Indonesia Expat
Education Featured

A Culture for Life: Education for a Better World

A Culture for Life: Education for a Better World
A Culture for Life: Education for a Better World

“Culture is more of a factor than in other schools… this school is rooted in its surroundings; it’s in us too.”

I’m talking to Santi Ardika, a student at Sekolah Dyatmika in Bali. She has just finished her final A-level exams and will begin studying Data Science at the University of Melbourne next month after accepting an unconditional offer. She moved to Dyatmika after studying at various other international schools.

I’m trying to understand what has helped her and her peers become so successful and so confident about their futures. She thinks for some time. “In many international schools, there is a huge wall or a gate. There are no walls or gates here; we see everything, we’re part of everything.

It’s a thoughtful response, but typical of the insight of Dyatmika’s seniors.

Certainly, everyone is glad they can see their surroundings. Dyatmika sits just to the north of Sanur on Bali’s southeast coast. As we talk, we can look out over deep green rice paddies to a black sand beach. A gentle breeze from the Badung Strait rolls over the campus, waves lap the shore, and the iconic white cliffs of Nusa Penida rise in the distance; it’s ridiculously beautiful.

It isn’t the picturesque setting that has been so influential on Santi and her classmates’ outlook, however, but rather the school’s connection with the local community.

“We go down to the beach where we see Pemulung… science lessons in the rice fields next door, we know the farmers. It gives us an awareness of our differences and privileges in wealth and education. It makes us grateful… I don’t think it is contrived to say it helps us with motivation.”

This view is shared by Santi’s classmate Elsy Androit, who will enrol at UBC to study Marine Biology. “At Dyatmika, I have learned we have a moral obligation to attempt to accomplish what is within our reach and grab all of the opportunities on behalf of those who lack them.”

Dyatmika's bilingual approach helps students integrate seamlessly into diverse environments
Dyatmika’s bilingual approach helps students integrate seamlessly into diverse environments

This sentiment is typical of Dyatmika graduates, but it’s not a detached sympathy; it is a learned kindness. Santi explains, “The school is rooted in Balinese culture; in Primary, we are taught half the time in Bahasa. We are treated with uniquely Balinese kindness. We learn to reciprocate that kindness, but it also gives us a great sense of confidence. There’s low staff turnover – familiar, approachable faces. Beyond the teaching staff too, the support staff who work in catering, gardening, security, we speak all the time.”

And they speak in Bahasa Indonesia, which they have been learning since their first day at school. Putu Martini, Deputy Head of Primary: “Dyatmika’s bilingual approach teaches students to be empathetic and open-minded, adaptable and resilient. It helps them succeed and integrate seamlessly into diverse environments in the future.”

Maithila Bandem, who graduated from Dyatmika in 2020, recognises this cultural aspect of her education as a crucial factor in her success, having graduated top-of-class in Architecture and Environments at the University of Sydney. “I believe the multicultural setting has enriched my character to be a proficient professional and collaborator… Beyond academics, I’m grateful for the common spaces; the halls and fields.”

It’s an educational environment which blends so seamlessly with its surroundings that sometimes it doesn’t really feel like a school at all.

In the heart of the campus stands an enormous, centuries-old banyan tree draped in chequered cloth, signifying its spiritual significance. Staff stop to offer a prayer at the pelinggih where incense burns next to the floral canang offerings. Every morning, sunlight from the east filters through the greens, oranges and reds of the leaves and tedung to create a shifting spectrum of smoky colour and light which is nothing short of magical. Students move through it towards their first class. The local 4-foot monitor lizard emerges from nearby foliage to assess the surroundings. It’s like something out of an Eka Kurniawan novel.

And while this description makes the school seem a long way removed from the academic rigour and high levels of attainment associated with flagship international schools in Southeast Asia, it really isn’t.

Avalon Saja and Mika Saravane attended highly reputable schools in Singapore before their families moved to Bali. “Dyatmika’s teachers foster a different kind of bond with students,” says Mika, who will study Economics at McGill University. Avalon agrees, “I also felt that the teachers were not nearly as supportive as they are in Dyatmika.”

Graduates of Dyatmika School have successfully gone on to pursue studies abroad
Graduates of Dyatmika School have successfully gone on to pursue studies abroad

These students are remarkably successful – Avalon has been awarded a $72,000 scholarship to study Biological Sciences in the US – but it’s a staff culture of generosity with time and effort which fosters this success, not the ‘toxic and overbearing competitiveness’ Mika remembers from the lauded education systems in Singapore.

In fact, Dyatmika’s culture is reaping incredible rewards. Satria Tijaman will study Computer Science at Cornell University in September. What has helped him make the most of his talents? You can probably guess the answer. “The teachers are very willing to support you… I wanted to study the highest level of Maths available to high school students… my teachers learned it with me.”

It’s a culture which imbues Dyatmika’s students with kindness, positivity, and confidence for the rest of their lives. Karina Soerjanto works for Google after graduating early from UCSD. “My time at Dyatmika helped me succeed in further education and career because the community fostered such a supportive and positive environment. I’ve held on to that culture… it has given me the confidence to pursue my goals in life and give support to others.”

Like Karina, those who left years ago speak of the school in exactly the same way as those still in attendance; culture, community, kindness, and a sense of gratitude that never seems to leave. Why? “We see everything, we’re part of everything,” says Santi as we look around the lush green of the campus. “It’s kind of like osmosis.” She smiles, but I don’t think she is being ironic.

Written by Max Ashley-Cooper – Dyatmika University Counsellor.

Related posts

Revolutionising Agriculture: The TeZoid System’s Journey Towards Sustainability

Indonesia Expat

Doing Good Is Always Good Business

Seven Stones Indonesia

Indonesia in Peak of the Rainy Season

Indonesia Expat

Beautiful Borders: The Unexplored Borders of Anambas

Ian Burnet

Top Indonesian News Stories of 2020

Kenneth Yeung

Jakarta Culinary Feastival is back on 3-6th October

Indonesia Expat