The Indonesian Ministry of National Education has, for the past two decades, been trying to reform English instruction at junior and senior high schools across the country. This paper describes the issues surrounding the reform initiative and the response the system has made to address the issues. It is asserted that the same problems that have faced English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teachers in the past face them today–the difficulty in preparing students to use the English language for real-life purposes after a course of study. It is argued that the communicative approach has failed to help students become any more competent in the use of the English language for real-life purposes. Government policy has not markedly improved the situation. This paper addresses these issues and elaborates on the implications of these issues. It discusses the Indonesian government’s 1994 English Curriculum and makes suggestions as to how to achieve the goals of the new curriculum. It is argued that too much emphasis is placed on the learning of grammar and syntax, and not enough time and effort is spent on actually learning to speak English as it is spoken in countries where it is the first language. Possible ways to improve this situation are examined.
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