There is continuing interest in the notion of learner autonomy, both as an effective means and valid goal of a language learning curriculum. However, the concept is recognised as emanating from Western tertiary educational contexts and as open to question in different sociocultural settings. This paper reports on a study of language learning attitudes and activity among adolescents in provincial Indonesia, during their first year in junior high school. Combining questionnaire, interview and classroom observation data, the study found that even younger learners are already learning English independently of their teacher's prescriptions, both inside the classroom and outside formal school. Their openness to the increasing learning opportunities in the local environment is often not recognised in local curricula, however, which instead impose a rigid diet of language items transmitted by teachers and their textbooks and assessed in national exams. In this local context, it seems that the promotion of appropriate forms of learner autonomy is essential if the majority of school pupils are not to be frustrated in their struggle to learn English
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