Last May, I got a chance to work as a two-week research assistant in an experimental research titled ‘An Evaluation of the Impact of Multicultural Storybooks on Indonesian Children’. This research aims to examine children’s respect for and intention to interact with children from different ethnic groups (Papua, Chinese, and Javanese) portrayed in story books. I, along with 4 other RAs got a big opportunity to work with some famous professors from Canada and US who spent their life doing research about prejudice and children, and also with two other college students pursuing their PhD. I got interviewed on Friday, came the next day to do a full-day training about the measures and tests, and did the data-taking for 7 days on preschool children in a local community preschool in South Jakarta. Since that was my first time working with foreigners, I was quite surprised with how they worked – forcing myself to (unconsciously) compare the way I do with my Indonesian colleagues. They didn’t even touch their cell phones during the training, didn’t provide snacks to the RAs (a very uncommon thing compared to those trainings I’ve done before, which is also very helpful cause it helped me to focus on the whole training instead of looking at those tempting snacks).
The research consisted of three parts; the pre-test, the intervention (books reading), and the post-test. All the RAs had to do all parts, and frankly speaking, they were exhausting yet fun! I had the balls to know some long, long, written and computerized measures to examine prejudice in children. I learned how to pre-test the kids and read storybooks to them with all those facial expressions and tones for so many many times; all while recognizing the importance of experimental design and the kids showed biases. I also learned that sadly, many Indonesian kids tend to put negative traits (lazy, don’t like to play toys, etc) on Papuans people. That’s certainly not a new issue in Indonesia since parents and media show more appreciation to people with white skin, long straight hair, and people who possess many properties. That also makes me think that a good parenting plays a very important role in little kids, so kids can have respect to anyone they meet. I also learned that discipline and hard work are really the key to everything. I had to wake up at 3.45 in the morning, grab some breakfast, catch the earliest train at 5.15, and waited at the hotel lobby in Thamrin at 6.30 to go to the preschool together. To my surprise, I made myself being punctual cause I didn’t have the researchers’ phone numbers and that only means one thing: there is no excuse for coming late. Sticking to schedule and working persistently without doing many additional extras (snacks, cell phones) lead to a very effective training and data-taking. Those small details sort of enlightened me why there is this kind of feeling when we think that Western people look more ‘successful’ than Indonesian at the first glance.
And, the research tells me that I do love working with kids, undoubtedly.