Importance of Education:
Looking Forward to become a Developed Country

On February, US Trade Representative (USTR) just release a new regulation which explain three clause that determined whether a country is developed or not by GNP per capita, world trade contribution, and membership of international economic organization. As the result, US government represented by USTR has decided to remove some countries from the list of developing countries who has an eligibility to special differential treatments (SDT), including Indonesia. This news grasped by most of citizen in Indonesia that their country has evolved to become a developed country, but the actual fact is Indonesia are declared as developed countries in international trade, only in international trade, and even its only approved by US. This might be an achievement, but it does not mean that Indonesia are equalized with the United States, Japan, or other European countries. The removal of Indonesia from the list of developing country practically bring some consequences and subtract some rights as what developing country has, but we are not going to discuss it.
We should realize that this recognition does not necessarily make Indonesia as a developed country. It would take a massive effort to transform Indonesia to become a real developed country. So, what makes a country developed? There are a lot of variables such as Human Development Index (HDI), life expectancy, poverty rates, economic growth, education, health quality and so on. It will takes years to solve all the country problem, and it will not succeed unless the country along with all its parts are committed to achieve the main goal. It is crucial to create a road map with its milestone as a guideline to become a developed country. And for the greater good for us, I believe the journey for becoming a developed country is always start by the human itself.
We can see that there are a lot of countries with less natural resources could stand out independently and become a developed country by rely on their human resource. On the other hand, we can see that there are a lot of countries who has a lot of natural resources but still wrestle against poverty, inequality, poor public health services, poor education, and other developing country problem. Believe it or not, it predominantly caused by the poor human resource. As a wise man said, “It doesn’t matter how many resources you have, if you don’t know how to use them, it will never be enough”, reflected by the condition of Indonesia today. I am sure we have been fed with narratives of Indonesia’s rich natural resources since we were kids, and I am pretty sure some of us have been bored with that. Then, there is a new mindset that should be implanted to our people, that human resource is the new and only key driver to build and empower Indonesia, citizen of Indonesia can no longer be swayed by narratives of natural resource wealth that are not yet real. Without ignoring other factors, the improvement of human quality at least rely on two main factor that adhere human since birth — even from womb — which are health and education. Focus in this two factors will accelerate the development of human resource in Indonesia to empower the wealth of the country.

Education as the Fundamental

Along with health, education is a major factor in realizing the establishment of human resource quality. Unfortunately, Indonesia is not known as a country with a capable education system. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests last conducted by the OECD in 2015 showed that Indonesian students were performing at lower levels in all areas — science, mathematics and reading — than the OECD average. Moreover, Indonesia has a lower literacy levels than those of other Southeast Asian nations. An analysis by World Bank showed that 55 percent of Indonesians who complete school are functionally illiterate, compared with only 14 percent in Vietnam and 20 percent in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Elementary schools student in Indonesia

Indonesia are lack of both quality and quantity of education, proven by the output produced as reported by PISA and World Bank. In addition, education in Indonesia is not evenly distributed, both by distribution number of educational institution by region and number of educational institution by level/degree. There are an imbalance in the numbers of school between school in Java Island compared to other island, but its reasonable due to the difference of population. The problem is the inequality, seen by the common facilities, ratio of teacher compared to student, and the annual result of National Exam (UN) or Government Employees Selection (CPNS) — the result always showed the superiority of human in Java. To be highlighted, the superiority of facilities, human or system in Java does not mean the education in Java has been going well. In December 2014, the former Minister of Education and Culture, Anies Baswedan, stated that the country’s educational performance was so poor and violence within the school system so widespread that the country faced an education “emergency”.
We might be agreed that the education in Indonesia need a changes, not a sudden huge change, but an exhaustive change that strategic, comprehensive, relevant, and measured. Actually, Indonesia has created great steps in improving access to education over the past few years. Indonesian student are starting school earlier and staying in school longer than they ever have before and government gradually increase the compulsory education (wajib belajar) program from 6 years, then 9 years, up to now 12 years. But still, Indonesia has made relatively little progress in improving educational quality and learning outcomes. As everything else changes for the better thing, the changes should be start from the basic. Government cannot create a regulation that force children to attend the school for 12 years unless they can provide the adequate facilities and high-quality teacher. The realization of the compulsory education itself is still far from the expectation, according to Jaringan Pemantau Pendidikan Indonesia (JPPI), most of city/regency in Indonesia still use 9 years instead of 12 years compulsory education. As what cant provided by government, 12 years of education will mean nothing if we still use the current method to handle and develop students.

What should Improve?

If we agreed that the transformation of country to become developed is rely on the human resource, so is education. It should start by the teacher. On 2015, OECD reported that the poor quality of teachers in Indonesia is the main reason behind Indonesia’s poor education. The country should reform and invest in the teaching profession for classroom learning to be more effective and the quality of education in the country to improve. In Indonesia, teacher is not a popular profession, teacher education is not a popular choice where excellent student competing to enter it, being a teacher is the umpteenth choice. If the input is lack of competency and motivation, we cannot expect much for the output. Moreover, Government of Indonesia has identified teacher absenteeism as one of the problems. Briefly, the stigma to the teaching profession needs to be corrected by ensuring the life worthiness of the teachers is guaranteed. To ease the process of learning, government should provide the adequate facilities to support the teacher do their job throughout Indonesia. It will take a lot of cost, but it might be worthy and the only way because if we let the root cause keep going, it will take a more cost, both time and material. Since we could improve the supporting facilities by teacher, we could expect for a better competencies and motivation which will produce qualified teachers.
This teacher quality improvement program will not be succeed unless the government support it thoroughly. Because another problem of the education in Indonesia is the government itself. Lowy Institute analyses the shortcomings of the education system of Indonesia, tracing its failures to “politics and power” rather than a lack of educational funding. A dilemma in Indonesia when the curriculum is changed rapidly as the minister changed, and some of the change consider as an irrelevant change which actually causes confusion among stakeholder in education sector. Moreover, not all previous program will continued by the next minister of education so there are some program which stopped before it done. That is why Indonesia need an exhaustive change that strategic, comprehensive, relevant, and measured that will implemented continuously throughout more than one period of minister. Another point to be highlighted is government should ensure the equality of education among all region in Indonesia. Education in Indonesia tends to be natural selection where people who smarter and richer will eliminate the others, and the one who eliminated will not have any access as what the winner got, they lose even before the competition end. Resulting to an endless poverty cycle.
As long we could create a better system and environment supported by high quality teacher, adequate facilities, and inclusive access I believe we already create the right fundamental for the better education for Indonesia. Last but not least, don’t forget about the main object in education itself, the student. We need an appropriate curriculum that could stimulate student to always learn from everything and everyone, more than what they learn in school. Provide them with a supportive and fair environment where they can develop interests, skills, and talents. Teach them about ethics and respect so they can blend in society accordingly. Remember, we create human not robot, ensure them to become a valuable person to create a civilized society. If we finish with human resource issue, become a developed country is not a dream a wish anymore, it become a realistic goal. As what Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Oslo — Norway, the place I considered a developed country and civilized society