Indonesia-Australia partnerships crucial for higher education

As Indonesia seeks to educate its massive population, direct partnerships between training institutions in Indonesia and Australia will be crucial in making it a reality.


It was President Widodo who last year highlighted the importance of education in allowing Indonesia to develop “superior talents” and grow the national economy.

Widodo spoke of the importance of higher education, a topic that was also the focus of a seminar in Darwin this week organised by the Australia Indonesia Business Council, with experts from a cross-section of the education sector.

The seminar included discussion of why Indonesians are keen to upskill and how Australian institutions can contribute to the process.

TAFE Queensland international development advisor Shay McHardy said while the opportunities were there, it meant significant investment in both funds and relationship development.

For close to 15 years TAFE Queensland has been active in Indonesia; now, the Indonesian government is keen to build a vocational education and training scheme that is responsive to industry needs.

Ms McHardy said being a public operator, TAFE Queensland was able to make successful connections with their Indonesian public sector counterparts in Central Java, Makassar and Papua, with scholarship programs for high school graduates and skill development among teachers and other staff.

Image: TAFE Queensland

“From our experience and learnings from working with Indonesia, we believe having a partner in Indonesia is the most important aspect of being client-focused and delivering a successful program,” Ms McHardy said.

“We need people on the ground, hearing from industry exactly what is needed and what skills will be required to be employable.

“What is relevant in Australia may not necessarily be relevant in Indonesia.”

She said vocational training had to be not only industry-related but also contextualised with local knowledge.

“That includes appropriate pricing to suit the market. It can be expensive to create suitable content, but this must be considered before entering the market,” Ms McHardy said.

“Indonesia has a complex working environment, a networked working environment and relationships are key. That is such an incredible quality of Indonesia.”

Lessons for startups

Professor Edward Buckingham (Image: SBS Indonesian)

Monash Business School’s Professor Edward Buckingham said industry and higher education were coming closer together.

Speaking in answer to a question about start-up businesses and the Indonesian seaweed production sector, Professor Buckingham described the importance of “industry engagement”.

“Industry engagement should represent a two-way value proposition, between the university and industry. One of the things that is going to change in higher education is this ability to listen to the needs of industry,” he said.

“You have to find what the latent needs are of industry and of the economy. That is relatively easy to do with large industries but harder with start-ups.

“However, you can study what is occurring in markets and value chains and there are actually quite well-established models that start-ups can draw upon.”

Other speakers included the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Siswo Pramono and head of DFAT’s Indonesia Branch, Rob Fergusson.

Image at top: Wikimedia Commons

Picture of David Sexton

Digital Communications Coordinator
The Australia-Indonesia Centre