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Iwan Jaya Azis
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
United States of America
Abdullah Fawzy Siddik
Trisakti School of Management, Jakarta
Mary van der Boon
global tmc international management training and consulting
Hilversum, the Netherlands

This paper was presented at the Asia-Europe Workshop on Transnationa Business Networks, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, May 6 – 8, 2003.

1. Introduction

No matter what discipline angle of analysis one uses, a case can easily be made for investing in education to promote modernization and welfare improvements. It is also not difficult to build an argument for improving education in order to promote democracy. What is unclear is what would be the focus of education investment that is most effective to attain such objectives. The difficulty in assessing the effectiveness of different focus of education investment rests upon a lack of understanding over the precise mechanisms through which the education investment is translated into improved socio-economic conditions, or into the promotion and strengthening of democracy.

A simple assessment for the welfare objective would probably suggest investment in education directly related to--or matched with--the requirement of certain industries (demand-driven), while for democracy promotion the suggested focus would probably be on civic education programs to help young people become competent and responsible citizens in democratic political system. We believe that a more proper assessment than this is needed, and it requires a more elaborate analysis.

In this paper, while we do not intend to present such an elaborate assessment, we attempt to provide a preliminary analysis that could be used for designing a comprehensive analytical framework linking education initiatives and democracy in Indonesia. We use a basic assumption that the efficacy of democratic process is likely stronger when the socio-economic welfare is higher. We are fully aware that such a premise is only necessary and not sufficient condition for the promotion of strong democratic political system. The process of democracy itself is a vital part of the system.

We argue that democracy initiatives will be strengthened as women continue to play an ever greater role in society. Specific attention is required to education programs for women, and, in this context, to the role played by transnational educational developments and initiatives both globally and in Indonesia.

The organization of the paper is as follows. In Section 2 we first discuss the government policy on education. We argue that when conducted properly and supported by sufficient resources, government policy could be effective in improving the general conditions. The specific example used is the case of primary school development promoted by the Indonesian government in the mid 1970s. In Section 3, we analyze the role of women’s education in demographic transition that is favourable to economic growth and welfare improvements. The state of women’s education and issues of empowerment in Indonesia is discussed in Section 4. While the progress of education and welfare improvements was apparent during the years, the 1997 episode of financial crisis stalled the process. This is the focus of discussions in Section 5. We also argue in this Section that even without the crisis some perennial problems remain in place; the crisis simply adds and complicates the challenges ahead. Section 6 provides insights into transnational education developments and their possible impact on Indonesian education.

2. Government’s Role in Education: The Case of Improving Primary School

With a surge in government revenues following the two oil booms (1974 and 1979), the Indonesian government wisely allocated a significant amount of funds for educational purposes. One of the most celebrated programs is known as SD-INPRES ("presidential instruction" for primary schools). The program is centrally administered, involving a large sum of government budget. Between 1973 and 1979 alone almost 62,000 new schools were constructed under the program, costing some $500 million (at 1990 dollar price), or 1.5% of GDP. Even the World Bank acknowledged that this is the fastest primary school construction program ever undertaken in the world (World Bank, 1990).

An independent evaluation study concludes that the program was indeed effective in improving the country’s educational attainment, raising the average number of years of education from .25 to .40 (Duflo, 2001). The effect of the program increased until the sixth year of education, decreased until the twelfth, and slightly increased thereafter. Its internal rates of returns (IRR) range from 8.8 to 12 percent, higher than the average interest rates on government’s borrowing. The high IRR was also supported by the rapid economic growth during the period.

Despite the fact that its major component was on the "hardware" side, the quality of the program-related education also improved. Measuring quality of education is notoriously difficult, but one may use proxy indicators. One of such indicators is the level of wages. Duflo’s study clearly reveals that the SD-INPRES program has raised wages by 3 to 5.4 percent, suggesting that the country’s human capital has been augmented by the combined effect of improved quality and quantity of education.

But that measure is likely to underestimate the general equilibrium (economy-wide) impact of such a program. Many of the country’s improvements in the socio-economic welfare
[1] such as in the area of health, poverty, and income distribution are enabled by this educational achievement, supporting the general perception that education can improve the socio-economic welfare. Of course the specificity of the example may not make the case universal. One may wonder whether or not the sheer size of the program has played a determining role in the successful performance of it. Nonetheless, the example clearly demonstrates that under certain conditions a government-sponsored program on education can work effectively. What is also remarkable is that, while in the 1970s the gender gaps in primary and secondary school were high, in the 1990s the gaps have practically disappeared.

[1] For example, in evaluating the wider impacts of the overall INPRES (not just SD-INPRES), it is found that the program has helped improve the country’s relative income distribution between income groups (Azis, 1989) and between provinces (Azis, 1990).

