Only Education Can Mitigate Extremism: Indonesian Education Minister Anies Baswedan,Tells The Oslo Times

    Only Education Can Mitigate Extremism: Indonesian Education Minister Anies Baswedan,Tells The Oslo Times

    Sept 9,Oslo: The Oslo Education Summit which took place in Oslo earlier this year  had aimed at mobilizing strong and renewed political commitment in an effort to reach the 58 million children who are still being denied their right to education, and to improve learning outcomes for those who attend school.

    According to Prime Minister Erna Solberg the Summit was been initiated to help reverse the negative trend in international support for education and to contribute to enhanced domestic resource mobilization. 

    During the Summit The Oslo Times, Editor-in-Chief Hatef Mokhtar, met with the education minister of Indonesia, Anies Baswedan, for brief interview on the education sector in his country and the challenges it faces today.

    Mr. Minister welcome to The Oslo Times. Can you tell me a little bit about your trip to Oslo?

    This is my first trip to Oslo and it has been great. We have heard so much about countries in northern Europe that have been so impressive in education. So we are looking forward to this conference on the issue of financing education as it is one of the most important aspects in securing education for all. It has bee previously said that financing education is very expensive but ignorance is more expensive.

    How do you see the education system and situation in Indonesia, as a lot of humanitarian organizations claim that quality of education in Indonesia requires vast improvements and a lot more needs to be done in terms of access to education?

    We began our journey in education forty years ago from a 'Big 0' as 95 percent of our population was illiterate -- not unschooled but illiterate. And today we only have four percent illiteracy in men and only six in women. We have completely converted our population from complete illiteracy to literacy. We started with six years of compulsory education and today our rate of enrollment for primary education is 95 percent, so that is an improvement.
    Now, let's put Indonesia in perspective. A few cases will always be there but if we look at the bigger picture and our journey for the past four decades, we have seen a major shift in literacy rates. The challenge we now face is the quality of education where we need to improve on. We have succeeded in the six-year and nine-year mandatory education and we are now moving to twelve years of compulsory education. But in terms of quality, we need significant improvement. And for that, we need to improve the quality of teachers.

    The rise of Islamic extremism insouth east Asia is becoming a common phenomena as youngsters have in tones left their homes to join terrorist organizations like the ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Such extremist groups are trying really hard to brainwash youngsters in particular, into becoming violent extremists. As a scholar and Minister of Education how do you think such negative forces can be mitigated?

    If we allow our teachers and curriculum materials to become tools in educating broad-mindedness to our children, that would be our key. Indonesia has experienced this for many, many years. It is a new country extremely diverse in terms of ethnicity. We have no less than 600 languages spoken across the country and we have been able to agree upon one language-one nation and it has been very peaceful. But, lately we have seen the emergence of extremism, but it is not so much about ideology per say but it is also about the sense of equality. Access to education is the key.
    If we allow access to our children -- both boys and girls -- we can tackle extremism. We are giving our children the hope that if you participate in education, you will have good future opportunities. Hopelessness usually leads to extreme views and you turn to religion to express your frustration which makes you an easy target for extremist groups. But if you leave room for hope then you don’t need to look around, if you do well at school you will get a good job, have a prosperous future. Just one example: If we create employment opportunities for all and our graduates get a job, they do not require look for scapegoats.

    Let me now ask you one political question: How is your country's relationship with Australia?
    I think the relationship is good. Yes of course we do have some issues, but as neighbors the governments and people of both the nations understand each other's strategic interests. We are neighbors and we will always be neighbors. Our relationship in the past has always been good and we have had difficult times but we have resolved them.
    Can you tell me about this Summit and how it could help improve the education sector in Indonesia?
    When we talk about financing education in Indonesia we are committed in allocating at least 20 percent of the national and local budget on improving the education sector, this is in the constitution. However, the challenge that we and many other developing countries are facing is the amount of money that is required is much more than the allocated budget. So, when it comes to breakthroughs and innovations made in other countries that have been successful are things we would like to learn. And I think this summit is an opportunity for learning best practices as well as forming partnerships between government and non-government actors. We have learnt things that will help in making the education system better. Hopefully this conference continue to include these two components in a long run. 

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