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Jakarta Post

Game changing Indonesia’s education sector

  • Ilham A Habibie, Sachin V Gopalan, Shoeb Kagda and Nalin K Singh


Jakarta   /   Thu, May 14, 2020   /   04:25 pm
Game changing Indonesia’s education sector An Indonesian student takes part on an online class from home by using her laptop and smartphone to chat with teachers for the next two weeks in Jakarta on March 17, 2020, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

For the past decade or so, the foray of the digital economy has hogged headlines around the world. Consumers and investors alike have been bowled over by the likes of Uber, Airbnb, WeWork and closer to home companies such as Gojek and Grab. These companies unleashed not just new business models, but altered consumer behavior in previously unimaginable ways. 

But a new paradigm shift is underway, fueled by the pandemic unleashed by COVID-19. Individuals, companies, industries and governments are waking up to the new reality of social distancing and work-from-home (WFH). Indeed, we may be seeing the start of another principle of the digital economy, which is physical isolation sustained by on-going digital life. Call it substituting the physical, another underlying principle of the digital economy.

According to research, the global pandemic is keeping well over a billion people inside their homes. This is impacting a range of industries, including the education sector, as schools and universities remain shut and students are learning to learn online. Change is underway.

Online education and digitization of learning have leapfrogged 15 years in the first 15 weeks of 2020. Shared thinking by innovators and technologists has resulted in many new education startups that are emerging all over the globe as these companies rush in to fill an emerging need. 

While the impact of COVID-19 on the education sector is clear, the outcome remains uncertain. What is certain is that technology and new behavior patterns will drive change in the sector and may totally revamp how education is consumed and delivered in the future.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made an unprecedented move in October 2019 to shake up the country’s embattled education sector by appointing a digital tycoon as the new education minister. Nadiem Makarim, the founder of Gojek, is the poster boy for Indonesia’s fast growing digital economy and it is hoped that he will be able to inject some much needed innovation and new ideas into the nation’s education sector.

It is not an easy task and the minister has already run up against vested interest groups within the sector.  With 60 million students, 4 million teachers, and 565,000 schools, Indonesia has the largest education system in Southeast Asia and the 4th largest in the world after China, India and the United States. 


The writers are cofounders of the Indonesia Education Forum (IDEF), an independent platform that works with education stakeholders to help better understand the future of learning and how we can get there.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.