The Jakarta Post
It was a fun, engaging and inspiring moment. It was Youth Speak! Fun Day, an event in which thousands of school students showcased their mastery of English language skills in varying ways — through singing, rapping, dancing, debating, reciting and numerous other English-based competitions.
“Yes, learning English can be really easy and fun. The series of workshops, competitions, performances and games not only covered the four basic language skills — listening, reading, writing and speaking, but also increased students’ self confidence and teamwork abilities in a relaxed and fun atmosphere,” explained Yulia Herawati, executive director of The JakartaPost Foundation.
The participation figures have proven that the efforts to create an English language environment outside the classroom through organizing the Youth Speak! Fun Day have been well received by students, teachers and parents alike, Yulia added.
On Saturday, Feb. 9, around 4,000 junior and senior high school and vocational school students from Greater Jakarta flocked to the Tennis Indoor Stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta, to participate in Youth Speak!
“It has been great to be here with thousands of bright and talented students. I really hope that students use this rare opportunity to improve their English skills. Mastering English and technology is the gateway to the world,” said Roy Suryo, the newly appointed youth and sports minister, during his first public appearance at the opening of Youth Speak! Fun Day.
The Jakarta event wrapped up the year-long Partnership for Education between The Jakarta Post Foundation, Chevron Indonesia and the Education and Culture Ministry in implementing the Newspaper in Education (NIE) programin 100 senior high schools in 23 cities in nine provinces, namely Riau, North Sumatra, West Java, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Central Java, East Java, Bali and East Kalimantan, starting from January 2012 through to January 2013.
Youth Speak! Fun Days were also held in Denpasar in Bali, Balikpapan in East Kalimantan and Pekanbaru in Riau province.
Under the partnership, more than 30,000 students took part in various workshops and competitions such as the Youth Leadership Forum, young entrepreneurship workshops, English debates, spelling bees, essay competitions, news reading, photography, poster making, fashion design, songwriting and music, and Scrabble.
Started in the 1930s in America, NIE is a long-established global education initiative, which brings together the media industry, governments, private sector, non-profit organizations and individuals in fostering reading interest and English literacy skills among students and young people all over the world by using newspapers as learning sources.
The Jakarta Post started its NIE program in 2007 with the establishment of The Jakarta Post Foundation. Currently, the Foundation, supported by local and international corporations, has reached out to more than 40,000 students and 5,000 teachers across the country through its NIE Program.
Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, chief editor and a member of the Post’s board of directors, said the paper’s commitment was to be part of educating the nation and nurturing future leaders by promoting English proficiency among the country’s youth.
“There is no short-cut to mastering the English language or other foreign languages. And in order to really improve you must learn the language everywhere and every day by reading books, newspapers, listening to music and songs and other means of social media,” he said while addressing thousands of participating students at Youth Speak! Fun Day in Denpasar and Balikpapan.
The four events were clear evidence of the students’ enthusiasm for learning and mastering the English language.
Mika Sundari, a 15-year-old student of SMK 4 vocational school in Denpasar, and her friends Meri and Satya enrolled in the preliminary English debate competition in Denpasar.
“This competition is very important for us to hone our debating skills and knowledge. We’ve been in the competition before but no luck yet. This time, we will work hard to reach the final in Jakarta,” Sundari said.
The final of the English debate will be fully supported by the Embassy of the United States in Jakarta in early March 2013.
Kristen F. Bauer, the US Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, told the enthusiastic students last week that being able to speak and to master the English language was more and more important in this increasingly globalized world.
“The US Embassy here encourages young Indonesians to learn English so they can have access to better educational opportunities,” she said to the cheering young audience.
Agung Ridwan Syahputra, a student at SMA 1, said his reason for learning English was to get a scholarship to study abroad.
For Agung and all participating students, “Youth Speak! Fun Day is an English language festival, which is a great vessel for us to express our voices and thoughts in English in a way that is both correct but also fun,” he said.
“I used to be a member of my school’s debating team but now I am taking part in the song lyric competition with my original composition titled ‘The Way’,” said Agung, the runner-up winner of the national English debating competition held in Malang in 2012.
Javier La Rosa, Chevron Indonesia’s general manager of strategy and business planning, representing Chevron Indonesia’s president, said that as the largest energy producer in Indonesia, Chevron had embraced education as one of the focusesof the company’s social investment programs.
“We believe that education is the foundation for the development of skilled human resources, toward a better future for Indonesia,” La Rosa said.
He further stressed why education and English language skills were so important for progress as a nation.
Hamid Muhammad, director of secondary education at the Education and Culture Ministry said he was hoping that the Partnership for Education between his ministry, The Jakarta Post Foundation and Chevron Indonesia would continue.
“This partnership must continue and involve many partners, students, teachers, community members for the good of Indonesia’s younger generations,” he said.
Youth Speak! Fun Day had emerged as an exemplary forum for the youth of the country to channel their aspirations, their voices, creativity and togetherness in positive and enriching activities, he concluded.