to the fact that, in the living cultures in Asia, people tend to avoid disharmonious relationship with the interlocutors, especially the elderly, resulted from having different opinions.

Sawir (2005) who conducted an in-depth interview with students from five Asian nations confirmed that language difficulties focused on grammar and reading skills in teacher-centred classrooms are rooted from students’ prior learning experiences in their home countries which do not enhance student’s confidence in speaking and proactive role in classrooms. Such difficulty was also addressed by Marcellino (2008:57) which claims that “the success of English teaching Indonesia cannot be freed from the student cultural backgrounds, values, customs” which assumes that to contradict or criticize teachers’ ideas is unacceptable.

A study on the self-directed learning readiness, perception toward student-centered learning and predisposition toward student-centered behaviour at Sultan Agung Islamic medical school shows students from Java Island showed a higher tendency towards student-centered behaviour when compared to those from outside Java Island (Lestari & Widjajakusumah, 2009).

Using Causal Layered Analysis (CAL), Pham Thi (2010) resorts the major challenge of implementing SCL in Vietnamese universities to Vietnamese people’s way of thinking. This review claims that the student-centredness does not need to impose a set of principles to students but upgrade the infrastructure to make local cultures support the SCL and modify SCL principles in order to adapt to local people traditions.

All these studies indicate that to uncover challenges of implementing SCL we must go beyond the classrooms where students live their tradition while having to make use English orally. In this study, the practice of SCL process in MBI2 class is explored in the way it is shaped by Buginese / Makassarese local wisdoms.

C. The role of local wisdoms in SCL-based classrooms

Although definition of ‘culture’ is debatable and often mixed up with ‘tradition,’Kartawinata (2011, p. viii) pointed out that ‘tradition is something transmitted and passed on from past to current generation in the form of patterns or images of our behaviour, belief, rule, advice and prohibition which continuously change, and this tradition is later on interpreted as ‘local wisdom.’ Kartawinata (2011) stated that the term ‘local wisdom,’ also known as indigenous or local knowledge, or as local genius, can be defined as local ideas which are thoughtful, invaluable, rooted and followed by its society. This further indicates that students’ background can be in contrast with learning principles they live in, and in turn affects their way of thinking.

These wisdoms, like the river culture in South Kalimantan and siri in South Sulawesi, are normally orally practised in daily life. Another indigenous knowledge in the life of Indonesian people, the spirit of gotong royong is originated from the traditional Javanese village, where labour is accomplished through reciprocal exchange and the villagers are motivated by concern for the common good (Mardiasmo & Barnes, 2013). Especially in disaster affected areas, this culture of ‘gotong royong’ provides the necessary spirit needed to endure the hardships and for all involved. Nowadays these wisdoms are gradually eroded and tend to be left behind by their people although undeniably such wisdoms are still strongly attached to their believers and influence their daily utterances. These local cultures provide a context of those practised traditions with their own characteristics.

In response to the globalisation in Indonesia, there is a greater awareness among universities in Indonesia to base their academic policies on the local culture where the university is established. For instance, the SCL approach to learning applied at Gadjah Mada University was inspired by Patrap Triloka, a local wisdom originally introduced by Ki Hadjar Dewantoro, the Indonesia’s first Minister of Education (Widayati et. al. 2010). In a teaching-learning process. Patrap Triloka literally refers to three good conducts that a teacher should practice in facilitating his/her students’ learning -ing ngarso sung tulodho, ing madyo mangun karso and tut wuri andayani -- which means that teachershould be a model for their students, facilitate their students and empower students to develop their own potentials. These qualities are expected to bring the student-teacher relationship into a harmonious academic atmosphere.

Another example of local wisdom-based policy is reflected in strategic programs of the research unit at Padjajaran University and on research road map at many universities in Indonesia such as Padjadjaran University and Andalas University. Besides, local wisdoms have been widely used as learning resources such as digital story telling (Susanti 2013) or in shaping student’s character (Faridi, 2014).

