Building a Bridge between Academic World and Industries

Being highly educated does not necessarily guarantee that one lands a job easily. In fact, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) as of February 2018 the unemployment percentage of those with university background is 6.31%, which is higher than that of elementary school graduates (2.67%) and junior high school graduates (5.18%). As stated by Statistics Indonesia, the percentage of university graduates hired by employers is only around 12%. Left unsolved, the problem will affect the nation’s future.

What is the root cause? And how does Sampoerna School System contribute to solving this national issue?

To address this, Marshall Schott (Chief Academic Officer of Sampoerna School System) talked with Desi Anwar of CNN Indonesia. Schott has had vast experience in higher education field. He has worked in the field for 18 years, at the University of Houston and Lonestar College prior to having joined Putra Sampoerna Foundation since 2015 to handle its strategies and operations.

What is your take on education in Indonesia which still requires a lot of improvement, in terms of human resource quality and low absorption rate of university graduates to constantly-changing curricula?

We see the administration has recognized the importance of education reform to support economic development which as consulting firm McKinsey puts it will be one of the 10 biggest economies in the world. Increasing the proportion of education budget to 20% of the Indonesian Budget (APBN) also signs such recognition.

Meanwhile, in reality there is a mismatch between curricula and current needs of job market.

What the government is suggested in order education reform to be realized is to build a quality framework among education, business and industry; improving relevance between curricula and job market; and improving teacher quality.

How is the role of teacher evolving now when knowledge is easily accessible?

Teachers have multiple and complex roles which can be unbundled. In the technology age, they play a role of facilitator – they no longer serve as the sole source of knowledge.

How do you prepare Indonesian children unfamiliar with this facilitating role of teacher?
We do this by running National Educator Conference every other year. Our focus in the conference is the importance of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts Mathematics) education. Thanks to USAID grant, we designed a program to attract teachers from all over Indonesia and showed them how to apply technology in classes in a more attractive and effective manner.

What can really affect Indonesian education?

We propose decentralization and deregulation of higher education. Ministry of National Education is expected to empower institutions with larger authority to improve educational autonomy. When this is achieved, creativity and innovation in solving the nation’s problems will also improve. The applied standard would not only be one. The standard may vary according to circumstances of each university.

With limited resources, there needs to be differentiation between an institution and another. As for institutions educating people with mid-level skills (for instance polytechnics), a different standard from institutions focusing on research, technology, commercialization and world-class leadership applies.

What is ideal education in the 21st century? And what is the true meaning of learning?

Currently the mastery of subjects is no longer adequate. Creative and innovative economy requires various other skills such as 3C (Critical thinking, Collaboration, Communication). Interdisciplinary teaching also helps deveop required skills in creative economy.

Because Sampoerna School System applies a different method from other schools, our classes also look different. In classrooms, students may move if needed depending on a particular project they are working on on a particular day. Teachers play roles of facilitators and guides, providing information to explore. Students are educated to become loife-long learners. Regardless of circumstances, they can still survive in the increasingly-dynamic world, kudos to transferrable skills.

What materials do students need to learn at Sampoerna University?

Interdisciplinary materials with vast foundation become our core materials. What makes us distinct is the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) compulsory classes as 80% of the future jobs will need this competence.

How is the assessment?

Assessment is done continually and cummulative by nature. Final examinations are a part of entire assessment, instead of being the only one factor to determine graduation.

What is assessed is material mastery, task completion, communication skill, determination and participation. Here there must be balance between soft skills and students’ personality growth.

How is all of this taught?

We teach this to use abstract concepts in various contexts. Students must be able to apply various knowledge to varied circumstances.

What type of investment is prioritized considering the limited resources?

With such limited resources, we focus on things that affect students learning results such as technology and infrastructure (classrooms, teachers and learning resources).

Should teachers also upgrade their competence?

This also has been a global challenge. All teachers in this 21st century must improve their quality. I have seen younger teachers are more adaptive in applying technology in classes.

Is it possible to spread such education method throughout the archipelago?

We reach out to remote areas and forge collaborations with teachers and local leaders to apply modern teaching methodology and Cambridge framework which has great quality content.

We are involved in partnerships at elementary schools in areas in Sumatra, East Java and Papua. It is a business partnership between companies and public. Along with these, industries and business are expected to be closer to education.

What is required by employers these days?

Asian Development Bank (ADB) stated that almost 40% of university graduates are unemployed or half-unemployed after 12 months since graduation as there are gaps between curricula and demands of employers.

Sampoerna School System has held two forums in partnership with businesses and industries within the recent six months and discovered that employers are now in dire need of workers with high proficiency of English. Multinational companies need people with adequate English proficiency to work across boundaries, with good communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills, as well as leadership. All these soft skills are different from subjects and skills and thus cannot be taught in classes.

Indonesia has lost jobs to foreign workers who have better English proficiency owing to low competitive edge. Is the current Indonesian generation better?

Potential, talent and motivation are there already. To optimize it all, we apply STEAM system. However, we need to understand that Indonesia is so large that it is a huge challenge to reach them out. Due to that, there must be business and public partnerships in providing scholarships.

Based on the data of Ministry of Finance Indonesia’s, the country is short of 30,000 engineers every year but there is only less than 20% of Indonesian students learn STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics). Armed with STEAM, we do not have to worry about our children being unemployed after graduation.

We are delighted with some initiatives from the administration since 2015 which give us hope. One of them is education internationalization in the country. It is achieved by observing best practices in other countries. Therefore, we will arrive at development acceleration. (*/)