3. The Role of Women’s Education in Demographic Transition and Economic Welfare

Positive Contributions of Demographic Transition

Like education policy, population/health policies and the spread of contraceptives have helped to transform East and Southeast Asia’s demographic landscape over the last 50 years. As policymakers have been active in this area, the Asian cultures and religions have generally been receptive to contraception. As a result, despite falling mortality rate, the region’s population has stabilized.

Declining fertility steadily raised the working age share of the population, contributing to higher output growth. During 1965-1990, the average annual growth rate of the economically active population in East Asia was 2.4 percent, much higher than the corresponding population growth rate (1.6 percent). A similar trend is detected in Southeast Asia, albeit with a slightly smaller difference. Bloom and Williamson (1997) estimated that these changes increased the labour input per annum by 1.1 percentage points in East Asia and by 0.6 percentage points in Southeast Asia, assuming that the number of working hours per employee and the labour participation rate did not change.

As shown in Figure 1, the higher growth differential between working age population (WAP) and total population explains 1.6 percentage points of the 6.1percent annual growth rate in East Asia and 1.4 percentage points of the 3.8 percent growth rate in Southeast Asia. It is shown in the Figure that these effects are more marked than typically found in other developing countries. The increases in output-per-person caused by these demographic changes helped in meeting the challenges caused by the absolute increases in numbers of dependents experienced by all countries in the region.

While the demographic changes via a reduction in the fertility rate raised living standards, the resulting higher real incomes and lower levels of poverty reinforced the trend by in turn reducing the fertility rate further. The region thus experienced a virtuous cycle of demographic transition and economic growth.

Source: From Bloom and Williamson (1997) data.

The Role of Women’s Education in the Demographic Transition

Two important variables affecting a country’s demographic transition are: the declining fertility rate and the declining mortality rate. To the extent that surviving children will become the future labour force, the quality of which could affect the economic growth performance, the health of the children has an important role in the country’s welfare improvement. It is argued in this Section that women’s education is a significant determinant in the fertility and mortality decline, and in the improvements of children’s health.

A framework of analysis can be designed in which a fertility decline is determined by both structural (contextual) conditions and individual attributes. It is generally found that structural variables are more powerful explanation than changes in individual variables (the Indonesian experience falls into this category). Among the important attributes in the structural variables are: (1) women’s status, defined as the proportion of women with a certain level of schooling; (2) children’s economic roles, e.g., the percentage of children in the labour force; and (3) infant mortality rate. In all these variables, government policy plays a major role as in the case of primary school improvement described earlier.

How do the mechanisms work in the above framework? Women’s education dampens the demand for children due to the changing notions about acceptable styles of childbearing, improved employment prospects, rising aspirations for upward mobility, and declining economic utility of children (Cleland, 1985). As a result, marital fertility can be directly (negatively) affected. But indirect effects from the supply side are no less important, i.e., the postponement of marriage (reducing the incidence of early marriage). Women’s education can also reduce barriers to the adoption of family planning. Whichever factors dominate, there is a clear tendency that the more educated the women, the lower the fertility rate, which eventually leads to a better socio-economic welfare. In the Indonesian case, it is also found that the level of women’s education matters, as indicated by the increasing size of (negative) coefficient in the fertility equation. As the education variable shifts from junior to senior high and to tertiary school, the decline in the fertility rate tends to get larger (Hirschman and Young, 2000).

High mortality among young children tends to reduce the return on children’s educational investment. Consequently, poor families prefer to put their children to work, causing a high percentage of children in the labour force. Hence, higher proportion of child labour is associated with high mortality rate. However, having their children work and earn additional income for the family causes parents cease to see the advantages of extra births. The latter suggests that there is a negative association between children’s economic roles and the fertility rate. When the above is combined and synthesized, we have a postulate that higher mortality is associated with high incidence of child labour and high fertility rate. In the Indonesian case, there is some evidence, albeit limited (based on census data in the 1970s only), showing that children’s economic role is negatively associated with the fertility rate.

Low income parents tend to see their adult children as provider of old-age assistance—due to weak social security and pensions system. In such circumstances, extra births are seen as an alternative insurance, especially when the infant mortality rate (IMR) is high. If the IMR declines, the perceived benefits of extra births become more limited (Davis, 1963). Like in many countries, Indonesia’s IMR declined persistently, i.e., from 71 to 52 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1986 and 1996. With such a trend, parents usually begin to see large families as an impediment to social mobility, causing the fertility rate to decline. Lower IMR also tends to lengthen birth intervals, hence lowering the average fertility rate.