Bax (2003) emphasised that the feature of context where the language is used should be attended to when applying communicative language teaching. Without considering the culture and the context where the teaching and learning happens or experienced, teachers would fail conveying their message to students. This means that the influence of culture and its local wisdoms to students is inevitable in learning process irrespective of the approach used including the learner-centred approach. The embedded values of culture which bears student’s identity (Savin-Baden & Major, 2004:47) unavoidably affect student’s interaction in classroom. ok -->

Due to the role of local wisdoms, the occurrence of dynamic interaction in SCL-based writing class may not take place despite the fact that such an interaction is expected to lead student’s writing activity and guide its relevance to student’s interest and writing process. Savin-Baden & Major (2004) reminded that certain local wisdoms may disrupt the successful implementation of SCL. For example, the local wisdom of respecting older people, which requires students to respect and not to make their teacher lose face, may discourage students to critically raise questions in which the teacher may not be able to answer. Thus, such efforts of facilitating students to share their views and ask questions and at the same time learn from the group members or from their classmates in class discussion may be counterproductive to the implementation of SCL principles. Pertinent to this study, it is necessary to search for the values of Buginese / Makassarese local wisdoms that shape the learning process of Unhas students attending MBI2.

D. Buginese and Makassarese ethnicities

The term Buginese/Makassarese indicates two different ethnicities which dominantly inhabit South Sulawesi and West Sulawesi provincies. This combined term of Buginese and Makassarese etnics makes many people think that Buginese is synonymous with Makassarese. Pelras (1996, p.14) who wrote the well known book The Bugis argued that many publications written by local experts such as Siri: Bagian Kesadaran Hukum Rakyat Bugis-Makassar (Marzuki, 1995) and Kebudayaan Bugis Makassar (Mattulada, 1971) tend to minimizethe difference between the two etnics due to the way the two names of ethnicsis written as a compound word. Pelras explained that this tendency was due to the same Islamic religion adopted by the two peoples which reduces the difference in their ethnicity and language. These local experts on Buginese and Makassarese note that the way of living of Buginese and Makassare are principally the same. Although many Buginese words can be found in Makassarese or vice versa, the way such words are pronounced can indicate whether the speaker is Buginese or Makassarese. For instance, the word pesseé in Buginese and paccé in Makassarese both literally refer to being irritatedor painful looking at someone’s suffering (Marzuki, 1995, p.132).

Mattulada (1985, p. 5) stated that from the four major ethnics in South Sulawesi, namely To-Ugi (Bugis), To-Mangkasara (Makassar), To-raja and To-Menre’ (Mandar), the Buginese has the biggest population and occupy fourteen out of twenty three regencies in South Sulawesi: Maros, Pangkep, Bone, Soppeng, Wajo, Luwu, Sidrap, Bulukumba, Sinjai, Pinrang, Enrekang, Pare-pare, Barru, and Polmas. While Makassare people mostly live in Gowa, Takalar, Bantaeng, Jeneponto and Selayar regencies, Makassar, Maros and Pangkep are currently considered as transitional areas where Buginese and Makassarese are both used in daily conversations.

We can say that Bugis and Makassarese have been recognized as one entity, at least, since the use of the same script lontara which spread throughout the southern tip of Sulawesi island. Although Buginese and Makassarese people seem to be geographically separated, these two ethnics seem to spread all over the regencies in South Sulawesi with some distinctive regions for Buginese and Makassarese and the so-called transitional area in Makassar, the capital city of South Sulawesi.

E. Core values in Buginese and Makassarese

Rahim (1985) said that in Buginese tradition there are six core values, namely honesty, scholar, appropriateness, determination, efforts and siri which are all used in Buginese expressions stated in lontara. These values are interchanged in framing the behaviour of Buginese people. The following is the summary of Rahim’s (1985) account of these values.

First, honesty (lempu, Buginese) literally means sincere, correct, good, yet, it could refer to good behaviour and fear the Lord. One’s honesty is considered so important that the judge La Pagala Nenek Mallomo (1546-1654) at Sidenreng considered it is equalled to death penalty sentenced to his own child who did not practisehonesty (Rahim 1985, p. 149). Second, the Buginese people’s scholarly characteristic means that nothing is difficult and difficulties are responded with sincerity and kindness. Having an academic degree does not automatically bestow intellectuality, but those Buginese figures mentioned in lontara who were not holding university degree were very influential in their era and can be grouped as being scholastic.

Third, the concept of appropriateness (assitinaja, Buginese) which originates from the word tinaja (appropriate) refers to one’s physical and spiritual ability in carrying out a mandate or assignment. The fourth concept, determination (getting, Buginese), means that Buginese people are strong and determined in principle, and committed to the work being done. The fifth, effort (reso, Buginese), is the key to the successful implementation of honesty, scholarness, appropriateness, and determination. These four concepts can be effective if they are accompanied by some efforts. Some excerpts in lontara denounce effortless people.

