The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesian institutions of higher education must produce graduates who can compete in a fast-changing global marketplace, soon to include the Asia Pacific Free Trade Area (AFTA) which takes effect next year, according to Minister for National Education Malik Fadjar.
Malik said on Sunday that campuses, as prominent sources of a high-quality pool of human resources, play a central role in a country's development.
""If campuses are able to nurture better graduates, we are optimistic that Indonesia can compete with other countries under the scheme of AFTA,"" he said, as quoted by Antara.
Malik was speaking while inducting Sahabuddin Mustafa as rector of Tadulako University in Palu, the capital of Southeast Sulawesi.
According to Malik, his ministry had suggested that campuses should focus on upgrading students' intellectual abilities, their command of English, along with their creative thinking.
""This would also be our priority in a bid to narrow the quality gap in human resources between Indonesia and other countries,"" he said.
Malik's statement should serve as a wake-up call for many political parties concerned with the quality of Indonesia's workforce and educational systems.
In the year 2000, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) recorded Indonesia as having a poor quality of human resources, ranking the country 107th out of 174.
Indonesia is ranked below even several other Southeast Asian countries in terms of human resources. Singapore tops the list in the region at number 24, ahead of Malaysia (64), Thailand (76), the Philippines (77), and Vietnam (108).
The latest survey, conducted by the Singapore-based Political and Economics Risk Consultancy (PERC), at the end of 2001 ranked Indonesia's education quality at the bottom of 12 countries surveyed.
Narsito, a lecturer at the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, revealed another gloomy picture for the country's academicians, saying that the world at large has little awareness of the work of Indonesian researchers.
""Many research projects have been carried out by Indonesians -- but none of them are internationally recognized,"" said Narsito.
He attributed this to the fact that, overall, the scientific environment here has not been very supportive of Indonesians seeking to produce world-class research.