Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Exploring Problems Encountered by Six Indonesian Teachers in Teaching English: A Case Study in an EFL Context

Written By

Listyani Listyani

Submitted: 20 December 2021 Reviewed: 31 January 2022 Published: 30 April 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.102968

From the Edited Volume

Pedagogy - Challenges, Recent Advances, New Perspectives, and Applications

Edited by Hülya Şenol

Chapter metrics overview

278 Chapter Downloads

View Full Metrics


It is known worldwide that according to Kachru, there are three circles of world Englishes. The first one is the inner circle, then the outer circle, and the last one is the expanding circle. The last one, the expanding circle refers to the countries where English is a foreign language, including Indonesia. People living in the expanding circle may not get as much exposure as the ones living in the inner or outer circles. They are not exposed to both the spoken and written language as much as those living in the previously mentioned circles. Language learners have to struggle in learning English. This paper describes the challenges and difficulties encountered by six EFL teachers in Indonesia. Two research questions guided this study: What challenges are faced by six Indonesian teachers in teaching English? And what solutions do the teachers implement to solve the problems? The six teachers were selected as respondents because they faced special challenges and difficulties in teaching their high school students. Data were collected through questionnaires distributed to the teachers and interviews done via Google Meet. The findings revealed that the problems the teachers faced varied from social, personal, psychological, as well as financial problems, which the language learners encountered.


  • EFL
  • problems in teaching English
  • Indonesian students
  • case study

1. Introduction

People living in expanding-circle countries in which English is a foreign language really need to struggle to learn this international language [1]. There is not much exposure as what is found in the inner and outer circles. Although exposure these days comes to a large extent from written social media or news channels, still, it is not easy to interact with people daily in English. Communication with English-speaking counterparts often cannot be simply done. It is frequently difficult to find counterparts to practice the spoken language.

In the world of education, the same thing happens. In Indonesia, which is included in the expanding circle, there are still many problems faced by English teachers. One of the examples is, there are many schools that lack facilities as well as teaching resources. The problems and challenges faced by EFL teachers in Indonesia are still many and complicated. Problems like unqualified English teachers, teachers who do not have any English language education background, the absence of good textbooks, insufficient school facilities, learners’ lack of motivation, fear of speaking, and a lack of good Internet connection are still haunting these international language teachers. The society’s mindset that does not prioritize education can also be a burden for Indonesian teachers, especially in remote areas or villages.

In Indonesia, more than 700 languages are spoken [2]. This refers to the local languages since there are 1340 ethnic groups in this archipelago [3]. According to information from EF Kids [4], Indonesia falls into the category of 50 countries with the lowest abilities in English language mastery in the world. In 2016, Indonesia was ranked 32nd among 72 other countries. In 2019, Indonesia was ranked 61st out of 100 registered countries. Compared to other Asian countries, in 2020, Indonesia was ranked 13th out of 25 Asian countries. This rank is still far below the average abilities of Vietnamese or Japanese people. These two nations are still far behind our neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore.

These data are supported by Januli (2019), as cited in [5]. Indonesia is included in the group of countries with low English mastery. Among 80 international countries, Indonesia is ranked 51st. Out of 21 Asian countries, Indonesia is ranked 13th. According to Kholid [6], in an Indonesian context, motivating students is still a challenge that is not easy. There are many policies on the English language at schools. Though there have been many efforts to respond to the existing weaknesses, these efforts cannot be realized as programs that motivate students.

Smpn8 [7] also supported this idea. They mentioned that in Indonesia there are several problems in teaching English as a foreign language. The first is a lack of motivation. Next, there is a lack of time scheduled for teaching the international language. This is followed by the next problem, inadequate human resources, and materials. Besides that, the excessive number of students in every classroom is also an obstacle for teachers in teaching English as a foreign language. On the other side, students who have abilities in English language skills are very limited, perhaps only 10% of all students.

From the data presented, it can be concluded that many Indonesians are still struggling in learning and mastering English language skills. Although we are living in a global world with intense exposure to mass media in English, still, it is not our mother tongue nor is it our second language. The bombardment of English via advertisements, news, films, songs, and social media these days can be a great help to learn this international language. However, many teachers still have to struggle hard in teaching.

The ideal condition is for all learners to be highly motivated so that teachers do not have any serious problems in teaching. Also, all schools should be well facilitated. Thus, the English language teaching-learning process will be enhanced. However, the reality is different. Looking at the gap between the ideal condition and the reality, the researcher thus conducted this case study, to reveal what problems six Indonesian EFL teachers encountered in teaching their students. There is one central question that guided this study: What challenges are faced by six Indonesian EFL teachers in teaching? This study will hopefully be useful for other teachers facing similar problems so that they can anticipate those problems and find the right solutions.


