Editorial Board (The Jakarta Post)
Thu 10 October 2019
For many years vocational school students (SMKs) have been stigmatized as troublemakers, especially during recent mass protests against a revision of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) law. They are also often associated with street fights and other cases of juvenile delinquency; the public tends to despise them as well as vocational schools in general compared to students in private or public high schools.
Statistics seem to confirm that a bright future eludes vocational school students, who have exceeded the unemployment rate in the past three years with 8.63% this year, 8.92% in 2018 and 9.27% ââin 2017. .
The seemingly gloomy state of vocational school students ignores the decisive role vocational education will play as the country anticipates a big harvest of its demographic bonus between 2020 and 2035. disaster, thwarting the nation’s attempt to join the ranks of the high-income country in 2045 and perhaps its political stability.
So it’s heartening to hear about the private sector’s intention to help the government shape the vocational school curriculum. Some industries may have already lent a hand without much fanfare, some even going so far as to found their own vocational schools to meet their specific needs for skilled workers or by opening up internship opportunities for vocational school students.
Education and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said on Monday that the government has cooperated with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) to improve the skills and standards of school graduates professional. As a stakeholder in vocational education, industries will guide the program to keep up with market demand and provide trainers who introduce students to the real world of employment. Students will also spend 60 to 70 percent of their learning as interns so that once they graduate, the market can easily absorb them.
Private sector participation in vocational education will benefit not only companies, as they can secure their own demand for skilled labor, but also the Indonesian economy. The more competent the graduate vocational schools, the faster the country can develop its manufacturing sector and end its dependence on exports.
The public-private initiative in vocational education is in line with the government’s human capital development agenda, which will be one of its main priorities for the next five years. Muhadjir said the government would revitalize 5,000 of the 14,000 vocational schools by the end of 2024.
The revitalization program may be a little late, but it’s better than nothing. Without it, Indonesia might not be able to keep up with its Southeast Asian neighbors, like Vietnam and Thailand, which are advancing rapidly in their push for industrialization.
The remaining challenge for the government now is to extend the duration of studies of most vocational school students from three to four years with the aim of producing graduates ready for employment. The next daunting test is convincing parents and students to view vocational schools as a reasonable choice, if not the right one.