Education—Fundamental to Progress
    Category: Column By : Scott Younger Read : 400 Date : Thursday, March 01, 2018 - 23:05:08

    In promoting the issues that are vital to national development, with infrastructure arguably attracting the most prominence in a business perspective, the other key area is education, which has a direct impact on poverty and employment. Healthy and better educated communities make a very significant impact on the overall economy and raise a country’s GDP level. Conversely poverty and unemployment have a very negative effect. Apart from generating an aura of hopelessness for those caught in the trap, sometimes this can lead to social unrest, as has long happened across the world.

    A key issue across the archipelago concerns the large number of communities that lack not just basic hard infrastructure but access to early education. The result is that too much of the population is deprived of the important opportunities to early brain development. It is more than good nutrition, which is important, but also of being continually asked and asking questions, stretching the brain, a sponge for ideas from a young child as it grows.

    On the statistical basis, some four million Indonesian children have IQs of 130 and above, classified as gifted to genius. Yet many of even these gifted children are deprived access to proper schooling, so it is easy to see the potential loss to the economy and how much better the country would thrive if elementary education was improved. There is a strong need to pay attention to preschool or nursery training, and upgrade the elementary education that was a prime focus of successive governments from the 1970s. 

    At the other end, in tertiary education, it is pleasing to see that the government has relaxed regulations that has prevented foreign universities from playing an effective role in supporting the need in the country for quality university and college education. Some members of government do understand the need to improve standards, in particular to start raising the standard of university research, as Indonesia’s tertiary education is increasingly going to be benchmarked against other ASEAN countries.

    Furthermore, the adoption and adaptation of the fast moving, across the board, impact of the digital age as manifested in the rising use of AI and robots, is already making its way down into senior high school teaching.

    It is imperative that university degree programs are updated to ensure that their graduates, whose jobs will be affected by rise of the digital age, are introduced to the changes takng place in their classes. In turn, the teaching staff have to become involved with AI as it affects their particular discipline.

    In the above, I have concentrated at each end of the education spectrum. However, it doesn’t mean that there is little to do in the intervening years. The country’s youngsters, given the chance, respond well to the stimulus of good education, as they do anywhere in the world. It is important to provide the challenges of good teaching which, in turn, means that the teaching profession must get the required support.