2. Theoretical foundation

Many people living in the world today are familiar with the idea of world Englishes. Matsukawa [8] mentioned that as seen from the number of speakers, English has become the language of non-native speakers. Throughout history, many people have learned a foreign language based on several reasons. One reason is, they have been interested in the associated culture. The second reason is, they have lived in a society dominated by its native speakers. This, however, is no longer true for the vast majority of people learning English. The main purpose has shifted. It is to make themselves understood internationally. Most interactions in which English is used as a foreign or second language take place without any presence of native speakers.

People living in the expanding circle may be faced with lots of problems when learning English. Here, the status of English is a foreign language. According to Ashraf [9], there are some general problems faced by both EFL teachers and learners. These include a failure to maintain discipline in the classroom and demotivation which comes from both the teacher and learners. Besides that, there is also a failure to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each individual. Furthermore, teachers struggle to deal with physical and mental stress and fail to achieve learning outcomes. Also, there is a failure to create sound teacher-student relationships and establish an effective teaching environment.

Kdirbaeva and Usenova [10] reinforced this idea. They claimed that through the factual examination of the outcomes, various issues dealing with the instructors, the learners, the reading materials, and the strategies were revealed. These issues include instructors who do not utilize educational facilities while they are teaching and school libraries that are not well prepared to be beneficial for the learners of English. Besides that, classrooms are still far from perfect in terms of offices and physical conditions. Instructors who are not well-educated in English are also a problem. Another issue is the English reading materials are not appropriate for the student’s level of capability. There is also a tendency for hard-working instructors to not receive honors.

Overcrowded classrooms are another problem put forward by Ashraf [9]. According to Ashraf, an overcrowded classroom can demotivate a teacher both mentally and physically (Hayes, 1997, in Ashraf [9]). To get the learners settled in the class, the teacher will naturally speak louder. This may affect the learners since it negatively creates a distance between the learners and the teacher. The teacher realizes the consequence and therefore suffers from stress. A large amount of class time is spent disciplining instead of educating the learners.

Ashraf [9] also mentioned communication problems. It is almost impossible for a teacher to maintain one-to-one communication with a class of 80 to 100 students using the target language. The teacher struggles even to remember the names of each individual. In a foreign language class, it is pertinent to invite learners to communicate in the target language (Liu & Zhao, 2010, as cited in Ashraf [9]). While dealing with a large group of learners, if the teacher fails to initiate interactions with individuals, the opportunity for the learners to communicate keeps dimming. Moreover, “Students feel isolated and are often anonymous to both the instructor and one another” (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2010, in Ashraf [9]).

Madalińska and Bavli [11] elaborated that there is another obstacle in the form of psychological problems like motivation and emotions. They mentioned that emotional inhibitions such as anxiety and sophophobia are significant challenges. Emotions have a significant impact on the cognitive process of learners (Agudo, 2018, in Madalińska & Bavli [11]). Emotions can be either enhancers or prohibitors towards learning. Studies on anxiety and learning in Turkey revealed that anxiety, especially speaking anxiety, is a barrier to students’ learning (Er, 2015, as cited in Madalińska & Bavli [11]).

In addition, Madalińska and Bavli [11] claimed that the learning environment might also be a challenge for teachers. Large class sizes can reduce the time allocated for each student in a classroom. This impacts the quality of the instruction as it limits teachers’ capacity to employ communicative teaching approaches, which require active collaboration and communication during class (Madalińska and Bavli [11] citing from Copland, Garton, & Burns, 2014). English as a global lingua franca is the most preferred language for communication, academic, commercial, and technological purposes in the world (Madalińska and Bavli [11], citing from Crystal, 2013; Agudo, 2018; Seidlhofer, 2001; and Statista, 2016).

In line with Madalińska and Bavli [11], Sirisha [12] mentioned that the attitudes of the students can also become a hindrance in English language learning. A rural student can find English a difficult language to learn. Even if a student has the desire to learn it, the fear of committing mistakes may make him/her develop a negative attitude towards speaking and learning the language. If the teacher takes an active role by conducting speaking sessions like debates, discussions, and role-plays, there can be more opportunities for students to interact with other students and teachers. Having audio-visual aids in classrooms and labs and providing listening and reading comprehension materials can also help to improve the competency of students in their speaking and listening skills simultaneously.

Sirisha [12] further claimed that all human beings’ ways of thinking may not be the same. Some students are exceptionally talented in academics but not interested in doing well in their studies or getting skilled in the target language. For such students, the teacher should counsel them and tell them about the importance of the English language for their future lives and motivate them to take part in practicing the language skills. A lack of motivation among the learners, insufficient provision of audio-visual aids, and a lack of strict supervision are the challenges to overcome to make students more effective in English language learning and speaking.

