Christian Leffler, left, deputy secretary general for economic and global issues at the European External Action Service (EEAS), and Djisman Simandjuntak, right, deputy chairman of the board of directors of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), participate in a panel discussion at Institut Francais d'Indonésie in Jakarta on Wednesday (13/04). (JG Photo/Dhania Putri Sarahtika)

Indonesia Urged to Strengthen Education Partnerships With EU

BY : DHANIA PUTRI SARAHTIKA

APRIL 14, 2017

Jakarta. Senior economist Djisman Simandjuntak suggests strengthening educational partnerships between the European Union and Indonesia, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, to improve the quality of the country's human capital to allow it to better compete in a digitally charged world.

"Europe serves as a very important source of knowledge that we can deploy in pursuing our own development interests in Indonesia. However important market it is for palm oil, footwear, etc.; I think the more important thing is to access the 'brain resources' of Europe," Djisman said during a panel discussion titled "European Union and Indonesia: Ever Closer Partners Facing Joint Economic Challenges" at Institut Francais d'Indonésie in Jakarta on Wednesday (12/04).

Djisman believes in what he called "knowledge-based development" for Indonesia's human resources. He says the country must reach out to provide the required education, because Indonesia has problems with subject availability and the expertise of teachers.

"Education in Indonesia, particularly higher education, is dominated by social sciences, including religious studies, while STEM education is very limited," said Djisman, who is also rector of the Prasetya Mulya Business School.

He highlighted funding, which is vital for research in hard sciences. Twenty percent of Indonesia's state budget is allocated to education, which is distributed to many subsectors, leaving only 0.2 percent for research.

"Research and development expenditure is very low. Even the small expenditure is dominated by the government, rather than corporate sector," said Djisman, who serves as deputy chairman of the board of directors of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

So far, Indonesia and the EU already have ongoing educational partnerships, provided by exchange programs and scholarships at the higher education level.

"There are exchange programs for students, researchers, and university-level teachers. We always want to do more but we're not doing too badly. Last year we had about 9,000 Indonesians who benefited from exchanges to joint university studies or research programs in Europe. We should strive together to increase interest in these exchanges," said Christian Leffler, deputy secretary general for economic and global issues at the European External Action Service (EEAS).

According to EEAS' official website, of the 9,000, Indonesians, 1,600 have studied through scholarships from the EU and its member states. One of the most popular scholarships is Erasmus+, previously known as Erasmus Mundus, for students from developing countries.

Leffler said that European students are also encouraged to go to Indonesia to do part of their research or studies.

However true that Indonesia needs partnerships in STEM studies, the problem does not only lie at the higher education level. Djisman said Indonesia rates low on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report.

The PISA report is a triennial assessment of the reading, mathematics and science proficiency of 15-year-old students around the world, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The latest survey conducted in 2015 involved a sample of around 540,000 students, representing the total of 29 million students from 72 countries. Indonesia improved its rank to 64 from 71 previously.

Indonesia is far behind regional countries such as Singapore and Vietnam, which are both in the top 20.

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