Indonesia Should Broadening Its MBKM Initiative on ASEAN Stage

The labor force landscape in Indonesia reflects a complex reality that encompasses various social, economic and demographic factors.

A Brief Description of Socio-Economic and Education in Indonesia

The labor force landscape in Indonesia reflects a complex reality that encompasses various social, economic and demographic factors. Rapid population growth, high urbanization rates and uneven employment opportunities are some of the issues affecting the work environment in Indonesia.

First, Indonesia’s population continues to grow rapidly. Indonesia’s population is expected to reach around 275 million by 2023. Rapid population growth puts great pressure on the labor force, and the number of people entering the labor market increases every year. In this context, creating enough jobs to meet the needs of the entire working-age population is a major challenge.

Second, strong urbanization is also affecting the working environment in Indonesia. Many rural people migrate to big cities in search of better economic opportunities. However, urban areas are often unable to accommodate large numbers of immigrants due to limited infrastructure and job opportunities. As a result, unemployment and unskilled labor in the informal sector are serious problems.

Furthermore, inequality of employment opportunities is a serious problem in Indonesia’s work environment. Limited employment opportunities in the public sector are an obstacle to increasing the level of social protection. Many companies prefer to use contract or temporary workers to reduce costs and legal obligations. For many workers, this leads to lower access to social protection, lower wages and a lack of job security. There are also economic disparities between urban and rural areas, and decent work opportunities are often concentrated in big cities.

Education in Indonesia faces many problems that affect its quality and accessibility. One of the main problems is the low quality of education. Although the number of schools and enrollment is increasing, the standard of education is still inadequate. Irrelevant curricula and traditional teaching methods are often inadequate to meet the needs of quality education.

In addition, educational disparities between urban and rural areas have become a major problem. Educational facilities in rural areas are limited and often inadequate. As it is difficult to find qualified teachers in rural areas, the academic achievement of students in remote areas is often lower than that of students in urban areas.

Inadequate curriculum and lack of curriculum reform are issues that need to be addressed. Curriculum reforms that are relevant and aligned with the demands of the times, technology and the world of work are key to preparing students to face future challenges.

The emergence of technological developments has had a positive impact on education, but challenges remain when utilizing technology to its full potential. Many schools do not have adequate access to technology, teachers are not used to using educational technology, and digital accessibility for remote students is also an issue.

Funding issues are an obstacle to the development of Indonesia’s education system. Although the education budget has increased in recent years, it remains limited and insufficient to meet the needs for quality infrastructure, teacher training and curriculum development.

An ineffective education monitoring and evaluation system is also a problem in improving the quality of education in Indonesia. The lack of strict monitoring mechanisms and accurate assessments can lead to lower education standards. In addition to inequalities in access, there are also differences in the quality of education between regions in Indonesia. Schools in urban areas generally have better facilities, more qualified teachers and a better learning environment than schools in rural areas. This leads to differences in educational outcomes between urban and rural students. Despite its efforts to increase enrollment, Indonesia still faces the problem of low student enrollment and retention. Influencing factors include poverty, social insecurity and lack of awareness of the importance of education. Many children in Indonesia are forced to drop out of school or struggle to complete their education.

What have been done?  

The Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology currently encourages students to have experience and skills by implementing several programs offered by Merdeka Belajar Kampus Merdeka, one of which is the MBKM internship program. With this MBKM internship, students are asked to do an internship for 6 months or the equivalent of 20 credits and these 20 credits will be adjusted to courses that are in accordance with the majors or fields that students pursue at the university.

