Enhancing education for vulnerable and intersectional communities in Indonesia

This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2021, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to Gender and Diversity, Green Recovery, and Emerging Economies.

Effective societal development requires a strategy that addresses issues from their core. For instance, inequity in access to education has been a key long-standing problem—for both men and women in Indonesia. Creating a smarter society capable of managing disruption demands education quality and equity be improved. As a developing country, Indonesia must alter not only the substance of curriculum but also how it is distributed and sustained.

To achieve such improvement, we must challenge traditional values. A significant number of families in rural areas adhere to cultural traditions where females are motivated to quit school at an early age to marry or work in low-income jobs. Even though boys might pursue higher education, they most likely remain trapped in low quality and narrow job prospects. This is an omnipresent cycle that harms the future generation. This situation threatens human rights, mental health, economics, and equality. According to World Bank Group statistics report, women are the most susceptible to discrimination at work. In order to ascertain the long-term equity and well-being through quality education, there are several steps to take. Involving activists, entrepreneurs, educators, communities, and governments, the following are recommendations that could be embodied.

The first step is to collect demographic data on marginalised and remote areas in Indonesia. This can centre on gaining gender-disaggregated information about decisions to attend school and the number of school years completed among children and young people. This would allow for the  allocation of stimulus, sponsorship, infrastructure, and volunteers to the right communities. Areas with the poorest levels of education and intersectional equity should be prioritised. Besides, vocational and university education should be the new level target, given that competencies earned from high education work to support greater professional opportunities.

Furthermore, according to the Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS) 2014 research, students’ achievement on competencies declined between 2000 and 2014. Many youth organisations conduct volunteering programs that seasonally help to raise the quality of education. But many of them are short-term. To ameliorate this situation, projects must be made long-term, and thus need extra funding from the government and private sponsors. This also means funding education up to tertiary education and capacity-building. 

Equity should be enhanced through two lenses. First, the substance of education should be re-evaluated. Prevalent stereotypes about ethnicity, culture, and gender, should be removed from educational materials. In Indonesia, issues between immigrants and indigenous people are rare. However, biases between ethnicities and genders are still relevant. The government should task researchers and diversity advocates with removing bias from the new curriculum. Second, equal opportunities to reach high quality education is critical to enable students to pursue the same standard of education, and to choose the field that they prefer. For instance, females must receive equal opportunity to pursue education and careers in STEM and other underrepresented fields. The youth supported in this program will be taught to have cultural and local intelligence, so in addition to global awareness, they can help develop their own local communities. 

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social enterprises should operate on empowering the children and young people they help through career and professional training opportunities. The youth can be assisted in creating small businesses, allocating them in partner companies according to their soft skills. It depends on the career path they choose. This way, young people will be empowered with greater opportunities and skills. They will as well be placed in the management sector as the output of training.

Finally, the government needs to ensure that increasing access and equity in education is its top priority. It should develop this into a legal framework and continue to monitor and evaluate progress. This will ensure clear policies around equality and education, while demonstrating its indispensability and the most effective way to achieve them.

This article was written by Alifia Afflatus Zahra, edited by Aasha Sriram, and reviewed by the AASYP Publications Team.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse.

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