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Tackling Indonesia’s edtech paradox: abundance and scarcity

Published on May 17, 2023

We live in a world with a globalized workforce. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s K-12 academic level ranks in the bottom 10% of the world. It is well below the OECD average, scoring 72/78 in Math, 70/78 in Science, and 72/77 in reading. As recently as 2021, 19% of 25-34 year-olds had a tertiary qualification compared to 47% on average across OECD countries. This presents a problem for ASEAN’s single largest market. 

On a recent episode of Indonesia Digital Deconstructed by AC Ventures, host Leighton Cosseboom sat down with Abhay Saboo, Co-founder and CEO of CoLearn; and Rangga Husnaprawira, Chief Product Officer at GovTech Edu

CoLearn is one of  Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing edtech platforms. It combines AI-powered homework help with live classes and a focus on STEM subjects, serving students in grades 5-12.

GovTech Edu is an organization that partners with the Indonesian government on tech products to deliver impact at scale nationwide, currently focusing on Indonesia’s vast education sector.  

The group discussed how players in the public and private sectors are thinking about societal problems related to education, and how they can forge partnerships to solve said problems with technology. 

Edtech for students and teachers

“I think Indonesia’s greatest blessing is also its greatest challenge,” explained Abhay, mentioning that the nation is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and ample rainfall, whereas in some other APAC countries, the lack of resources creates a competitive environment where a strong education becomes crucial to survival. 

He said, “However, in Indonesia, poverty doesn’t necessarily mean a death sentence. It can just mean having a small piece of fertile land with a banana tree, where basic needs like water are still accessible. This situation, while appearing as a blessing, can create a less pressing need for competition and may lessen the drive for better education on a personal level.”

To address the issue, CoLearn’s objective is to help Indonesian students better understand subjects like math, science, and chemistry so that they can become competitive in a future workforce that is much more globalized and automated.

Meanwhile, at a different part of the nation’s education value chain, Rangga’s team is building out a product called Merdeka Mengajar (translated as ‘Freedom to Teach’).

“We have an Android-based mobile app. It’s already been downloaded by over 2.6 million teachers nationwide. Teachers can log in using their centralized credentials from the Ministry of Education. The most popular feature is the learning modules, where teachers can access diverse resources. These can be content provided by our team, like micro-learning modules, or classes that teachers can enroll in. Some of these classes are synchronous, others are asynchronous,” explained Rangga. 

“What excites us the most is the increasing amount of user-generated content on Merdeka Mengajar. Teachers are creating and sharing their own teaching materials — videos, PDFS, and more — which encourage feedback, sharing, and commentary from other teachers, creating a vibrant learning community. This peer learning is now a fundamental aspect of our app. While this is the starting point, we are continually adding new features. For instance, we’re planning to incorporate a career development feature by the end of this year.”

Rangga and Abhay went on to discuss how the public and private sectors can join hands to address some of Indonesia’s most pressing education challenges.

Get the full episode for free on Spotify, Apple, and Google

See also: Indonesian edtech company CoLearn bags US$17 million
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