Teachers play a vital role in nurturing today’s generation into becoming better individuals in the future. In commemorating the National Teachers Day on the 25th of November, this could be the best time to honor teachers and recognize the lasting contributions they make to Indonesian education.
Nevertheless, Indonesia is still experiencing an acute shortfall in quality teachers. In many cases, especially in rural and remote areas, teachers still lack the necessities of knowledge and skills needed toward achieving a higher quality of education. As of 2009, only 21% of primary school teachers have four-year higher education degree. In rural and remote areas, the percentage is even lower. And poverty is often the main cause of substandard schools.
Sukanto Tanoto, Indonesia’s renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist, is convinced that efforts to reduce poverty in Indonesia should not only be the responsibility of government, but private parties as well. His vision of reducing Indonesian poverty led him to establish the Indonesian branch of the Tanoto Foundation in 2002.
“The foundation’s main focus is to break intergenerational poverty by providing better education opportunities for school-aged children and empowerment programs for adults,” Sihol Aritonang, the Tanoto Foundation’s head of executive board, explained.
The Tanoto Foundation has, Sihol continued, since July 2010 launched a new program called Pelita Pendidikan, which has actively been taking part in enhancing the quality of Indonesian teachers in rural and remote areas.
The launching of the Pelita Pendidikan program is the fruit bearing of the Tanoto Foundation’s stance which is derived from Sukanto’s belief that teacher training is of great importance in improving the quality of education in Indonesia.
In a bid to solve the shortage of quality teachers in the country, Pelita Pendidikan has allocated Rp 36 billion for a five-year program to train teachers in North Sumatra, Riau and Jambi.
“The Pelita Pendidikan’s five-year program is targeting to train around 3,000 teachers in more than 200 schools. We have thus far trained more than 200 teachers from the three provinces since July.” Dewi Susanti, Pelita Pendidikan’s program manager, said.
In addition to the Pelita Pendidikan’s teacher training program, the Tanoto Foundation has conducted other teacher training programs in remote areas in North sumatra, Riau, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Aceh, Central Java, East Java, West Java and Jakarta. To date, the trainings have reached out to 561 teachers.
To realize the foundation’s vision of overcoming the education problems in Indonesia, Pelita Pendidikan has collaborated with PARAS Foundation to organize a discussion forum. “The collaboration focuses on gathering educational experts, policy makers, and practitioners who are interested in development and provision of better quality teacher training,” Dewi added.
Mochtar Buchori, head of PARAS Foundation board of trustees, said that the vision of Pelita Pendidikan was truly a reflection of Sukanto’s high dedication to improving the quality of national education.
“I don’t know Sukanto in person, but his philanthropic objectives of realizing his vision to break intergenerational poverty is something that we all should be proud of. I agree with his ideas of having the teacher training programs start from rural and remote areas. These areas are where the improvement should start. Due to poor education facilities with less qualified teachers, many people in these areas stereotypically still hold the belief that they are locked up within intergenerational cycle of poverty by fate. And Sukanto, through his foundation, is determined to release them from the cycle,” Mochtar said.
Anita Lie, an education expert, agreed that conducting training for teachers should prioritize rural and remote areas. She once served as a facilitator in a number of workshops conducted by the Tanoto Foundation prior to the birth of Pelita Pendidikan.
“I was amazed with how the Tanoto Foundation generously facilitated teacher professional development in remote areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The foundation’s staff worked hard to organize workshops not only with their capabilities but more importantly, with their sincere hearts,” Anita recalled.
Asked her opinion about Sukanto’s vision behind the Tanoto Foundation, she responded, “As a person who did not have the opportunity for higher education, Sukanto commendably sees education as a way to get out of poverty. He deserves a big thumbs-up for taking real action toward realizing his vision.”
Physicist Yohanes Surya, a noted science lecturer and mentor of the Indonesian Physics Olympiad Team, agreed that the quality of teachers had to be improved. According to him, more educated teachers have the potential to empower themselves with much better ability to nurture their students for higher achievement.
“I am delighted to see the progress of Pelita Pendidikan program as part of the education division of the Tanoto Foundation. Undoubtedly, building better education in this country should start from remote areas. Sukanto only graduated from junior high school, but his sustainable vision for Indonesia and his commitment to empowering teachers are incontestably the paragon for those who would like to see the Indonesian education wipe out the country’s poverty,” Yohanes concluded.
This advertorial was published in a Jakarta-based English media in November 2010.