All these challenges can be tackled if the teachers take an active part in building rapport with the class [12]. Besides that, teachers should set firm rules; for example, there will be no other language spoken in the class other than English. Asking students to always speak English with the teacher and their classmates can motivate students. In addition, the teacher can also correct their mistakes with care and organize interactive sessions like debates or role-plays. All of these help the students in learning the target language effectively. Sirisha [12] further explained that the teacher should become a good role model to the students. Using spoken and written English confidently will help students in adapting language usage in different situations and improve their interpersonal skills. The teacher should make the students capable of listening, speaking, reading, and writing as well as in interaction skills. This will enable students to be competent in the present world.

Sirisha [12] further stated that the socio-cultural background of an individual can also have a very strong impact on their mother tongue influences towards their English language teaching and learning. A teacher with a rural background can explain everything to a student while keeping the results-oriented objectives in mind. Students can obtain high scores on their exams. However, their target language competence cannot be improved. Another factor that affects English language teaching and learning is the teacher’s inefficiency in making students aware of the basic skills of the language in terms of listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Many teachers prefer their students to practice more of their reading and writing skills but overlook the other two important skills of listening and speaking.

A lack of grammar knowledge and vocabulary can be another crucial problem for English language learners. Finegan [13] mentioned that grammar is the system of the sounds, structures, and meanings of a language. It is a system of patterns and elements, which organize linguistic expressions. All languages have grammar. People who speak the same language can communicate because they intuitively know the grammar system of that language. They know the rules of making meaning. Students who are native speakers of English, meaning those who are in the inner circle already know English grammar. They recognize the sounds of English words, the meanings of those words, and the different ways of putting words together to make meaningful sentences. Effective grammar instruction begins with what students already know about grammar. Regarding vocabulary, Vierra [14] mentioned that vocabulary is essential in second and foreign language acquisition because, without its appropriate and sufficient knowledge, learners cannot understand others. Neither can they express their feelings. After a lengthy period of focusing on the development of grammatical competence, language instructors and researchers now recognize the importance of vocabulary learning.

Some previous studies in this area have been done. Tabatabaei and Pourakbari [15] conducted a study that was aimed at identifying the problems of teaching and learning English in the high schools of Isfahan, Iran. The data needed for the study was derived from questionnaires given to 200 randomly selected students. The participants were from the high schools of Isfahan and their English teachers.

Through the statistical analysis of the results, numerous problems regarding the teachers, learners, textbooks, and methods were revealed. First, the teachers did not use teaching aids during teaching. Besides that, the school libraries were not well equipped to be of service to the learners of English. Next, the classrooms were poor in terms of facilities and physical conditions. Fourth, the teachers did not teach in English. Moreover, the English textbooks were not suitable for the students’ level of proficiency, and the Ministry of Education did not honor the hard-working teachers. These problems were only some among many others.

Another researcher, Nath [16], also researched this area. He found numerous problems at the root of the poor condition of teaching-learning English in the secondary schools of the North Tripura District. The teachers were not trained and they were not competent enough to teach learners in the way they should be taught. These teachers were not good models for spoken English or written English. They were not aware of the modern, innovative, creative, and efficient English language teaching approaches, methods, techniques, and materials, as they only mechanically used the age-old and almost outdated and ineffective Grammar Translation Method (GTM) extensively. The communication approach was hardly taken into consideration.

Nath [16] added that the learners were not exposed to the target language in the classroom. The students’ mother tongue, Bengali, was the only medium of instruction in the classroom. They were exposed to it neither at home nor in their surrounding society or community. The only place where they could be exposed to English was in the classroom and it was only for a while. Therefore, these students could not generally be expected to be good at communication in the language.

Neither the teachers nor the learners were motivated to teach and learn. The teachers taught English simply because they had to. It was a compulsory subject and the learners studied it for the same reason. In other words, the teachers were concerned with how they could make the learners pass their examinations. None of them cared about whether proper teaching and learning ever took place. They were not aware of the fact that whatever they were teaching or whatever learners were learning would be useful in the future [16]. Shah [17], another researcher, researched students who dwelled in the rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir State. These students received education in rural schools. Sadly, they just became merely memorizing machines and they remained deprived of learning and improving their language skills.

Madalińska and Bavli [11] highlighted problems of students’ motivation. Several shared challenges affecting teachers in both Poland and Turkey were identified, despite the contrast between these educational contexts. These challenges included students’ motivation to learn; students’ emotional inhibitions; teaching large classes; differentiation; the need for the quality of in-service teachers’ professional development; high teaching hours; the provision of pre-service teacher education; the attractiveness of the profession; and career-path incentives. Importantly, some of these challenges had not been highlighted in the literature to date. Other challenges were more localized, such as in-service professional development focused on developing teachers’ competence in the English language.

