Thursday, April 11, 2013

Australia Supporting Indonesian Tertiary Education with $110M

AusAID are inviting comment on the concept note "Supporting Indonesia’s Tertiary Education" detailing a $110M program for tertiary education in Indonesia, over four years (with a possible four year second phase). The aim is "knowledge-driven growth that is sustainable and equitable for a prosperous Indonesia", by improving tertiary education outcomes and enabling disadvantaged students to complete tertiary education. The "note" is a detailed thirty six page document. It notes Indonesia is a lower-middle income country, the 17th largest economy in the world with GDP per capita of over USD $3,200.

Last year I was invited to speak at Universitas Islam Negeri Sultan Syarif Kasim Riau in Indonesia, on "Sustainable Development Through Green ICT: The Role of Education and the Business Sector". What I found was a well equipped institution with competent trained staff. There did not seem to be much that Australia, could help them with, in terms of conventional classroom teaching.

The obvious ways to improve tertiary education in Indonesia are much the same as in Australia and elsewhere: teach the staff how to teach, teach them online, teach them how to teach online and teach them how to teach to international professional standards.

Many university staff lack formal education in how to design and deliver courses. Even those who receive some teacher training lack experience with, and training in, on-line courses. University teachers tend to be inducted into a process of ad-hoc creation of courses, rather than a systematic process designed to meet a set of standard skills specified by an international professional standards.

Sending Australian staff to Indonesia to sit in meetings and conduct legacy training courses involving power-point slides would be a waste resources and entrench bad work practices. Instead the Australian government could fund the development of on-line teacher training courses, to do conducted with mixed on-line classes of Australian and Indonesian academics. These courses should be designed in accordance with international professional standards and include rigorous assessment, leading to formal qualifications. This would foster good on-line working habits and also closer cooperation between Australia and Indonesia and also between academics at different Australian institutions.

The Australian Department of Finance is planning a series of short courses on social media for the Australian Public Service ("Proposed online engagement courses for the APS"). Such material could be used to help academics with the transition to on-line teaching. In the longer term online communication skills could be incorporated in graduate courses, as a basic skill for academics.

Australian government could fund the development of policies and systems to encourage institutions to share on-line courses and to allow students to undertake online courses from a range of institutions. This could then be implemented across Australia and Indonesia, allowing both Australian and Indonesian students to include courses from both countries universities in their program.

An example of an online course designed systematically to meet international skills standards, see my "ICT Sustainability" offered through the Australian National University (COMP7310), Open Universities Australia (ACS25) and Athabasca University (COMP 635).

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