The MBKM program is a new policy from the Minister of Education and Culture that has begun to be implemented by universities. The main points of the MBKM policy include: (1) opening of new study programs regulated in ministerial regulation or known as Permendikbud No. 7 of 2020 concerning Establishment, Change, Dissolution of State Universities, and Establishment, Change, Revocation of Permits for Private Universities, as well as Permendikbud No. 5 of 2020 concerning Accreditation of Study Programs and Universities; (2) higher education accreditation system regulated in Permendikbud No. 5 of 2020 concerning Accreditation of Study Programs and Universities; (3) legal entity universities regulated in Permendikbud No. 5 of 2020 concerning Accreditation of Study Programs and Universities. 5 of 2020 concerning Accreditation of Study Programs and Higher Education; (3) legal entity universities regulated in Permendikbud No. 4 of 2020 concerning the Conversion of State Universities into Legal Entity State Universities and Permendikbud No. 6 of 2020 concerning Undergraduate Program Student Admissions at State Universities; and (4) the right to study three semesters outside the study program regulated in Permendikbud No. 3 of 2020 concerning National Higher Education Standards. One of the keys to the success of implementing the MBKM Policy is to make the learning process in higher education more autonomous and flexible, so as to create a learning culture that is innovative, not restrictive, and in accordance with the needs of higher education. In this case, the study program seeks to develop the curriculum by adjusting to the times and producing work-ready alumni in accordance with the expected learning outcomes.

Through this policy, Ministry of Education offers several programs, namely Certified Internships, Independent Student Exchanges, Teaching Campuses and Certified Independent Project Studies. MBKM Internship is one of the programs from Merdeka Belajar Kampus Merdeka implemented by the Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology which uses a course replacement system equivalent to 20 credits which is focused on making students receive a new experience in the world of work with the hope that students can immediately enter the world of work environment after graduation.

On the other hand, over the past few years ASEAN member states have begun to cooperate more closely in the higher education sector, resulting in cooperative agreements to help harmonize and raise the overall standard of higher education in the region. Regionalism, as in Southeast Asia, is also driven by non-state actors. The socio-cultural impact of the ASEAN integration process through the integration of ASEAN University Network (AUN) higher education institutions. Although it is said to be an unintended impact, the existence of AUN as a regionalization of low politics needs attention as a form of ASEAN regionalism. The ASEAN University Network (AUN) is not part of the ASEAN Vision 2020 agreed upon by ASEAN Member States in the Bali Concord and Hanoi Action Plan 2003, but an initiative that emerged as an unintended consequence of educational cooperation in ASEAN. It refers to the regular meetings of Senior Education Officials of member states to create a dedicated network and process to build the AUN blueprint. Within AUN, AUN-Quality Assurance (abbreviated as AUN-QA), is a tool to achieve this goal by joining universities (member or non-member) to a common quality assurance standard.

Way Forward: A Suggestion for Internationalization

Based on the explanation above, it can be seen that there is a dynamic workforce in Indonesia. The ever-increasing population, high urbanization, and uneven job opportunities in the country have significant impacts and concerns for the future of the nation.

Education is the backbone of the nation’s future. Education needs to be a problem solver in the dynamics of the labor force in Indonesia. But in fact, education in Indonesia also experiences similar problems. Apart from the disparity in education between classes of society and the difference between urban and rural education, other problems such as the curriculum are a big challenge. Indonesia’s education curriculum has so far lacked flexibility in dealing with the times.

Currently, the government has attempted to address this issue through the MBKM program. This program connects students in higher education with external parties. External parties are not limited to private companies, but also government agencies through internship programs. Students are also given the freedom to do other activities besides internships, such as independent studies, teaching campuses, and student exchanges.

Taking the example of student exchange, there is the IISMA (Indonesia International Student Mobility Awards) program that sends Indonesian students to experience student exchange abroad. The program of sending Indonesian students to experience abroad has so far only existed in this program.

The author suggests that other MBKM programs also need to be encouraged to be internationalized. Internship, independent study, and teaching campus programs need to be encouraged by the government to create a strong Indonesian workforce, and further integration in ASEAN. Education, in this piece, is a major aspect of nation and regional development in the ASEAN region. Hopefully, the strong integration of higher education in the region will create a conducive regional growth climate and provide equal access to education for all countries in ASEAN.

Yosua S. M. Gultom
Yosua S. M. Gultom
Yosua Saut Marulitua Gultom is a student of International Relations at Universitas Pembangunan Nasional Veteran Jakarta. He is interested in Philosophy, International Relations Theories, Foreign Policy, and Human Rights Issues.