The last but the most important is, siri, central to South Sulawesi especially to Buginese and Makasareseand has been defined by many Buginese scholars as “shame” or “honour” and is reflected in their behaviour and way of thinking (Abdullah 1985 as cited in Samsuni, 2010).

In Buginese / Makassarese tradition, the way we orally talk which shows how we respect others, called sipakatau in Buginese / Makassarese, can be shown in three ways which are reflected in their different expressions. First, someone mappakaraja when he/she shows his/her respect to someone older or more highly educated, richer or more powerful. For instance, whenever we greet a lecture idi puang (Ya bu X, said to senior lecturer) we treat him/her a seniour lecturer who is more educated). Second, the respect for our colleagues or others who are at the same age or position is called sipakalebi / sipakalabirik. Third, mapakamase, is said to people who are younger or have lower positions. Another feature of relation is expressed in siammaturuk (Buginese) / sibali-balii (Makassarese) which means helping one another.


The qualitative case study was utilized in this study to get clear illustration of SCL process in semester-three university writing class. Following Seliger & Shohamy (1989), the case study here specifically attends to students’ interaction inwriting class in order to have a more detailed data on the forms of local wisdoms practised while interacting in class.This study assumes that students’ patterns of interaction in each subject is different due to different teaching methodology, the objectives, and teaching/learning maerials. Seliger & Shohamy (1989) emphasized that data in a qualitative study should focus on the observed participants in order that researcher’s cultural and intellectual biases do not interfere the collection, presentation and interpretation of data. The only problem in qualitative study is in data collection because data are not measured statistically like in quantitative study. McKay (2006) argues that the lack of control in qualitative study can be eliminated by the researcher’s intensive engagement in data collection, continuous and persistent observation, and the use of various data and methods. This leads to the main purpose of qualitative research applied here that is to contextualise and to interprete rather than to generealize, to predict and to explain causal relationships between variables.

A. Sources of data

Data in this study were collected from four different sources. First, the native speakers of Buginese and Makassarese languages employed in this study were two academics – one is Buginese, and the other one is Makassarese who can clearly pinpoint aspects of Buginese and Makassarese traditions and way of thinking, which they have gone throughout their lives. Second, data on classroom activities were video-recorded to observethe interaction among students and between students and their teachers. Third, although this study does not focus on teachers’ perspectives, teachers’ note is considered important to support the observation data, especially between students and lecturers. Fourth, the questionnaire was distributed to find out detailed information on student’s ethnicity and tradition.

Because it is not easy to determine whether student’s background tradition is influenced by certain tradition and to find out the form of influence of local wisdom towards the student-based learning process, the tradition in this study refers to student’s place of birth, hometown where student spent their time before pursuing their education at Hasanuddin University, and the location of their senior high school. For example, a student who was born in Buginese-based Bone, has spent his time in Buginese-dominated Soppeng and has joined high schoolwhich is in Wajo, which is also Buginese dominated, we can consider that the Buginese tradition has to some extent formed this student’s traditon. Thus, the questionnaire provided the information on students’ dominant tradition influencing the learning process in MBI2 class in the second semester 2013/2014.

Table 1:

Student’s dominant traditions in MBI2 class

Place of Birth /Hometown/Location

of high school and elementary school

Class A

Class B

Class C

Class D








1. Buginese(B)






2. Makassarese (M)






3. Mix of B and M






4. Mix of (B or M) and non (B or M)






5. Non B or M






6. Transitional areas













1. Column 1 refers to the grouping of areas which are dominantly inhabited by Buginese and Makassare in Sulawesi (Mattulada 1985, p. 5), the information on place of birth, hometown and location of high schools is subdivided into groups of regencies dominated by Buginese tradition (number 1), by Makassarese (number 2), group of mixed Buginese and Makassarese (number 3), group of mix of Buginese and Makassarese and of non Buginese/Makassarese (number 4) and areas which are dominated by neither Buginese nor Makassarese (number 5), and group of transitional areas of Buginese/Makassarese (number 6).

2. Columns 2, 3, 4 and 5 show the number of students for the 6 groups in each parallel MBI2 class.

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