We ended our trip much as it began: visiting a school and chatting with the students. If you recall, the first school we visited was a cross between an orphanage and military-style boarding school. It was very structured, secluded, self-sustaining, and the student body consisted of the poorest of the poor. To ensure their survival, English was a mandatory subject. Our second school, the state school, was more middle-of-the road. Families of the students had to pay something for tuition, but not too much. As such, English was not required; they would be civil servants, police officers, etc.
Today’s school catered to the upper class, and the difference was obvious. This school reminded me of private schools back in the States; it was obviously well-funded, you could tell from the outside, but it also seemed more relaxed. For example, although the students normally wore uniforms, today was a free day, and many of the kids were wearing street clothes. Additionally, like the first school, the kids began their English lessons around age five (preparing them for success on the world stage), so by the time we spoke with them (grades 6-11) they were quite skilled. According to their teachers, “money was not an issue” for any of them, and 100% of the student body went on to secondary school.
Their questions were pretty much the same as the other two schools (I think they had a cheat sheet). They asked light personal questions, such as what we enjoyed as hobbies, if we had children, our age. They did ask our religion, and favorite food. Interestingly, they specifically asked if we ate bacon (a murmured “oh” followed). They asked about life in the United States, but unlike the other schools these kids had plans, not just dreams of going to the States. If they weren’t going to college in the U.S., then they would come for jobs. According to the staff, very few of the students who study abroad return to Sumatra, let alone Indonesia.
As it turned out, two of the staff members were native English speakers, one from California, the other from New Zealand. Outside of them, the kids have little interaction with westerners. According to the New Zealander, it was beneficial that we visited if only to widen their global view and prepare them.