The photo shows Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Hassan Wirajuda, and Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stephen Smith, at the the recent meeting of the Joint Commission of the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development.
Regular readers of this blog will know that Neil Whitfield and I bounce off each other from time to time. Sort of a friendly rivalry! Drat the man, he scooped me on something of great interest in one of my own areas of interest. Here Neil's post Something good that began under the Howard government… referred to a major initiative to improve Indonesian basic education reported on ABC TV's 7.30 Report.
This is a remarkably ambitious program. It aims, among other things, to:
- establish 2,000 fully operational new and one roof junior secondary schools and madrasah
- creation of at least 330,000 formal school places
- increase the proportion of junior secondary students from the poorest 20% of the population from 49.7% to 65%.
Looking at this program made me think of my father. When he was working for the then Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in Bangkok in 1965, his major study was on Asian education, its then performance and ways to improve it. Later, this led to my my own sub-thesis on the economics of education.
Those who are interested in Indonesia-Australia aid cooperation can find the details here. Importantly, I think, each of the main reports has an English and Bahasa edition, so my Indonesian friends can read the details in their own language.
My Indonesian friends also asked about ways Indonesia might contribute to the relationship because the best relationships always involve contributions from each side. So how might Indonesia contribute to Australia?
I have been thinking about this. I suspect that there are a number of ways.
I think that one of the most important things is to increase Australian understanding of Indonesia. Here I have three immediate suggestions. All may in fact be in place, although I am not aware of them:
- The Indonesian Government might offer decent prizes for Bahasa studies in Australian schools and universities. Something to attract student attention.
- The Indonesian Government might develop a program to facilitate Australian gap students - those taking a break before going to university or on finishing university - to take at least part of their gap year in Indonesia.
- The Indonesian Government might offer a number of scholarships to Australian students interested in studying in Indonesia.
These may sound small things, but each would encourage Australian involvement with Indonesia.