In many cases, however, the above three contextual variables are interrelated. The key determinant appears to be women’s education. For example, in the efforts to lower the mortality rate, women’s education is clearly critical. Using data from the 1994 Indonesian Demographic and Health Survey, it is revealed that an extra year of maternal primary (secondary) schooling reduces the probability of child death by 1.7 (2.0) percentage points (see Figure 2). Government policies, particularly in public health area, contribute quite significantly to the outcome. While the positive impact of education applies to both urban and rural areas, the size of the impact is found larger in the urban than in the rural areas (Mellington and Cameron, 1999).

Figure 2. Mean Child Mortality by Educational Attainment in 1994
Source: Mellington and Cameron (1999)

Hence, women’s education is always considered critical in the declining trend of fertility and mortality rates (demographic transition), which subsequently produces a beneficial impact on welfare improvements. One of the most influential works showing that such a conjecture also applies in many countries is Schultz (1994).

But the role of women’s education in producing higher welfare goes beyond just generating a favourable demographic transition. There is also a positive effect of parental schooling on child health status. This can potentially enhance future labour productivity, implying that the estimated welfare effect of women’s education through demographic transition is underestimated. Data from Indonesia’s SUSENAS (national socio-economic survey) reveals that, compared to mothers with lower education those with junior or senior secondary education tend to have healthier boys (the health status is measured by the child weight-for-age Z-scores). Meanwhile, the study also suggests that a greater improvement in women’ education would be required if one wants to raise the health status of female children, because the effect of mothers’ education on girls’ health is found significant only for mothers with above senior high school education (Skoufias, 1999).

The educational level of parents, principally of mothers, also determines their children’s educational achievement. The higher the level of education of the mother, the greater the chances that their children, including their daughters, will have access to and remain in basic education (UNESCO, 2002). Anecdotal stories often heard in Indonesia also confirm this conjecture. When children ask their mother to help with their homework, the normal reply from less educated mothers is "it is difficult." Discouraged, the children tend to quit school within 1 or 2 years of the mother’s last education level.

4. Women’s Education, Empowerment and Policy Directions

The State of Education and Empowerment

Indonesia has made great advances in terms of gender equality among E-9 countries. The female literacy rate is one of the highest, as is the enrolment rate and the 5th grade survival rate, and the fertility rate is even lower than that of Mexico, a country with a high women’s literacy rate, low rural population rate and high girls’ enrolment.
Women's participation in education has been increasing over the years. While only around half of 10 to 14 year-old girls were able to go to school in 1970, four out of five were studying in 1990. Gross enrolment ratios of females at the secondary and tertiary levels also rose, and the mean years of schooling for females rose to 6.1 years in 1999 from 4.7 years in 1990.
But those statistics may conceal the prevailing gender bias. While the difference between school participation rates of boys and girls in elementary school is almost negligible, i.e., 95.1 versus 95.2 percent respectively, at higher levels of education there is still a great gender difference. Male and female participation rates in middle school are 78.8 percent and 71.2 percent. The figures become respectively lower in high school at 51.8 percent and 47.3 percent. Furthermore, comparison of the participation rates between urban and rural areas shows significantly lower participation of girls in middle and high schools in rural as well as urban areas.

Differences in rates of schooling continue into the higher levels of education and show significant variation by level. The 1995/1996 continuing rate of 71.29 percent from elementary to middle school was lower than the rate of 89.94 percent for continuing from middle school to high school. However, these rates were both higher when compared with the rate of 42.44 percent continuing from high school to post-secondary education.

In the rural areas, the participation rate in higher education is lowest for women. In urban areas, however, both women and men are given the same opportunity to gain education in the university and they participate in almost equal numbers. In the university women are usually found in the social and cultural departments. In the fields of science and technology, female students are no less capable than male students, yet fewer female students reregister. Family concerns and community fixed ideas about the role of women in society may be the cause of this failure to reregister. In both the urban and rural areas at the level of university education, the percentage of male graduates is twice that of female graduates. (Sadli et.al, 2001).

While there might be ambitions to continue schooling, there were barriers in either availability of places, or cost of enrolment. The cost aspect became even more prominent during the crisis of 1998 when dropout rates at primary and secondary schools was 3.4 percent, while 19.3 percent of all students could not continue to a higher level of education, according to the national socio-economic survey in 2000. The danger is that each woman who fails to progress to higher levels of education risks having parents consider marriage as an alternative future. Women without education and without work find their negotiating position in the family potentially undermined. In such situations elite Indonesians fear that poor women will simply retreat to childbearing to put meaning in their lives (Hull, 2002).

The Indonesian government has not had specific national policies for girls’ and women’s education. The implementation mechanisms for girls’ and women’s education are conducted through the formal school system for formal education and through various programmes and projects in ministries dealing with non-formal or out-of-school education for girls and women. There is weak coordination among the ministries in regard to the operation of these programmes and projects. Within the school system, there is no differential approach to the education of girls and boys.

