ISSN 2477-1686


Vol. 9 No. 17 September 2023


The Right Man in the Right Place, and in the Right Time:

Slamet Iman Santoso



Eko Aditiya Meinarno & Airin Yustikarini Saleh

Fakutas Psikologi, Universitas Indonesia



In the realm of psychological science in Indonesia, whether we are lecturers, researchers, or students, our academic journey often entails the perusal of psychology literature. Within these volumes lies a consistent theme—exploring the foundational elements of psychological theories and schools of thought. The narratives unfurl, tracing the life trajectories of prominent figures, commencing from their formative years, and culminating in shaping their mature philosophies (Hall & Lindzey, 1985). As we delve into these narratives, we assimilate intricate details into our academic assessments. How extensive is the tapestry of these individuals' histories to the extent that their life stories metamorphose into examination questions?


However, amid our scholarly pursuit of global psychological luminaries, a fundamental query emerges: What about the history of psychology within the Indonesian context? Thus far, studies on the history of psychology in Indonesia have yet to be available. While scholars like Sarwono (2004; 2014), Novianti (2000), Meinarno and Ranakusuma (2021), and Meinarno and Saleh (2021; 2022) have made notable contributions, there is still a discernible gap in exploring Indonesian psychological figures.


Understanding the historical backdrop of prominent psychological figures in Indonesia is imperative. It allows us to truly appreciate the evolution of psychology within our nation and acknowledge the invaluable contributions made by these figures to the development of psychology as a discipline in Indonesia. By comprehensively grasping our psychological history, we enhance our insights into the psychological journey within our borders. Moreover, it enables us to pay due homage to the figures who have propelled the discipline forward and, crucially, to forge connections between the past, present, and future of psychology in Indonesia.


Indonesia's Pioneering Figures in Psychology

Slamet Iman Santoso (SIS) (1907-2004) was one such luminary in Indonesian psychology. Born on September 7, 1907, in Kejajar Village, Mount Dieng, Central Java, SIS was a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry. His illustrious career included the development of the neurology-psychiatry department at STOVIA, a high school initially established by the Dutch East Indies government, which would later evolve into the University of Indonesia.


In a landmark address commemorating the First Anniversary of the University of Indonesia (UI) in 1952, SIS expounded on the critical role of psychological examinations in advancing education. He introduced the pivotal principle of "the right man in the right place," emphasizing that individuals with unique talents could receive accelerated education compared to those with merely adequate abilities (Santoso, 1992). This seminal speech laid the cornerstone for psychology as a scientific discipline in Indonesia.


SIS's vision for psychology education found resonance with the then-President of UI, Prof. Dr. Soepomo, S.H., and several other colleagues. Consequently, the establishment of psychology education institutions unfolded progressively. They established a psychology polytechnic institution in 1953. Then, evolving into the Faculty of Psychology by 1961. These developments occurred during Indonesia's independence, commonly called the Old Order (1950-1970) (Meinarno & Ranakusuma, 2021).


A Glimpse into SIS's Educational Ideals 

It is imperative to contextualize SIS's educational philosophy within the socio-cultural milieu of his time, considering how external factors influenced his convictions and shaped his articulation of these beliefs (Meinarno, 2023). Despite his medical background, SIS displayed a profound concern for educational matters, a sentiment rooted in his upbringing. His parents held education in high regard, and SIS recognized the transformative power of learning from an early age. Education, in his eyes, was an illuminating force. His journey, aspiring to become a doctor despite coming from a non-medical family background, was a testament to his unwavering commitment to education (Santoso, 1992).


In broad strokes, SIS's philosophy revolves around education and character development (Santoso, 1979). His seminal speech heralded as the bedrock of psychology education in Indonesia, championed the simultaneous evaluation of intelligence and personal character—an innovative concept in a post-independence Indonesia where discussions on measuring human intelligence were nascent. SIS posited that intelligence assessment could be the foundation for student admissions and the selection of educational staff. He also advocated for tailored education for individuals according to their intelligence levels, emphasizing the need for community-specific schools. He aspired to provide a suitable and beneficial education to the newly independent Indonesian youth in 1945 (Meinarno, 2023).