Panchal [18] also focused on the quality of language education in Gujarat schools. The proficiency of teachers in language and their exposure to language and materials became the major concerns for the quality of the English language learning there. In reality, rural students’ situations are very difficult. They do not have any opportunities, as city students do, like access to language labs or audio-visual aids. Generally, rural students study English as a subject, not as a language. It is the main obstacle for them. Most students read English only for the sake of an examination. Students of rural schools face several problems. English is their second language. Learning a second language means acquiring a system of rules. The students of rural and semi-urban areas in Gujarat face such problems because English is not their mother tongue. It is neither instinctive nor intuitive [18].

A similar case also happened to secondary school English teachers in rural areas in Bangladesh. Their schools did not have adequate facilities like language labs, classrooms with appropriate sizes, electricity supply for the library, and books availability [19]. Teevno [20] also reported in his research that his respondents, 11 English teachers of Sidh, Pakistan did not get proper training in teaching English. Besides that, they did not get proper facilities in teaching and the curriculum was not arranged based on the students’ needs.

Panchal [18] explained that language acquisition appears to be a process of both analogy and application. It is also a process of nature and nurture. Undoubtedly, teachers of language have adopted and found various methods to teach English. However, students in rural schools still face several problems. English is not their first language. It is the second language for Indian students. Learning a second language means acquiring a new system of rules. Nevertheless, the students know very little about these rules. Some others do not know how the rule systems are acquired. Students are unable to express themselves properly in English. They have no idea of proper sentence structures. They do not know the proper pronunciation, spelling, and grammatical rules.

Another researcher, Ashraf [9], researched 35 EFL teachers from King Khalid University. These teachers teaching in different schools and colleges of Asir (southern) region participated in this study. The questionnaire for the EFL teachers was designed to identify and understand the remaining problems of EFL teaching in large classes from different perspectives. It contained 30 items along with a suggestion box. The questionnaires were distributed to 48 teachers. Thirty-five questionnaires were returned. The main finding was that overcrowded classrooms were distinctly demotivating for a teacher, and the demotivated teacher could never achieve success.


3. Research methodology

The design of this study was qualitative. Qualitative research is an approach that allows researchers to examine people’s experiences in detail. The research methods commonly used are in-depth interviews, focus group discussion (FGD), observation, survey, diary study, or survey [21].

In this study, the participants were six English teachers. They were selected as participants because they were teaching in an area far away from the city center, except for Teacher F, and all of them faced challenges in their teaching. The teachers’ initials (A−F) were given based on the order of alphabets of their real names. Table 1 presents the teachers’ data. All of them held a Bachelor’s degree.

InitialsTeaching locationHomeEducation
Teacher AMPublic SHS, West BorneoThe same town as where the school is locatedBachelor’s Degree
Teacher BMPublic SHS, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Province128.4 km from the schoolBachelor’s Degree
Teacher CMPrivate SHS, a mountain Plateau, Central JavaThe same town as where the school is locatedBachelor’s Degree
Teacher DFPublic JHS, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Province34.9 km from the schoolBachelor’s degree
Teacher EFPublic SHS, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) ProvinceThe same town as where the school is locatedBachelor’s Degree
Teacher FFPublic Vocational School, PapuaThe same town as where the school is locatedBachelor’s Degree

Table 1.

Participants’ data.

3.1 Data collection methods

The data for this study were gathered through questionnaires and interviews. Questionnaires were distributed through email to each of the teacher participants on July 2, 2021. To validate the data derived from the questionnaires, in-depth interviews were done with the teachers individually. On July 3, 2021, individual interviews were conducted with Teacher A, Teacher B, and Teacher C. Interviews with Teacher D and Teacher E were carried out the following day, July 4, 2021. The interview with Teacher F was done on October 17, 2021. All interviews were done through Google Meet because it was difficult to conduct direct interviews due to the pandemic era. Besides that, the locations where the participants lived were far away from the researcher’s hometown.

The data collection instruments used were questionnaires and interview questions. The questionnaires were attached as an appendix, while the interview questions were just used to confirm the teacher participants’ answers in the questionnaires. After analyzing the questionnaire answers and transcribing all the interviews with the participants, the researcher then wrote the findings of the study regarding the participants’ challenges in teaching.

3.2 Research validity and reliability

Qualitative research is different from quantitative research in many aspects. One of the aspects deals with validity and reliability. Leung [22] asserted that validity in qualitative research means appropriateness of the tools, processes, and data. Besides Leung, Syahla (2021) explained that in qualitative research, findings or data are valid if there are no differences between the ones reported in the research and what really happens in reality.