Although girls have the same opportunities as boys to go to elementary school, the content of textbooks in elementary schools is gender stereotyped and biased against girls. Pictures of boys, boys’ names, boys’ activities and male heroes populate text books used in the first six grades such as the books of Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) and Pendidikan Pancasila dan Kewarganegaraan (Civics Education). Girls are expected to help in all household chores as well as in the fields. In some cases, girls are married even before the age of twelve. This kind of socialization of girls is reflected in the textbooks of most Indonesian elementary schools. In 1999 an educators’ communiqué calling for the elimination of gender bias in the curriculum was presented by educators from the Catholic schools in Jakarta, Bekasi and Tangerang (Sadli et.al, 2001).

The lack of awareness of gender issues and gender and development among decision makers and planners (who are mostly men) has resulted in gender insensitive development programmes. As an illustration, in the 1996/l 997 fiscal year only 0.03 percent of the MOEC total budget, which was more than 6 billion rupiah, was targeted directly for women’s education. Changing this discriminative attitude toward women, particularly among decision makers/planners/-individuals dealing with development and among both formal and informal leaders, requires serious and systematic effort and intervention in all aspects of development. Otherwise, not only will women become the losers, but society as a whole will lose an opportunity to benefit from greater contribution based on the optimum potential of one-half of its population (Sulaiman et.al., 1998).

But non-policy factors play a key role as well. The differences in education levels, school participation rates, drop-outs, and educational attainment between females and males are also caused by poverty and socio-cultural values and norms of the Indonesian society. The political culture in Indonesia is male-dominated. Traditions are imbued with patriarchal values (e.g., women are still seen as inferior to men).

Beyond the educational status, in general the empowerment of women in Indonesia is still low, due partly to the distribution of work for women in general: 45 percent work in agriculture and 25.2 percent in businesses. The remaining working women are distributed as follows: service sectors (13.1 percent), industry (15 percent), construction (0.4 percent), transport (0.3 percent), and electricity (0.1 percent). Rural women form the most disadvantaged group of the population. The lack of opportunities for mothers to study and develop in other fields means that girls reproduce traditional patterns.

The results of the 1999 general election highlighted the persistent gap between women’s political participation and their level of representation in government. Although more women than men participated as voters, the number of women that returned to Parliament (DPR) dropped sharply. Today only 44 of the 500 seats in the DPR (8.8 percent) are occupied by women. This severe gender imbalance in political representation, which is mirrored in other institutions of governance, has grave implications for women. Without a direct voice for women in decision-making, national and local governments are less likely to make policy choices that promote the strategic interests of women or at times, even meet their basic needs (Asia Foundation, 2001)

A recent episode demonstrates the difficulty of advancing the inferior position and role of women in Indonesia. In 2002 a coalition of women proposed that 30 percent of members of the parliament should be female in order to enable women to contribute to policy debate and change (the current electoral system allows women to occupy only 8 percent of the seats). Early this year the proposal was rejected by both the government and the parliament. The president, herself is a woman, also openly rejects the affirmative action and quotas for women, arguing that such a policy represents a special treatment for women, and hence contradicts the equal treatment principle in a democracy
[3]. A rejection coming from the president has a significant impact since in Indonesia’s feudalistic political culture the main point of reference is usually the person at the top.

[2] Indonesia’s founding fathers also recognized the important role of women, as stipulated in the 1945 Constitution that every citizen – regardless of gender – has the same right before the law. Indonesian women have played an increasing role even before independence, i.e., as early as 1912 with the establishment of the first women association. They organized the first national women congress in 1928.
[3] Ironically, her two predecessors, both male, are known to have made a more breakthrough for women, e.g., setting up a National Commission on Violence against Women (by president Habibie), and redefining and renaming the Women's Ministry into the Ministry for the Empowerment of Women (by president Wahid).

Policy Directions

It is a fact that in Indonesia women play a central role as educators in the community. Women dynamize communities by requesting specific services or creating alternatives for solving problems of survival. They work invisibly for health, food and the general well-being of the family. Therefore, community education must be encouraged as it lays the basis for the development of social projects for certain groups. As community education is an interpersonal rather than a mass interaction, whose code of ethics corresponds to a specific group, it is a priority to develop community programmes for women’s education, with the aim of promoting the education of girls and building codes to eliminate gender inequality.

On the investment in female education, the merits of which have been discussed in Section 3, it is important to realize that families with low incomes and those in rural areas are the two groups with traditionally low female enrolment rates. For them to have a better understanding of the importance of female education, more resources should be devoted to publicity campaigns to persuade parents to send their daughters to school. Local communities should be closely involved in this effort. We believe that the following initiatives are important.

