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Why education holds the key to advancing Indonesia's digital transformation

Yovita Marlina
Yovita Marlina
Senior Manager, Customer Growth
Turnitin Southeast Asia






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Indonesia's digital transformation goals: ambitious but achievable?

Spurred by global and domestic momentum, the middle of last year saw Indonesia's Ministry of Communications and Informatics (Kominfo) unveil its 2021-2024 digital roadmap for Indonesia, in which infrastructure, government, economy and society were identified as key areas for accelerated digital transformation. Highlights across the roadmap include producing 9 million digitally-savvy talents by 2030.

However, Kominfo Minister Johnny G. Plate recently admitted that at the current rate, the Indonesian government alone would be unable to produce enough talents to meet that target. To that end, he encouraged strategic parties in business and higher education to play a more active role in achieving the country's annual target of at least 600,000 digital talents.

Education foundational to Indonesia's digital transformation

As the Indonesian government makes strides to close digital gaps in infrastructure and governance, it may seem that secondary and tertiary education providers have a more foundational issue to tackle.

The SMERU Research Institute in conjunction with the University of Oxford and the United Nations, and based on primary data supplied by various Indonesian ministries, recently published a diagnostic report and strategy outline for holistic changes to Indonesia's education system to facilitate its digital transformation goals.

The reports referenced the 2018 PISA Survey which found that only 30 percent of Indonesian students possessed reading proficiency of level 2 or higher (the OECD average being 77 percent). The reading test evaluates a student's ability to distinguish between facts and opinions when presented with multiple texts; a crucial component of building digital literacy.

One might be forgiven for dismissing the PISA results as outdated — the 2021 survey has been postponed to 2022 — but consider The Indonesia Digital Literacy Survey conducted in November 2020 by Kominfo, which found that 60 percent of respondents to the survey were still not accustomed to critically evaluating the credibility of online sources, such as cross-referencing or backlink hopping to discover primary sources.

Equally crucial, the reports mentioned that despite efforts to offer courses on digital topics in higher education, curricula and assessment rubrics often do not reflect a holistic representation of skill sets that match employer requirements.

Collectively, these findings suggest that both secondary and tertiary learners in Indonesia would benefit from a robust support system that provides learners with opportunities to learn from their mistakes in a safe, meaningful learning environment that scaffolds and rewards progress. Authentic learning experiences including ‘hands-on’ tasks that mimic real-world tasks and expectations, are growing in demand from industry and even students themselves, in helping build students’ problem-solving, critical thinking and evaluation skills. Not to mention improving their ability to connect the dots in their academic journey, and be more motivated to reach learning benchmarks that will set them up for later life; doing so on their own merit, rather than resorting to academic misconduct.

How educational technology can support Indonesia's digital transformation

Indonesia's learners have been hit with the one-two punch of needing to become digitally-savvy through virtual and hybrid lessons. In fact, government initiatives for learners to enroll in genuine internships and social development projects as part of their overall assessment, see students operating entirely off-campus. Learning institutions have the opportunity to turn this current limitation into an asset. With the right tech-enabled ecosystem to scaffold learners, universities can produce talents possessing not only the requisite digital competence, but the critical thinking to put it to use.

For example, factoring in more continuous, low-stakes assessments with timely feedback could help address the worrying levels of reading competence outlined in the SMERU report. Such approaches allow - even encourage - learners to 'fail safely' and build knowledge through open, incremental feedback loops with educators. As class sizes and physical distances grow, tech-enabled solutions can leverage AI and machine learning to facilitate grading efforts at scale and provide a level of automation for student-led revisions such as fixing incorrect grammar and citations. These mechanisms all help to free up educators time to focus on more personalised and meaningful insights that address individual learner gaps, whilst empowering students through transparency and additional guidance on their performance.

Indonesia's vocational education and training (VET) institutions would similarly benefit from such solutions. The country's growing demand for large-scale, off-campus vocational education is similarly undergoing digitisation, and a framework prioritising feedback and academic integrity could provide welcome relief.

As per the above-mentioned reports and their recommendations, the nature of assessments would ideally be both varied and as authentic as possible, allowing institutions to measure and build practical competencies. And instead of being done manually in the one room, teams of physically separated educators could collaborate using software that allows them to coordinate their efforts and maintain quality consistency. For example, creating dynamic rubrics that can be adjusted during the grading process, and executing exam and assessment data analysis at a per-question and per rubric-level to more intuitively identify patterns of what students across a cohort do and don’t know. In this way, the time-consuming nature of assessment can be streamlined, reducing fatigue from repetitive tasks while providing a rich bed of data to inform exam and curriculum design.

Finally, a sense of community is needed to provide comfort in online and hybrid settings, so as to avoid student feelings of anonymity and isolation from their educators and peers. It has been established that online learning apathy and the pressure to succeed are contributing factors to academic dishonesty, so a sense of accountability is important. There are many digital tools available to foster communication and collaboration that keeps students motivated, but academic integrity software in particular, is useful for cultivating future citizens of integrity who are equipped to think critically and originally. Empowering students to do similarity checks of the work that they produce can help shore up honesty as it relates to institutional policy, and instill the value that no amount of success should come at the cost of compromising their personal integrity.