Leung [22] further asserted that the reliability of qualitative research is found in consistency. Syahlia [23] also explained that qualitative research is individual. It means it is different from one researcher to another. If there are five researchers with different backgrounds, there will be five different research different findings. It means that reliability in qualitative research is dynamic, always changing, and not consistent. Situations always change, so do human behaviors involved in them.


4. Findings and discussion

In this section, the results of the questionnaires and interviews are discussed. The respondents were six English teachers teaching at public as well as private schools. The teachers’ initials were given alphabetically based on the alphabets of their real names, as shown in Table 1.

4.1 Challenges faced by teacher a

Teacher A was a young teacher, who taught at a public senior high school in West Borneo, Indonesia. He was about 27 years old. Teacher A graduated in 2017, and he had a great desire to continue his study and get a Master’s Degree. From the questionnaire that he submitted, Teacher A experienced four big problems in his teaching.

The first problem was related to the pandemic era. Since he was teaching the tenth-grade students, he had never met his students in person. All the teaching-learning processes were conducted online. Teacher A admitted that he had difficulties remembering his students’ faces. With his students, Teacher A had a WhatsApp group. However, not all the students used their real pictures. Some of them did not even write down their real names.

The second problem dealt with the clarity of instructions. Teacher A felt that his instructions had been clear enough for the students. However, many students were lazy to read the instructions, and they asked the teacher for the instructions instead of reading the instructions carefully. Although he was stressed out due to the “floods” of personal messages clarifying the instructions, Teacher A always tried to understand the situation of the pandemic era. This is what he mentioned in the questionnaire:

I give them instructions, which are very clear, the clearest in the universe. However, due to their laziness, they always ask me, even for trivial things. This makes me stressed out. I often use Indonesian, which is clear for them, but it’s not enough. They shower me with personal WhatsApp messages. Whether I like it or not, I have to answer them. (Teacher A’s statement).

This problem was related to language use. It is about the use of the language in the instruction. Teacher A mentioned that he often used the mother tongue, Indonesian, to make the students understand the instructions. Still, some of them did not understand what to do. This frustrated Teacher A. As a solution, he asked his students to make a list of words in English related to the topic. If they were discussing the beach, for example, he would ask the students to make a list of all the words they know which are related to that particular topic. Hence, the students made some efforts in learning.

Another solution taken by Teacher A was asking the students to create dialogs based on the language structures that they learned in a particular chapter. In addition, Teacher A always tried to give questions requiring logic and reasoning. Thus, students’ critical thinking would grow. Teacher A also tried to minimize students’ plagiarism by setting the assignment submission so that only the student and the teacher could see the answers of an assignment.

4.2 Challenges faced by teacher B

Different from Teacher A, Teacher B faced more serious problems. The first problem that he faced was the distance between his hometown and the school. He had to go to another town to teach. It was about one hour by motorcycle. The distance between the two cities meant different cultures. People in the two different areas speak different local languages. Teacher B lived on the border, and thus had a different local language from the one spoken by the students. This often caused communication difficulties. The socio-cultural gap did exist in this case. This is what Teacher B stated, “The students can speak Bahasa Indonesia (the national language). But to communicate daily, they like to use their local language which I don’t really understand.”

Besides socio-cultural problems, Teacher B also observed that the students’ literacy skills were still very low. Most of them had difficulties in the literacy of the four skills of English: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and counting abilities. The students also still had difficulties in using the right punctuation marks and in pronouncing the right words. In writing, they also seldom wrote in English, and they were not really interested in English. In listening, the students only learned from English songs that they got from social media. In speaking, they also experienced difficulties because they were shy and afraid to say something or made errors in their sentence structures.

Another problem faced by Teacher B was a lack of facilities experienced by the students. Most of the students did not have adequate facilities like good Internet connection, mobile phones, computers, or laptops. This is all related to the students’ families’ economic backgrounds. Most of the students came from middle to lower-class families.

To solve those problems, Teacher B always consulted with the headmaster and other teachers at his school. The headmaster and most of the teachers came from the same area as the students. Therefore, they knew the students’ local language and traditions. What kept Teacher B motivated in teaching was that he liked teaching very much. Also, he loved the village’s natural situation with the local wisdom, which was well taken care of. What demotivated him was the inadequacy of the facilities like a good Internet connection, projectors, whiteboards, and electricity blackouts that often happened.

4.3 Challenges faced by teacher C

Teacher C was teaching in a mountainous area in Central Java, Indonesia. Teacher C also faced a similar problem as Teacher B. His students’ academic competence was below average. However, sometimes some students excelled and got accepted into a public university through the government’s scholarship program. This made him happy and proud. The majority of the students, around 90%, came from lower-class families and they lived with their grandparents. Their parents went to big cities or abroad to work as migrant workers. Thus, in their daily lives, these students did not speak English at all.