Scholarships, school meals and take-home rations can be given as incentives to poor households to send girls to, and keep them in, school until they complete their education. Supplementary and complementary measures include improved job opportunities for females coupled with the elimination of job discrimination against women. Since girls, particularly those in rural areas, often help their parents in household chores and other activities, some flexibility in school hours may thus encourage parents to let their daughters attend school. This is an example where the school system should be adapted to the needs of local communities.

Beyond education, the inclusion of a larger number of women, as well as greater female representation, in government and other decision-making bodies at a high level should be encouraged and supported. Indeed, some countries have reserved a certain proportion of seats for women in legislative assemblies (in addition to openly contested seats) in an effort to redress gender disparities in political life (ESCAP, 2002).

5. Post-Crisis Development and Other Perennial Problems

The Impact of Economic Crisis

There is no doubt that Indonesia had achieved a remarkable progress in economic and social developments prior to the 1997 crisis. Along with macroeconomic stability and high economic growth, the poverty incidence declined, so did the mortality rate. The life expectancy increased, so did the school enrolment rate.

But the dramatic episode of 1997 stalled the process. Not only the growth collapsed (-14 percent), inflation rose (to 59 percent), and government budget turned from surplus to deficit (2 percent of GDP; all figures are for 1998), the poverty incidence also increased dramatically from 11 percent in 1996 to 27 percent in 1999. At the same time, the fall of Suharto in May 1998 marked the beginning of a new era of greater democracy.

The sharp increase in poverty was the result of combined forces of rising prices (poverty line) and declining income. It shows that there was a large concentration of population whose income was just marginally above the poverty line (the so-called "near poor")
[4]. Actually, there was a "built in stabilizer" related to the flexibility of Indonesian labour markets that caused the post-crisis unemployment rate lower than originally feared. But this was not without a necessary drop in real wages (see Figure 3). Furthermore, there were increased pressures in the rural labour market due to the process of reversed migration [5]. Hence, because of the relative flexibility of the labour market the economic crisis has caused the wages to fall sharply, preventing the unemployment rate from soaring. This led the poverty incidence to increase.

[4] Even before the crisis, a mere 20 percent increase in poverty line would double the number of poor (Azis, 1998).
[5] On the other hand, there has been a continued rise in minimum wage since 1999. In industries that pay salaries close to minimum wage (many women workers are in this category) the likelihood of rising unemployment is higher. This negative employment effect is larger for women.

Source: Azis (2000)

As expected, rising poverty has a broad ramification. With rising poverty, the number of children malnutrition also increased. As shown in a study using Indonesia’s SUSENAS data, a 10 percent reduction in the number of people living below the poverty line is accompanied by a fall of 4-6 percent in the number of children suffering from protein malnutrition (Elfindri and Dasvarma, 1996). Hence, with rising poverty the incidence of malnutrition tends to increase after the crisis, jeopardizing the trend of potential improvement discussed earlier. This is quite alarming given the fact that in 1995 already a third of Indonesian children under the age of five were malnourished.

The economic crisis and the rising poverty may also create adverse effect on education. There are two aspects to this, one is the natural response of households facing an economic predicament, another aspect is the government’s policy response.

Households respond to a crisis situation depending upon the effects and substitution possibilities during the crisis period. A loss of employment or a fall in wages will have an immediate income reduction and it may lead to a reduced quantity of purchases of the same basket of items of consumption or to a substitution of those with items of consumption whose prices have gone down and/or with poor quality items whose prices are low (consumption smoothing). Some households tend to consume less of everything while incomes are falling; certain households substitute dear items with inferior ones (income effect); and still some reallocate the family budgets to keep consumption of certain items at the cost of other items. For example, if households view education as an item of priority investment, they will readjust the budgets to protect expenditure on education. (Brodjonegoro, 2002). Otherwise, drop out rate would rise and enrolment tends to fall.

It turns out that this is not the case. If one looks only at the enrolment data, surprisingly no worsening trend is observed following the crisis
[6]. This is, however, not necessarily due to household’s general views of considering education as high priority. Rather, active government policy through various programs with the supports of international organizations that has played a major role. This second aspect has been the most critical as far as the post-crisis trend of education indicators are concerned. For example, the provision of scholarships to 4 million school children prevented a decline in the student enrolment rates (Figure 4). Reports also show that the main beneficiaries of this scholarship program, covering 6, 17 and 10 percent of, respectively, primary, junior secondary, and senior secondary school students, were largely children from genuinely poor families.

[6] Education indicator is an important part of a broader definition of poverty, i.e., Sen’s "deprivation of basic capabilities" (Sen, 1999),

Figure 4. Gross Enrolment in Urban and Rural Areas

Source: Pradhan & Sparrow (2000).

