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"Education is an investment, not a gift."

Article - April 4, 2012
Students emerge from the Putera Sampoerna Foundation's academies equipped with knowledge, leadership skills, and an understanding of their social responsibilities
For the students enrolled at its academies, the Putera Sampoerna Foundation is their ticket to a first class education. Many of them will seek to complete their education in the United States and other countries.

They will be equipped with the academic qualifications, confidence, and entrepreneurial spirit needed to launch successful careers. And, if the Foundation achieves its goal, they will also emerge from its academies with a socially committed mindset, understanding that they are expected to make a contribution to society and help shape Indonesia’s future.

For the Foundation, the donors, and partners who provide support, and for the students themselves, their education represents an investment.

The students agree to contribute and fund the next generation through Siswa Bangsa Cooperatives once they graduate and start their career, but their commitment is much more than merely financial.   

Other than in military academies, boarding school education is unusual in Indonesia, but Putera Sampoerna sees it as essential to the Foundation’s mission to nurture leadership. The ethos of the Foundation’s ‘Pathways to Leadership’ strategy extends beyond developing academic potential to instilling core values, such as moral integrity and a strong commitment to social justice.

“From day one, they are told that this is not a gift just because they are smart. It is an investment in them so that they can invest back.”

Putera Sampoerna, founder of the Putera Sampoerna Foundation
“When we select kids, not only are they academically smart, but we look for leadership potential as well,” says Putera Sampoerna.

“If we did not provide boarding facilities, we could double the number of students. But for me, having the students for three years at boarding school is important. From day one, they are told that their education is not a free gift. It is an investment in them so that they can invest back.”

The Foundation provides various types of financial assistance to students. Scholarships were offered in the past but the Foundation realized that this was not a sustainable model to improve the quality of education in creating future leaders. "If you give scholarships, the kids think that they are entitled to it because they are smart". This is not the reasoning that will produce future leaders and sustain the program. A better way is "to find patrons, like Exxon and the large companies, to basically adopt the kids... they are supporting what I call the assistance portion."

Putera Sampoerna emphasizes the concept of Gotong Royong which means ‘giving back’ so that the existing generation of students will eventually fund the next generation. "Once they enter tertiary education, I expect that assistance portion to keep going". This ‘giving back’ asks students during their profitable working life to contribute 20% of their income to continue supporting the program.

“At first, this may sound a little rough... There is risk involved. If you put it in terms of an investment (in Indonesia's future), then everything changes.”

In addition to a full school day, the students are involved in extra-curricular activity, including community service.

“We have programs which we call ‘Learn to Live’, about how to live with the community around you,” says Nenny Soemawinata, the Foundation’s Managing Director.

Students leave the academies knowing that a lot is expected of them. They are instilled with a clear understanding that they are expected to contribute to the development of the country and their communities.
Ms. Soemawinata says: “Our goal is to create leaders in different fields. We want to make sure that while we have these students we inculcate our values, rights and rituals into them so they can come home and contribute to the country. People say it is a big wish-list, but all of us are very committed and we are working hard to get there.”

The values of the Foundation are clearly reflected in how the children see their future. Typically, they aspire to be doctors, teachers, lecturers, scientists, and the business leaders of tomorrow.

Student Muhammad Nur Siddia ‘Aceh’ wants to become a doctor. “The school provides everything I need to achieve my dream. I would like to continue my education abroad, and become a nerve specialist.”

Dwiki Febri Ristanto shares the same ambition. “I want to be a doctor because many Indonesian people do not get good medical services,” he says.

Another student, Siti Arsyah Rosyada ‘Ocha’, sums up the academies’ ethos in a single sentence: “You have to give something back to the community in everything you do.”