This family background affected the students’ motivation to study, including English. These students had very low motivation. It was mainly due to the lack of motivation and encouragement from their parents or other family members. Sometimes, parents admitted that they did not have any funds to send their children to school. The school then tried to give their children full scholarships, including school fees and uniforms. Still, many parents rejected the idea to send their children to school. They did not prioritize education. When it was harvesting time, parents would make their children skip school and help them in the field or plantation.

Teacher C’s efforts to make his students get interested in English were all in vain. He conducted programs like One-Day English and English Speaking Area. None of the programs ran well. However, due to Teacher C’s vision to make his students intelligent and smart, he kept going with his plans. Though it had not yielded any good results yet, Teacher C tried to be optimistic.

Sasongko [24] mentioned that poverty is an obstacle for parents to send their children to school. A family’s financial condition is the trigger to involve children in the world of work. Presented in Table 2 is the data of the total number of children who were working in 2018–2020, from every province in Indonesia. In East Nusa Tenggara, the number was quite high in 2020, at 5.67%. In Central Java, it was 2.71%; and in Papua, it was 3.49%. Table 2 from Indonesian Statistics Bureau (BPS) will clarify this.

ProvincePercentage and year
North Sumatera4.294.016.39
West Sumatera2.512.464.29
South Sumatera2.322.273.41
Bangka Belitung Archipelago4.262.414.81
Riau Archipelago1.090.981.19
DKI Jakarta1.481.171.30
West Java2.351.851.91
Central Java1.982.172.31
Yogyakarta Administrative District1.732.081.91
East Java1.951.642.59
West Nusa Tenggara3.944.086.55
East Nusa Tenggara4.423.425.67
West Kalimantan2.862.554.01
Central Kalimantan3.323.064.81
South Kalimantan2.892.313.11
East Kalimantan2.041.433.11
North Kalimantan2.112.664.84
North Sulawesi1.612.453.15
Central Sulawesi4.674.045.59
South Sulawesi4.634.906.16
Southeast Sulawesi5.325.268.05
West Sulawesi3.703.465.28
North Maluku2.423.513.80
West Papua2.192.305.35

Table 2.

Percentages and the number of working children aged 10–17, 2018–2020, in all provinces in Indonesia.

Source: BPS [25].

4.4 Challenges faced by teacher D

Teacher D lived in the same area as Teacher B, but she was teaching at a different school. Teacher D mentioned that her students’ academic abilities were very low. Teacher D had been teaching at that school for six months and found that the students’ abilities in speaking, writing, reading, and listening were still below her expectations. That is why Teacher D often used GTM (Grammar Translation Method) while teaching.

Another problem was that the students living in the remote area used their local language for daily communication. The national language, Bahasa Indonesia, was only used when they were talking to the teacher at school. The rest of the time, they spoke using their local language. Even when the students were discussing in small groups, they used their local language. Other than the problems mentioned above, these students also had very low motivation to learn English. Besides that, they did not have a good Internet connection, learning sources like textbooks, mobile phones, laptops, or computers.

What made Teacher D keep on going as she always thought that Indonesian children all had the same right to learn English. Though they learned a little in every meeting, at least they had learned something. Teacher D also mentioned that she did not have any special target in teaching. “I don’t have any special target in my teaching. I teach slowly, according to my students’ pace of learning. If I force them to reach a certain target, the result won’t be good; they will get nothing, and they won’t understand the materials,” Teacher D explained.

This pandemic era made Teacher D exhausted. Since January 2021, she had to visit her students’ houses one by one, distributing and explaining materials. Teacher D sometimes had to visit the houses more than once a week. If she only visited once a week, the children would not understand the materials. The distance from Teacher D’s hometown to her school was about 35 kilometers.

This condition should be the concern of both the Indonesian government as well as the citizens. Currently, two-thirds of Indonesia’s population is between the ages of 15 and 64, with a tremendous potential to achieve strong economic development and prosperity in the coming years. However, to take full advantage of this potential, Indonesia must work twice as hard to fill the development gaps in terms of education, health, and well-being of the youth. Earnest efforts are needed to improve educational quality [26].

Another common problem is the inequality of women and inequality in the rural population. This inequality causes child poverty as well as large gaps in water and sanitation. All this then leads to high rates of neonatal mortality, illnesses in children, and high stunting rates. In turn, all this has negative impacts on children’s physical and cognitive growth all their lifetime [26].

4.5 Challenges faced by teacher E

Teacher E also taught in East Nusa Tenggara. Similar to the other four teachers, Teacher E mentioned that her students’ English competence was below average. Most of the students went to school just to graduate and get the school certificate. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of the parents worked as farm laborers. That is why students’ motivation to learn English was very low. Besides problems with motivation, there were also some other problems faced by Teacher E. There was an inadequate and insufficient Internet connection. Besides that, blackouts often happened in that area. It disturbed the teaching/learning process.