But the crisis has an adverse impact on the quality of many public services. We argued earlier that government policy and the provision of health services could help improve the country’s education and health conditions, through which the quality of human resources could be enhanced. The quality of many of these services has worsened due to the squeezed government budget during the crisis. As a result, the utilization of these services dropped. For example, the percentage number of "population that made at least one outpatient visit in the previous month" is recorded to decline persistently since the crisis broke out to reach only around 5 percent in 2002. Even for those in the poorest deciles category, whom theoretically would have a greater need to go to such services, the figure has dropped to reach only 7.2 percent in 2002.

Perennial Problems

Despite the progress made before the crisis and government’s efforts to prevent a deterioration of post-crisis education indicators, some perennial problems remain, if not worsened.

There is still a persistent problem of retention of female students in higher education which is attributed to the idea that culture may be the underlying factor for the gap between male and female students. As in other countries where parental preference for boys and boy’s education exists, parents privilege their sons in education. Since parents’ decisions to send girls to school are more price sensitive for girls than for boys, this privileging of boys over girls will continue. In most rural regions in the country, girls are required to help their parents at home and usually spend more hours working than doing their schoolwork. That girls’ academic achievement is as good as or even better than boys is remarkable. (Sadli et.al, 2001).

The disparity in the educational attainment between the rich and the poor also continued to be high. As clearly shown in Figure 5, virtually in all grade levels the educational attainment is higher for the rich. The higher the grade level, the wider is the gap.

Figure 5. Percent of 16-18 Year Olds That Have Attained Each Grade, By Quintile

Source: World Bank (2003)

More worrying is the trend of low quality of education. As shown in Table 1, there is a sharp contrast between the graduation rate and the average grade in all levels of education. While the graduation rates are generally more-than 90 percent, the average grades fail to reach the passing grade 6.0, irrespective of the level of education and whether the school is private or public.

Another worrying problem is a mismatch between education and the requirement of industries. In other countries, the post-secondary education was emphasized also on vocational training and engineering to meet the needs of the labour market (e.g., Korea and Taipei China during the 1960s and 1970s). As a result, a skill mismatch was minimized such that the labour market was able to facilitate higher economic growth, prompting the use of the term "East Asian Miracle." As the economy in those countries grew quickly over the years, incomes increased steadily and broadly. Higher incomes allowed more to be spent on human capital formation, including higher-level education. The efforts continued in the 1980s. To support shipbuilding, electronic information, and services industries during the period, the Korean government assigned a higher priority to science and technology than to social sciences and humanities at the university level. Other governments in the region made similar efforts with varying degree of success.

Table 1. A Sharp Contrast Between Graduation Rate and Average Grade, 1998/99

Source: Mayling-Oey Gardiner (2000)

The Indonesian experience, however, has not been successful. Numerous cases have shown that there is a serious mismatch between the skills of workers and the needs of industries, the impact of which has been felt painfully in terms of a relatively stagnant production structure and export composition. Inevitably, Indonesia still continues to rely on unskilled labour intensive activities with no significant improvements in the total factor productivity (TFP). This caused the economy vulnerable to a shock.

Education and health are closely intertwined. Some conditions that affect health, hence education too, also remain bleak. For example, in 1996 about a third of households in Indonesia did not have access to safe drinking water. These grim statistics did not change much after the crisis; in some areas the situation may have become worse (Dhanani and Islam, 2000). The number of households without safe drinking water also declined to around 26 percent in 1998 and 1999, and the illiteracy rate dropped to 10 percent. Incidentally, the UNDP-based ‘human poverty index’ (HPI) has been relatively unchanged, slightly declined from 24 and 25 in 1996/97 to 23 in 1998.

In short, some perennial problems with education in Indonesia need to be addressed. They constitute challenges to be dealt with by the government. The worsening conditions post 1997 crisis makes these challenges even bigger.

6. The Impact of Transnational and Distance Learning Education Initiatives on Women’s Education

More Encouragement Needed for Women Entering Technical Fields

As more women enter politics and senior management, and the world shifts to a truly global economy, new kinds of leadership are required. Women’s focus on relationships, comfort with direct communication and diversity, refusal to compartmentalize skills, talents and lives, innate scepticism of hierarchy and, most importantly, desire to lead from the middle (not from the top) are all key attributes required by tomorrow’s leaders. Today’s lean organizations require high morale, and increasing consumer choice means a real understanding of customers’ needs is essential. The talents, experiences, attitudes and skills that women bring with them are precisely those needed in the evolving post-industrial economy. This confluence of abilities and required leadership capacities is creating unprecedented opportunities for women to play a vital role in leading transformational change in organizations and communities. Women are better at seeing the human side, quicker to cut through competitive distinctions of hierarchy and ranking, impatient with cumbersome protocols (Boon, 2003).

