RI Could Become a Leading Educational Hub in Asia
Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, has the potential to become a leading higher education hub in Asia in the coming years, says the Londonbased Times Higher Education (THE) in a recent survey.
“Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand are among the Asian nations that could become leading higher education hubs in future years,” THE said in its Asia University Rankings 2017 report.
THE is the world’s leading provider of higher education data and publishes the World University Rankings and Asian University Rankings every year.
The Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and the University of Indonesia (UI) were the only two higher education institutions from Indonesia in this year’s list of the top 300 universities in Asia. In 2016, only 200 universities were surveyed by THE.
Things are moving slowly in the education sector in Indonesia, where one third of the population is below 30 years old, but there have been recent increases in quality educational institutions that focus more on science and technology, and an enormous increase in the education budget.
Besides the ITB and UI, new institutions like the Indonesia International Institute of Life Sciences (i3L), which mainly focuses on research in life sciences on one side, and on the other, the big player Gadja Mada University in Yogyakarta and Stenden University in Bali, are seeing an encouraging increased focus on quality.
Despite these bright prospects for the future, it is an irony that only two Indonesian higher education institutions out of 4,495 institutions in the country qualified to join the THE Asian University Rankings 2017, which applies tough criteria to include universities in the list.
Moreover, the rankings of neither the ITB nor UI were particularly promising given the better rankings obtained by several universities from our neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
For example, the ITB ranked 201-250 while UI ranked 251+ among the 300 universities from 24 countries.
Tiny Singapore, as usual, outperformed Asian powerhouses like Japan, China, South Korea and India, topping the list for the second year in a row. The National University of Singapore (NUS) is the number one university in Asia. Another Singaporean institution, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), ranked fourth, proving that Singapore has the best education system in Asia.
Overall 24 universities from ASEAN countries – Thailand 10, Malaysia nine, Indonesia two, Singapore two and the Philippines one – made into the THE Asian University Rankings 2017, with the University of Malaya from Malaysia and Mahidol University from Thailand gaining 59th and 97th rankings, respectively.
China’s most prestigious universities, Peking University and Tsinghua University, obtained second and third rankings.
In order to rate the top universities, THE uses several performance indicators and university core missions.
“The universities are judged across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook – to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available,” THE said.
A close look at this year’s rankings, geographically speaking, reveals that the East Asian region has a record 182 institutions figured in THE Asian University Rankings 2017, with Japan topping the list with 69 universities, followed by China 54, South Korea 26, Taiwan 26, Hong Kong six and Macau one.
But the fundamental question is why Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia and a member of G20, is lagging behind even its smaller ASEAN peers.
The issue of quality is haunting the Indonesian education system, which is the fourth-largest education system in the world. Lack of quality teachers and lecturers, poor infrastructure and lack of research and training are some of the main problems faced by the Indonesian education system.
Earlier the problem was a lack of funds. SinceS 2009, the Indonesian government has increased the education budget to almost 20 percent of the total budget everyev year. For example, President Joko “Jokowi”“J Widodo’s administration has allocated Rp 416.58 trillion to education in the 2016 state budget.
The quality of education in Indonesia has been moving at a snail’s pace, and the increase in the education budget just ended up in boosting the incomes of teachers and lecturers, with no major improvement in the quality of education.
The Directorate of Higher Education has recently launched several drastic measures to improve quality and encourage research in higher educational institutions. But these measures are at embryonic stage.
Another interesting point is the increased enthusiasm for acquiring knowledge in science and technology among Muslim-majority countries.
The 2017 Asian University Rankings show that conservative Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul Aziz University received 23rd ranking, the highest among Muslim countries. Nowadays, more and more Saudi universities are focusing on science and technology rather than religious studies. Another interesting aspect is that more women are joining universities than men. For example, women students constitute 55 percent of total students studying at King Abdul Aziz University.
One can see a similar trend in countries like Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Lebanon. An overall 52 universities from Muslim countries appeared in this year’s rankings.
Indonesia can follow this trend in fellow Muslim countries by increasing quality, focusing on science and technology and encouraging research programs at its higher education institutions.