Teacher E made some efforts to keep her students motivated in learning. She encouraged her students to practice vocabulary. She gave her students a target, that is, to memorize a minimum of 10 words in a day. Besides that, she made an English club though only four or sometimes six students joined the club. Teacher E also encouraged her students to keep learning English.

Students’ great desire, which in turn increased their self-confidence, made Teacher E’s motivation high in teaching. “I myself get motivated when I see my students full of motivation and passion in learning English,” Teacher E stated. On the other hand, the fact that her students’ motivation was just to graduate from the school and get the school certificate demotivated her. Motivation to pass an exam can be considered as external motivation. Gardner (2001, in Bower [27]) argued that a motivated learner would display three things: effort, desire, and affect. Affect refers to the emotional outcome, which is positive. Enjoyment, pleasure, and interest are examples of a positive emotional outcome. Intrinsic motivation, which is driven by positive attributes, is said to give more impact than external motivation. The need to pass an examination is an example of external motivation. Lamb (2004, in Bower [27]) stated that the need to interact through a global perspective has overridden the need to be interested in the target language, in this case, English culture.

4.6 Challenges faced by teacher F

Different from the other five teachers, Teacher F taught in a vocational school in a big city in Papua, Indonesia. In general, she did not face too many problems. There were three big problems that she thought hindered learning, which were students’ motivation, the Internet connection, and the curriculum. In dealing with the Internet connection, Teacher F admitted that there was nothing she could do. She just hoped that the connection would get better and the provider would soon handle the recurring trouble and could provide a good, stable connection. About the curriculum, Teacher F mentioned that she could not do anything either, since it was decided by the central government. The time given for English lessons was far from enough. It was only a 2-hour lesson for grade 10 each week, or approximately 80 minutes per week. Grade 11 and 12 students got a 3-hour lesson per week, which means 3 times 40 minutes, or 120 minutes (2 hours) per week. “During this pandemic, one lesson hour is even shorter than that,” Teacher F explained. Time to learn this international language was very limited.

There were some efforts that Teacher F had done in dealing with motivation. First, she gave special guidance to students who had low achievements. She gave them special attention and was willing to give extra lessons outside of the school hours if needed. Besides that, she also tried to remind the students about the importance of learning English. The last effort that she did was choosing peer tutors to help other classmates who were weak and had difficulties in learning. The teachers’ problems and the solutions are summarized in Table 3.

InitialsProblems encounteredSolutions
Teacher A (M)Students’ difficulties in understanding instructionsAsking students to make a word list; asking students to create dialogs; using Bahasa Indonesia; giving questions that require critical thinking
Teacher B (M)Low literacy skills, language barriers, socio-cultural problemsConsulting with the Headmaster and other teachers
Teacher C (M)Students’ academic competence (below average); students’ financial condition; students’ low motivationOne-Day English, English-Speaking Area
Teacher D (F)Language barriers; students’ low academic performanceUsing Grammar Translation Method (GTM) in teaching
Teacher E (F)Students’ low competence in English; students’ financial conditionMotivating the students
Teacher F (F)Internet connection; students’ motivation; curriculumGuiding low-achieving students; reminding students of the importance of English; conducting peer tutorial

Table 3.

Summary of the teachers’ problems and solutions.


5. Conclusion

From all the teachers’ narratives about the difficulties and solutions they implemented, several conclusions can be drawn. First, every teacher has their own way to teach and adjust their way of teaching in this pandemic era. Secondly, it has to be noticed that every solution should be adjusted with the class situation. No methods are the best methods. The teacher is the one who knows the situation best, and all methods should be adjusted with the class situation.

The next conclusion is that no matter what the students’ family conditions are, teachers need to keep motivating these students. Motivation is one of the key factors that determine students’ success in their language learning. It is like fuel that keeps vehicles running. Without motivation, language learners will lose their spirit to learn and may come to a stagnant point.

The research questions in this study have thus been answered and summarized in Table 3. This study, however, has its limitations in terms of the number of participants and coverage of topics. There were only six participants, and the discussion focused on the teachers’ problems and solutions. Future researchers can include more participants and delve into more complex topics like teaching media or teaching techniques.



A.1 Questionnaire for teachers

Dear Respondents, please answer the following questions. The answers can be written in Indonesian or English. Thank you.

  1. Where do you teach? How many students do you have?

  2. Please describe your students’ academic abilities in general.

  3. Please describe your students’ economic condition in general.

  4. How are your students’ abilities in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English?

  5. What obstacles do you face in teaching English? Please put a checkmark (√).

    1. Inadequate school facilities.

    2. Bad Internet connection.

    3. Low English competence of the students.

    4. The low motivation of the students.

    5. Your low motivation in teaching.

    6. Other problems:

  6. What steps do you take to deal with these problems?

  7. What things motivate you the most in teaching?

  8. What things demotivate you the most in teaching?

Please complete the table about your data.

