Unlocking Indonesia’s future-fit talent in an age of technological disruption

May 3, 2023

Opini oleh Anthony Marwan, Policy Lead Pijar Foundation. Pertama kali diterbitkan di Jakarta Post.

Indonesia’s talent pool faces steep roads in realising its potential amid advanced technological innovation and chronic issues in the Indonesian education system. As technological innovation is inevitable, the question is how Indonesia can turn the “challenges” into opportunities to achieve its golden generation in 2045.

The world is at a crossroads. A global pandemic, economic recession, and advanced technological developments are among the few game-changers. Indonesian talent pool faces massive uncertainties, and the National education system has not fully equipped them with the skills to turn these challenges into opportunities. These problems are related to three prominent barriers: the existing problem in the Indonesian education system, efficiency and lean structure in the industry, and technological advancement to replace the human workforce.

Deep-rooted Education Problem In Indonesia.

The Indonesian education system needs to prepare the talent to adapt and thrive in an age of uncertainty. High-quality education is a deep-rooted issue in the existing education system. We have experienced how education forces students to memorise history, theory, or even formulas to achieve higher grades. Text-book-based education systems appreciate individuals with higher grades and stigmatise people’s success based on it. 

The lack of context-based learning puts students’ learning process to neglect the importance of critical thinking and nurturing self-development. A recent research publication by SMERU shows that Indonesian students’ learning achievement is not improved despite moving up a grade. This problem is worrying for a country that aims to be globally competitive. Access to high-quality education is essential to ensure high-quality talents to compete in emerging markets such as the technology industry. However, Indonesia’s competitive talent index, shared by INSEAD, is still below Indonesian closest competitors in ASEAN countries

Education should help students understand their strengths and passions and, at the same time, stimulate curiosity. Grading indicators based on memorisation may neglect their ability to adapt to the changing world. Moreover, the recent investigation from Kompas on academic thesis jockey has exposed this chronic problem in the Indonesian education system and future talent quality. Students no longer excite their curiosity and passion for further developing their potential but look for a shortcut to complete their education. 

Industry Efficiency and Technology Advancement, The Barriers to Future Fit Talent

Second, the industry is getting leaner and more efficient. Although the data shows that Indonesia has successfully reduced the unemployment rate to five percent compared to August 2021 (Indonesia Statistic Agency, 2022), Indonesia’s talent still faces unprecedented challenges. 

By the end of 2022, Indonesia faced a tech winter. Many promising startups and tech companies massively laid off their employees and tightened operations costs (Kompas, 2022). This is not unique to Indonesian corporations – some of the world’s biggest tech companies, such as Microsoft and Amazon, also cut operational costs by laying off over 28,000 employees in 2022 (Forbes, 2022). 

Whether talents become a victim of business efficiency or not, the challenges for talents to enter the workforce market lie ahead – the market is getting more competitive, business is becoming more efficient, and an education degree is not a guarantee for survival.

In addition, many businesses or industries aim to fully replace the human workforce with AI-powered automation due to its potential to improve operational efficiency and increase return on investment. Take the example of ChatGPT and Open AI, where has passed business, law, microbiology, and medical tests and can even produce an essay, or Netflix geared up its animation production with AI. Despite mistakes and criticism, AI-powered technology shows a glimpse of the future workforce market. 

Moreover, the question remains: What can Indonesia do to create a future-fit talent? We need to empower future talent to be adaptable and resilient. The phenomenon of today’s and future challenges is dynamic. It should be seen as an excellent opportunity to revisit the status quo and reinvent ourselves with new approaches. 

Education Reform to Fit the Future Frame

The role of education, once again, is essential to shape future-fit talent. Indonesia should transform its education system by adopting a future-fit curriculum. Students should not be strained with too many irrelevant learning materials that do not fit their preferences and strengths. A collaborative approach is needed to accelerate education reform. The future-fit curriculum should adopt an agile, collaborative, and adaptive approach where students can choose their learning path. 

The future-fit curriculum orientation will equip students with knowledge, skills, and values aligned with the current and future context. Education is an essential element in shaping future talent. It has become the fundamental element of our identity, shaping how we think and act in society. 

The introduction of the new Indonesia Education Road Map 2020-2035 and signature programmes, such as Merdeka Belajar – Kampus Merdeka, should be appreciated despite further improvements needs. One of the positive takeaways from the new curriculum initiative is that they consider soft skills and character development integral to future talent development.

Skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving are now necessary for future-fit talent, especially to adapt and thrive in the uncertain era. These skills accommodate them to understand, react, and solve problems effectively, a skill highly appreciated in the workforce market. 

Merdeka curriculum can be a good foundation and opportunity to provide students with a high-quality education beyond a text-book based learning. Students and teachers should also evolve to adapt to emerging challenges, contradicting some criticism of the Merdeka Curriculum

Allowing students to experience the learning processes outside the classroom can help them balance hard and soft skills in their areas of interest. As mentioned earlier, industries are getting leaner, and technology is advancing. Encouraging this process are beneficial for both educators and students, as well as industries. Future talent should be able to link their learning subjects with real-world experiences and bring valuable feedback to their subjects. 

Furthermore, reforming the education system in Indonesia requires collaboration between the public, educational institutions, private, and students. It becomes a collective action to ensure future generations can adapt to the changing world. 

The future is no longer far away. Our talent should be prepared for the prominence of technological adoption and industrial efficiency. We should keep our heads up to help future talent fit into the frame. 

Our future talent can thrive in the new ages if we can transform our education system to help them. The future-fit talent is about empowering their ability and skills to adapt and be resilient to future challenges.

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