While concern is still present regarding the Indonesian government dropping IT (Information Technology and Communication) in its curriculum since July 2013, there’s some good news: the Indonesian government has chosen to embrace technology in the public education system.
Starting from the next school year in July, five high schools in the country will implement a full online learning program – the purpose of which is to stop teenagers from dropping out of Indonesia’s upper high school system.
Each year approximately five million students (both middle and high school graduates) do not continue their education. The implementation of this new platform means that some students can even get their high school degree without ever setting foot on campus.
Indonesian schools face many problems with regard to getting students to continue their education due to obstacles such as financial problems, long distances between school and home, or because of a lack of parental support. The government will offer a number of incentives to students participating in the new program, among them are scholarships, pocket money, tablet PCs, and even laptops. The government will also put operational money into the participating schools.
The five public schools to implement this are:
- SMA Negeri 12 Merangin (Jambi, East Java)
- SMA Negeri 2 Padalarang (Bandung, West Java)
- SMA Negeri 1 Kepanjen (Malang, East Java)
- SMA Negeri 1 Gambut (Banjar, South Kalimantan)
- SMA Negeri 1 Narmada (West Nusa Tenggara)
As of now, the Indonesian government along with authorities have only released details about the new program as it relates to one school; SMA Negeri 1 Kepanjen. The remaining four schools are expecting to implement their own online programs similar to the first school. SMA Negeri 1 Kepanjen will receive IDR 400 million (US$35,000) for operational costs and IDR 200 million (US$17,500) to build infrastructure to support online learning, for example, the construction of a building which could house those who come to learn. That school is allocating scholarships and facilities to 200 students, but it’s open to receive 800 more students who are willing to pay for the program. The SMA Negeri 1 Kepanjen School has prepared 51 tutors for the new program. The school headmaster says that while most of the learning process takes place online, there is still the likelihood that students need to meet tutors from time to time.
Akin to regular classroom-bound students, regular exams will be held each semester for the online students, even sitting for the nationals as well. Certification for graduates who have completed said course will be equivalent to regular graduating students. It will be the duty and responsibility of the schools to ensure the students actually spend time studying in this new system. The headmaster says that they will record and monitor all online learning activities. Those who do not take the maximum use of this opportunity will face expulsion from the program and their place will be substituted with those willing to learn.
Online learning programs in the schooling system in Indonesia are mostly run by universities of which Terbuka University and Bina Nusantara University take precedence. There’s also a surge of Indonesian startups trying to get people to try elearning, such as HarukaEdu, Zenius, and Sibejoo. Among these, Zenius is quickly gaining popularity.
Zenius gives Indonesian students a new way of learning by providing them with fun yet effective educational material.
That’s the idea behind Zenius; Simple, powerful and efficient. Founded by Sabda P.S. and Medy Suharta and launched in 2007, it’s an online learning platform that aims to promote critical thinking and scientific knowledge as an affordable way to improve the quality of education in Indonesia.
As Wisnu O.P.S., CEO of Zenius, explains, Indonesia’s education system isn’t exactly optimal: There are approximately 60 million school-age children in Indonesia. As such, traditional teaching methods involving teachers catering only to a small number of students per year is inefficient and degrades the quality of education. We believe that information technology will enable us to bring quality teaching to students nationwide at a significantly lower cost. Prepping for national exams as an online learning platform, Zenius provides video content and exercises for elementary to senior high school students. The subjects provided on Zenius are those tested in national examinations. This could help the nation’s students prepare for these important exams. Some youngsters have even committed suicide because of failing this tricky test. To ace the examinations, many students have taken extra courses outside schools.
Zenius is an alternative to cram classes. To access the content, students can either be a regular member or a premium member. Regular users can only access limited content on Zenius, while premium members, in addition to getting all the materials, will get content updates and special promos. Premium accounts can be activated by purchasing a Zenius voucher, which provides between one-month access to a year. The voucher is also available in physical form, which can be bought from authorized resellers.
Currently Zenius has more than 90,000 members accessing its content. Watching educational videos on Zenius is like attending classes but without the pressure and anxiety that students might face in schools.
Wisnu adds: “There are lots of multimedia learning products in the market, but few of them are really useful… we’ve been providing our students with a great learning experience, and we plan to do it better”.
Enabling offline learning too Indonesians constantly face the issue of limited internet access. To overcome this, Zenius also provides its video content in form of CDs and DVDs, which can be bought online or via authorized resellers spread across many cities in the country. Recently, Zenius launched its new website for learning English, which will provide premium subscriptions in the near future.
Now interestingly, isn’t Indonesia’s situation quite similar to Sri Lanka? Here, too, we face high student:teacher ratios, often gruelling exams, and what seems to be an ever-increasing tuition culture. Interestingly, we already have taken steps in e-learning – case in point, the BIT and FIT VLE’s (Virtual Learning Environments) that, while outdated, still perform their primary functions. With the ever-increasingly access to internet and IT literacy, perhaps this – e-learning – will the next frontier for education suppliers islandwide. In fact, we’ve already seen a few begin – take Lankantutor, for example, a YouTube-based alternative to tuition being maintained by a few young students. However, we’re still waiting for education services to evolve beyond static lectures and take advantage of the Internet.
One can only hope.