How Indonesia will be in fifty years time depend on what we do with our youth today. The picture below is the landscape of Jakarta seen from where I live. Certainly we can see some tall buildings; but we also see sprawling low income household houses on the sidelines.
These tall buildings were erected during Indonesia’s new order era (1966-1998). During this time, despite massive progress recorded from the extremely poor Indonesia post-colonial, the economy was pretty much built upon rent-seeking activities. Many of the rich got their riches through monopoly right licenses obtained from the government. For example, the major noodle companies in Indonesia, actually was the sole owner of wheat (key ingredient of noodle flour) import license. In short, the economy during the new order period was not built upon genuine invention or technological progress.
Again, as I reflect on how the economy (and the people, of course) will be in fifty years time, I come into conclusion that the quality of education and the subsequent creativity by the youth is what matters. These young people, who embrace the technology and utilize the opportunity created by globalization, are Indonesia’s best bet for its future. They, unlike their grandparents and parents, will create real progress in the economy through innovation. Just look at some tech and non-tech startups created by some Indonesian youths today. The challenge is then how to expand this trend (beyond just Jakarta and Bandung) to the entire archipelago.
This lead us to questions, how are we doing with the quality of our youth education? Has the education system prepare them best? Has the quality of vocational training schools prepare them for the workplace? Has the universities provide quality training? I’m afraid the answer is still No; yet even more scary, there seems to be no serious effort to rectify this.
Part of the problem maybe the lack of initiatives from the current policy makers whom themselves are the product of new order era. Not that I am saying most of them are corrupt, but it’s more on the lack of drive for reforms and preferring the status quo. To rectify this situation, I think we need more educated youth to be in that policy making level. Just small example: Pak Anies, the relatively young minister of education, finally bans ‘MOS/Ospek’ in schools. These MOS/Ospek, as we all know it, tend to be uneducating activities or even bullying events. After 70 years of independence, finally we seems to get away with it. This is one small example of how young policy makers can bring something fresh to the system.
So, what we, youth, can do now is to prepare ourselves up to the international standard so that we ready to fill the position when the time come. Finally, speaking about international standard, I think we all Indonesian youth should work harder and ‘conquer’ the world. Sometimes I am stunned, realizing how can smaller countries like UK, France, Japan, Germany, etc has more international caliber economist, scientist, etc than Indonesia, given that Indonesia is world fourth most populous country? Again, this can only lead us to conclusion, that we, really need to work harder.