Interview: Anies Baswedan
How would you evaluate current government spending and efforts on education?
ANIES BASWEDAN: Education is the foundation for the progress of any nation. There is no doubt that any real investment in human capital will always yield benefits for the nation. Indonesia has invested significantly in improving primary education, and has achieved many of its goals over the past decades. Today, 94% of the population is literate, which is quite different from 70 years ago. Given the geography and complexity of this country, this is a remarkable achievement. Additionally, in terms of mandatory education, President Jokowi has announced our plans to implement 12 years of mandatory education in Indonesia.
With such positive steps, we remain confident that we will be successful in turning Indonesia into a knowledge-based economy. However, we need to focus on improving the quality of our education system, which will entail three main strategies. Firstly, we will empower actors in the system – teachers, school leaders, parents and students. Secondly, we will continue our efforts to improve quality and access, including increasing the number of high schools and vocational schools in remote areas. Lastly, we will boost the efficiency and effectiveness of bureaucratic procedures in central government and work closely with local authorities.
The government allocated Rp408trn ($33.73bn) for education, out of which Rp250trn ($20.66bn) is being provided to local governments. Therefore, we need to improve governance, efficiency and effectiveness at educational institutions at the local level to ensure that the funds are used properly. In order to achieve this we need better monitoring, which may come through greater involvement by local communities.
What role should the private sector play in developing Indonesia’s education system?
BASWEDAN: Instead of having the government solve all the problems, we should get everyone involved to discuss and find solutions together. We want to form an alliance among stakeholders so that all levels of society share responsibility for our education system. While education provision is legally the duty of the state, it is a moral duty for every educated individual in Indonesia to get involved. With regards to the private sector, we need their involvement, and not necessarily in the form of capital investment, which may come at a later stage, but rather through more initiatives for teachers and principals. This means that firms and business leaders can participate by providing, for example, leadership training programmes. Teachers and principals can bring this valuable knowledge back to the classroom. The ultimate goal of our ministry is to create a movement, so that everyone feels like they are responsible for helping to raise education standards.
What will be the sectors that receive greater attention in terms of developing education?
BASWEDAN: There are two areas that are critical for the development of Indonesia today: tourism and the maritime sector. Moving forward, our ministry will give special attention to these two areas, as we believe the trend of Indonesia’s economic growth will move in this direction and we need to make sure we follow.
For tourism, we are seeing continued developments among the middle class, not only in Indonesia but also across South-east Asia, with higher purchasing power and more time spent travelling. Indonesia is a popular destination for tourists within the region. Therefore, the sector has great economic potential, and we need to ensure that our people are ready to serve the growing number of tourists that will arrive. We will invest more in vocational training for tourism, surpassing traditionally important sectors like energy and agriculture.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s maritime sector has been largely overlooked in recent years. Today, given President Jokowi’s maritime development plans, we see this as another key area that needs greater investment. If we are to achieve our target of becoming a real maritime power, we need to train our people accordingly.
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