In many countries around the world, women are not gaining equal access to international educational opportunities which will lead them into new knowledge economy industries, and only through concerted action and specific interventionist strategies can this issue be addressed. Globally women have more limited access to higher education than men, particularly in disciplines such as information technology. The situation is worse for women in developing countries (including Indonesia). The other issue working against women who wanted to access international educational opportunities is the lack of recognition of accredited online and transnational education by many governments. Women are not only under-represented in higher education around the world; they are generally concentrated in the so-called ‘female disciplines'. Shifts in government policy and funding can address some of this imbalance and international education offered further potential for women to access key positions in the global working environment. There is great potential for women to access international higher education through alternate modes of delivery, and the failure of governments to recognize accredited transnational educational qualifications is a large barrier to their development (Hyam, 2002).
Women choose to enrol in greater proportions in arts, human studies and social sciences than they do in mathematics, science and technology, the world over. The origin of this under representation of women has been largely structural, created in and through the social structures of institutions and the segmentation of the labour market, and internalised in values and beliefs about appropriate roles and expectations. These factors are manifested in a host of barriers to women's participation, both general and specific to the technological domain (Evans, 1995)

Distance Education: An Option

Distance education is seen as having a potentially important contribution to make in overcoming barriers to women's participation in the developed and developing world. Distance Education can achieve results in facilitating the participation of women, both young and mature in technological education, under the right conditions. The main forms of direct provision are bridging courses, allowing qualified women to update their knowledge and skills with a view to re-entry to the labour market; conversion courses, foundation programmes allowing mature women and school leavers who have either left too early or made subject choices they wish to change; community-based programmes providing basic technological education in a way which relates directly to women's traditional roles. (Evans, 1995)
Distance education has a very important role in women's development. Women have constraints of time, space, resources and socio-economic disabilities. Distance education can help them with its outreach to their homes. It enables them to learn at their own pace and take up vocations and skills for economic and individual development. It gives them a second chance to step into the main systems of education, including higher education, enabling them at the same time to earn and learn as well as to fulfilling family responsibilities (Trivedi, 1989).

Barriers to Transnational Education Incentives

There are barriers faced by women in utilizing foreign scholarships, even thought he scholarship sponsors usually allocation twenty-five to thirty percent of the available seats for female students. Age limits of 35-40 years, determined by government and scholarship sponsors disadvantage women. Women during their twenties and thirties are primarily involved in domestic activities and family matters and are less free than men to take scholarships overseas. The result is that the number of Indonesian women scientists graduating from foreign universities who work in Research and Development services is less than the number of men. Despite the constitutional guarantees for equal access to education, the State’s definitions of women as mothers and companions of husbands affect the policies and rules related to women’s participation in education. This discrimination against women in education is reinforced by social and religious norms. (Sadli et.al, 2001).

Transnational Education in a Global Context

Demand for higher education is more than keeping pace with population growth in developing countries. In the West, growth in personal incomes is also responsible for growth in demand, as is the need for skills created by the knowledge-based economy. This last factor also means that the people seeking tertiary education are no longer just school-leavers. They include people who are already practising a profession and must continue to update their knowledge and skills, as well as people looking to do so between jobs. For more and more people, lifelong learning is becoming a fact of life. Besides new demand, there are new suppliers. These are no longer just universities that are governed and/or funded by governments, but also include rapidly growing numbers of private training institutes that operate for profit, multinational companies that offer courses for their employees in their own corporate universities, and publishers. Some of these suppliers form partnerships with the traditional universities.

For commercial suppliers, the education ‘market’ is becoming very interesting because of its scale and its transnational character. In Asian countries, for example, there is great demand for higher education that cannot be supplied at home because the infrastructure for it is lacking. There is also a need for degree programmes and academic titles that are recognized in the countries where economic opportunities lie.

The internationalization of higher education is a development that is greatly accelerated by the new information and communication technologies. While educational institutions are setting up departments or satellites in other countries, the largest portion of ‘for-profit’ education crosses national borders with the help of ICT. In 1999 the volume of e-learning provided by the corporate sector grew by no less than 68 percent and by 2003 this business is expected to turn over some 365 billion dollars a year.

Nowadays the role that national states can play within their relatively closed national households is gradually being superseded by globalization, but the global space does not seem to offer an alternative for the democratically controlled public governance that governments have traditionally exercised with respect to higher education.

Governments and traditional higher education institutions in developing countries are less well equipped and have trouble competing with private providers of education. This threatens their ability to influence the impact that higher education has on the distribution of wealth at both national and international levels.

