The coronavirus may have forced Indonesia’s schools to temporarily close, but when they reopen we can be certain that science and technology learning will be firmly back on the government’s education agenda with the nation’s future set to be defined by science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM learning.
As the biggest contributor to the internet economy's growth in Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s tech sector is booming. However its growth is being held back by a shortage of skilled STEM talent, producing only 278 engineers per million people a year.
In response, the Indonesian government has announced plans to enable start-ups to hire foreign staff more easily, which could help plug the gap in the short term. But for the long term, education is the real answer.
The government is already working to boost STEM education by improving teachers’ skills and knowledge through its “Curriculum 2013” program. However, as a young country in which 60 percent of the population is 40 or under, and with rapidly expanding internet connectivity seeing 65 percent of Indonesians online in 2018 compared with 55 percent in the previous year, Indonesia may actually have an ace up its sleeve as it seeks to bolster STEM learning in schools.
Young people’s increasingly easy embrace of technology can help drive forward the early adoption of STEM in a number of crucial ways. Online learning can help Indonesian students learn subjects that aren’t always available at their schools. Of course, there’s no substitute for face-to-face teaching, but where schools, whether through lack of staff or resources, struggle to teach a full range of subjects, such as computer science or advanced mathematics, they can look to online learning platforms to connect students to teachers around the world offering these subjects in virtual classrooms.
By leveraging cloud-based classrooms, supported by staff on the ground in schools, it is possible for Indonesia to move quickly to widen access to internationally recognized, high quality education.
Online tools can also provide the opportunity for Indonesian schools to introduce blended learning. These platforms, which provide teachers with entire subject courses broken down into individual lessons they can plan out, allow them to set tasks and track students’ progress online.
Where schools lack a fully trained teacher in a necessary STEM subject – for example where they might have a physics teacher who must teach biology and chemistry as well due to staff shortage – the course content and lesson plans provided by online platforms can be of great assistance.
Even when a school has fully trained teachers across all STEM subjects, using online tools to flip classrooms greatly reduces the time teachers need to spend on course preparation, marking and reporting, freeing them up to focus their efforts more strongly on teaching in the classroom and guiding the learning experience for students.
For students, this means more face-to-face time with their teachers in class, and with many learning activities done online it means more time in school to collaborate with their peers, all of which helps increase engagement by bringing complex STEM subjects to life.
With Indonesian schools forced to close due to the COVID-19 crisis, this will only further underscore the importance of technology to the education sector as more schools coping with closure turn to online learning.
The capacity of online learning to boost STEM education from an early age can also play a key role in preparing the next generation of Indonesians for the rapidly changing job market they will face.
Students who can access online learning platforms will not only have a new window into STEM learning but also gain practical experience of collaborative, digital technologies that promote self-direction and independence in learning; skills that just like science and maths will be needed to navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the challenges and opportunities it brings.
All around the world artificial intelligence and automation are transforming the job market and rendering many of the jobs we currently know obsolete, while creating new jobs that could not have been imagined before.
If Indonesia’s students are to gain the skills necessary to not only survive but thrive in tomorrow’s world of work, they cannot afford to lose another minute. Every day they are not receiving a quality STEM education is a day they will never get back. Online learning can be a powerful ally for Indonesia’s brilliant young minds as they stand ready to face a world that has just been turned upside down right at the beginning of what could have been – and still can be – a brave new decade.
Regional director Asia of Pamoja Education
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.