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Major overhaul in education in sight

Article - October 3, 2011
Greater investment and stronger international links planned 
PARTICIPATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDONESIA IS RISING AND PROJECTED TO REACH 25% OF THE POPULATION BY 2014
In keeping with the continued growth of educational standards throughout Southeast Asia, Indonesia is no exception. The government has increased appropriation to the sector to around 20% of its GDP, estimated at some $21billion. While a sizeable figure, this is a sizeable nation of some 245 million people, whose educational infrastructure is being targeted for a major overhaul. With participation in higher education estimated at around 19%, the government understands the importance of ensuring more students attend institutes of higher learning in order to increase the speed at which it becomes a knowledge-based economy.  The current projection is to ensure 25% participation by 2014.

The current trend indicates that studying overseas is still attractive to many Indonesian students. An estimated 65,000 students are currently working towards bachelor, masters and Ph.D qualifications. Scholarships are available which allow some of its brightest students to achieve prestigious international qualifications. This of course represents an issue to the government with the so-called brain drain effect, whereby the nation loses its most gifted academics to the international community on graduation.

According to Deputy Minister for Education, Dr. Fasli Jalal, countries such as China and Australia are popular locations for study, whereas students going to the U.S. have almost halved due to more stringent visa restrictions following 9/11 and rising costs.

However, under President Obama’s U.S. Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, education has been singled out as a priority. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta has been tasked with doubling the number of Indonesian students, studying in the U.S. by 2014.
STUDENTS COMING TO STUDY IN INDONESIA CAN APPLY FOR A ONE-YEAR SCHOLARSHIP TO LEARN ABOUT THE LANGUAGE AND CULTURE AHEAD OF EMBARKING ON A DEGREE COURSE

The corporate community has been quick to get involved as well. Last December, the ExxonMobil Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to support the U.S. Indonesia Council for Higher Education Partnership, further to a meeting between President Obama and Indonesian President Yudhoyono.

Dr. Jalal is keen to highlight that students coming to study in Indonesia can apply for a one-year scholarship that offers international students the opportunity “to learn about the language and culture as a preparation to go to whatever degree they choose.”

While the public sector will play an integral role, private higher educational institutes currently outnumber public at a ratio of 3:2. Like many of its ASEAN neighbors, Indonesia is aware of the importance of attracting foreign campuses and has already commenced talks with institutes in Australia, the Netherlands, France and U.S.

Rather than rushing into investing heavily in the higher education sector, the Ministry of Education has committed the bulk of its budget to developing primary and secondary education first. While there are currently 36 million students annually completing Indonesia’s compulsory nine-year education program, only around 1.2 million continue into higher learning. Nevertheless it is the government’s aim to ensure that university graduates form at least 25% of the total national labor force by 2025.

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