NameTeaching experiencesExperiences teaching English in your current schoolEducational background


  1. 1. UKEssays. “The three circle model of world Englishes. 2018. Available from:
  2. 2. Hays, J. (2015). Bahasa Indonesian, 730 other languages in Indonesia. Available from:
  3. 3. Cahyono, Erwin, Syafitri, & Susilo. Ethnicity, migration, and entrepreneurship in Indonesia. Journal of Indonesian Applied Economics. 2021;9(1):1-12
  4. 4. EF Kids Teens. (2020). Kemampuan bahasa Inggris Indonesia terendah di dunia. Benarkah? Available from:
  5. 5. Warta (2019). Waduh, Indonesia termasuk negara dengan penguasaan Bahasa Inggris rendah. Available from:
  6. 6. Kholid I. Motivasi dalam pembelajaran bahasa asing. English Education: Journal Tadris Bahasa Inggris. 2017;10(1):61-71
  7. 7. Smpn 8. (2019). Hambatan pengajaran Bahasa Inggris, bagaimana mengatasinya? Available from:
  8. 8. Matsukawa, S. (2011). Three Circles of English. Available from:
  9. 9. Ashraf TA. Problems of teaching overcrowded EFL classes in Saudi Arabia. Language in India. 2021;21(1):81-98
  10. 10. Kdirbaeva G, Usenova V. Challenges in teaching and learning EFL at Karakalpak schools (in the example of Nukus public schools). Ilkogretim Online-Elementary Education Online. 2021;20(3):1606-1616
  11. 11. Madalińska J, Bavli B. Challenges in teaching English as a foreign language at schools in Poland and Turkey. European Journal of Teacher Education. 2018;41(5):688-706. DOI: 10.1080/02619768.2018.1531125
  12. 12. Sirisha I. Everyday problems in teaching English language to young learners. Language in India. 2018;18(6)
  13. 13. Finegan E. Language: Its Structures and Use. 5th ed. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth; 2008
  14. 14. Vierra RT. The importance of vocabulary knowledge in the production of written texts: A case study on EFL language learners. Revista Tecnologica ESPOL – RTE. 2016;30(3):89-105
  15. 15. Tabatabaei O, Pourakbari AA. An investigation into the problems of teaching and learning English in the Isfahan Province high schools, Iran. Journal of Language Teaching and Research. 2012;3(1):102-111
  16. 16. Nath M. Problems in teaching English in secondary schools in North Tripura District. Language in India. 2017;17(7):1-114
  17. 17. Shah AA. Problems of teaching and learning of the English language at the UG level: An experimental study. Language in India. 2018;18(6):342-347
  18. 18. Panchal RB, Phil M. Problems of teaching English in primary schools of Gujarat. Language in India. 2019;19(5):443-448
  19. 19. Taher GMA. Language of opportunity, but not well taken care of: Motivational factors affecting English language instruction secondary level in Bangladesh. Language in India. 2018;18(5):1-6
  20. 20. Teevno RA. Challenges in teaching and learning of English at the secondary school level – class X. Journal of Educational Research. 2011;14(1):135-140
  21. 21. Kabir SMS. Methods of data collection. In: Basic guidelines for Research: An introductory approach for all disciplines. 1st ed. Chittagong, Bangladesh; 2016. pp. 201-276
  22. 22. Leung L. Validity, reliability, and generalizability in qualitative research. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Case. 2015;4(3):324-327
  23. 23. Syahla Z. Uji validitas dan reliabilitas penelitian kualitatif. 2021. Available from:
  24. 24. Sasongko G. Pekerja anak yang dilarang yang digadhang. UKSW, Salatiga, Indonesia: Pidato Pengukuhan Jabatan Guru Besar dalam Ilmu Ekonomi Pembangunan pada Fakultas Ekonomia dan Bisnis UKSW. Professorship Inauguration Speech; 2021
  25. 25. Biro Pusat Statistik (BPS). (2021). Persentase dan jumlah anak usia 10-17 tahun yang bekerja menurut provinsi (Persen), 2018-2020. Retrieved from:
  26. 26. UNICEF. Situasi anak di Indonesia. Jakarta: UNICEF Indonesia; 2020. Available from:
  27. 27. Bower K. Explaining motivation in language learning: A framework for evaluation and research. The Language Learning Journal. 2019;47(4):558-574

Written By

Listyani Listyani

Submitted: 20 December 2021 Reviewed: 31 January 2022 Published: 30 April 2022