Throughout history, knowledge has been a factor in the way that wealth is distributed among individuals and among nations. As western societies increasingly became ‘knowledge societies’, driven by technology and a highly educated workforce, they also achieved greater internal equality and a high level of welfare for all. But the same process also resulted in greater inequality in the global distribution of income, as well as in cultural dominance, the emergence of new risks and environmental problems, new diseases, and new inequalities in opportunities for achieving sustainable livelihoods and the fulfilment of basic needs—basic education among them.

The provision and availability of higher education and the global demand for highly trained manpower have seemed to play an essential role as well, although the character of the underlying mechanisms is not entirely clear. This makes it difficult to determine which role higher education could play in enhancing the chances for development in the poorer parts of the world. Indeed, it is not even clear what effect the brain drain to western countries is having on countries that see many of their best minds go abroad. It would be too simple to say that the brain drain is simply a matter of creaming off the Least Developed Countries’ best resources in order to make the rich countries richer.

What is new is that education is now more often exported to poor countries in two ways: on a commercial basis and on the basis of development cooperation that transfers value from a developed country to a developing country. (There are also forms of export combining the two: for example when a government subsidizes the commercial supply of education in a poor country, considering it as a form of development cooperation.) In the first case it does not matter (to the provider) who is paying and following higher education, and governments have little to say about it. Some of these governments are now searching for ways to get a grip on the activities of foreign and commercial providers through new legislation.

Higher education is increasingly a global market, with ‘western’ universities and training providers gaining footholds in other regions of the world. This could have the effect that western countries will also reap the benefits of exploiting the market for the development of human resources and technology. This would be the case, for example, if people and governments in Least Developed Countries have to pay high tuition fees for services that are provided free, or almost free, to citizens in their home countries. Moreover, these ‘western’ modes of supplying services are not necessarily consistent with regional cultures, local habits and the like, which means that the development potential of both individuals and local regions is not addressed as it could be.

Moral considerations should be included here as well, such as the question of whether universities and their home nation-states have a globally civic responsibility to counterbalance the effects of the purely commercial exploitation of knowledge. And if so, what role could they play? But above all, the examples illustrate the irony that although we live in an era of knowledge societies, we know painfully little about the role that higher education plays (or could play) in the global distribution of wealth, and even less about the mechanisms through which it could exert influence (NUFFIC, 2002).

7. Closing Remarks

Promoting and strengthening democratic political system is never easy. For developing countries with relatively low income and welfare level, and with limited experience of democracy, the challenge is even more daunting. In this context, it is only expected that country like Indonesia will face an uphill battle.

In the mean time, however, the importance of preparing citizens to be effective and responsible in a democratic system is indisputable. The efforts should focus on acquiring knowledge about fundamental ideas, promoting skills to understand, explain, compare, monitor and evaluate principles and practices of government (public policies) and citizenship, and developing commitments necessary for the preservation and improvement of democratic government, dedication to human rights, common good, equality, and the rule of law.

All the above suggest for more investments in education, both formal education, especially at the basic levels (e.g., primary and secondary), and reformed education. The latter should focus on the actualization of children potential, gender equality, interdependent perspective, sense of belonging, tolerance and responsibility as citizens of their country and the global world, and responsibility in environmental conservation.

In this paper, we present arguments related to the importance of formal education only, including the vital role of women’s education, using the case of Indonesia, a very new democratic developing country. From the perspective of "promoting democracy through transnational and other education initiatives for women" (the title of the paper), it obviously provides only a partial and preliminary analysis. Yet, we believe that the importance of such an analysis is cogently needed before a more comprehensive framework is used. This approach is also germane given the fact that Indonesia is a relatively low income country, based upon which the basic premise associating the efficacy of democratic process and socio-economic welfare becomes relevant.

As argued in the paper, basic education is important and government policy could promote the provision of such education. The role of women’s education is particularly vital, since it affects significantly the demographic transition and health conditions of the children. These two factors have been proven critical in promoting welfare improvements. In our premise, such conditions are more favourable, albeit only as a necessary (not sufficient) condition, for a democratic system to be effective.

While progress in education has been made, the combination of perennial problems in Indonesia’s education and emerging new problems following the 1997 financial crisis poses a daunting challenge. More seriously, gender-bias remains. The limitation of government policy and the prevalence of male-dominated political culture with strong patriarchal values put some constraints on women’s role in education, political participation, policy debate, and decision making. This is the reason why throughout the paper we also identified some necessary policy directions, including the role of transnational and distance learning education initiatives on women’s education. Indeed, new efforts and initiatives are needed, since the task ahead is not going to be easy.
In a newly democratic system but weak economy, responding to such a task is even more daunting and likely frustrating. But the alternative is next to nothing.


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