SIS's vision underscored the urgency of crafting precise psychological assessment tools and pedagogical methods to cater to the diverse needs of these burgeoning student groups. His educational paradigm, rooted in the social landscape of post-independence Indonesia, reflected the nation's demand for a skilled and educated workforce. SIS believed that education's primary mission was to maximize individual potential within the confines of one's capabilities. He envisioned a society where every individual could contribute following their abilities, fulfilling the collective's demands—an aspiration contrasting starkly with the apprehensions of placing "the wrong man in the right place" or vice versa (Santoso, 1992).


Education also bores the responsibility of nurturing individual character, ultimately yielding individuals who embodied intelligence, skill, integrity, self-awareness, and self-respect. Consequently, SIS consistently grounded his philosophy in an educational framework and perpetually reverted to the realm of education in his discourses. Notably, he contended that psychological assessments were essential to categorize individuals based on their intelligence levels, unveiling new facets of self-awareness and avenues for honing students' talents and capacities. This categorization, in turn, enabled educators to devise tailored teaching methodologies aligned with their objectives.


SIS delved further into teaching and educational requisites, emphasizing the significance of language, mathematics, and logic (Santoso, 1976; 1987 [1983]). In his view, these three pillars of knowledge instilled discipline in human thought processes. A disciplined way of thinking compelled individuals to engage with newly encountered information critically, shielded them from illogical pursuits and fortified their judgment regarding situational and contextual variances. This disciplined cognition further translated into consistent behavioral patterns across diverse circumstances, ultimately crafting character virtues that set the stage for virtuous conduct.


In SIS's estimation, character virtues engendered upright and prosperous behavior, compelling individuals to serve as catalysts for societal transformation. Those possessing virtuous character effectively "invited" others to emulate their principled behavior, progressively fostering a community primed for progress.


The Teacher as the Locus

Notably, SIS extended his purview beyond individual self-development, spotlighting the pivotal role of educators. In his address, he delineated the dual roles of schools—firstly, as institutions that fostered intellectual acumen and, secondly, as filters operating in tandem with Darwin's "survival of the fittest" paradigm. SIS astutely recognized that schools often encountered resistance, particularly in executing the latter function. Notably, this resistance directed itself toward an educational system devaluing degrees and prioritizing select criteria. Despite the challenges, he contended that schools employed a relatively lenient "soft filter" compared to the more unforgiving "community filter," which frequently confronted real-life, even life-and-death, scenarios in executing this filtering function.


SIS reiterated the criticality of intelligence measurement in the student selection process, asserting that it served as a bulwark against educational chaos (Santoso, 1979). He perceived the chaotic state of education as stemming from a need for more direction and concerted efforts. Schools were, regrettably, commodified and transformed into experimental tools. Notably, SIS posited that employing psychological assessments to measure intelligence was the sole remedy to avert educational tumult. Such measurements facilitated the categorization of individuals based on their intelligence levels, thus presenting an avenue for societal advancement—a perspective profoundly influenced by the evolution of intelligence measurements in the United States since the 1910s.


It is essential to underscore that SIS's thoughts on classifying and educating individuals according to their intelligence levels differ from contemporary inclusive education practices. This distinction presents an intriguing avenue for further scholarly exploration.



In retrospect, Slamet Iman Santoso recognized education's solemn duty: fully cultivating individual potential feasible within one's capabilities. In this manner, individuals could manifest the ideal of "the right man in the right place" across myriad contexts. Departing from his life experiences, he carved a niche in the annals of psychology history, emerging not merely as "the right man in the right place" but as a figure ordained by destiny to be "the right man in the right time."




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