Indonesian students need to revolutionize their learning approach to compete as multinational companies battle it out to lure the top talent from emerging markets, experts contend.
In 2008, the German chemicals giant Henkel created an international business game called the Henkel Innovation Challenge. The task for participants in this year’s competition was to develop a concept for an innovative and sustainability-related product according to the vision and market needs in 2050.
Eighteen student teams, each consisting of two students, from all over the world were summoned to develop innovative ideas for one of the company’s business areas: home care products, beauty care products and adhesive technologies.
This year marks the second time that teams from Indonesia are participating in the competition. Last year, a team from the University of Indonesia won third prize during the HIC 5 Southeast Asia National Finals. The students, Rena Carissa and Wiwin Wijaya, came up with an idea for a dry-cleaning shampoo, suitable for all hair types, that would dry upon usage, without the need to rinse with water.
This year, however, no Indonesian teams managed to replicate the success.
“In selecting the teams for the Southeast Asia Finals, we use strict evaluation criteria which include uniqueness of the idea, customer orientation and clarity and logic of the idea concept,” Allan Yong, the president of Henkel Indonesia, told the Jakarta Globe in a written statement.
“[The Indonesian] team submitted a very good concept, but we later found that the idea was not original. After much deliberation, we decided not to send a team from Indonesia.”
Utomo Dananjaya, an education expert at Paramadina University in Jakarta, said the problem lay with the country’s education system for failing to properly nurture its students’ creativity.
“Our education system heavily relies on memorizing texts. It doesn’t let the students’ ideas flow, and it dampens their creativity,” he said.
Memorization as a learning method is outdated and should be replaced with an approach that fosters the students’ creativity, he argued.
The Indonesian education system, Utomo went on, relies on one-way teaching with no interaction. It cultivates the students to be obedient, to regurgitate what the teachers say and does not allow them to think outside the box, he said.
“How can a student breed an original idea if, in order to excel in university, what they do in class is to memorize?” he said.
To prepare talented Indonesian youths to compete in the global market, what the nation needs is an education reform that strongly emphasizes reasoning and allows the students to think critically, and not simply to memorize.
“Then they are ready for work in a global environment,” Utomo said.
Sumarjono Suwito, the chairman of the Indonesian International Education Consultants Association, said corruption was also hampering developments in the national education sector.
The government has allocated Rp 286.85 trillion ($30.4 billion) for education this year, or 20 percent of the state budget, but no major changes have been made.
“The problem with education in Indonesia is that we don’t know where this money is going,” Sumarjono said.
He also stressed that the level of innovation in Indonesia was still low. He said it was regrettable that the government had overlooked the importance of the research and development sector.
“Look at how many of our bright minds have migrated overseas because they’re not supported in their own country,” Sumarjono said.
He added that to succeed economically, Indonesia should place greater emphasis on research and development.