Indonesian Self-Development through Education

From June 27-28, 2011, Yale University and Yogyakarta State University cosponsored and held the Fourth International Indonesia Forum (IIF) at Yogyakarta State University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Entitled “Enriching Future Generations: Education Promoting Indonesian Self-Development,” the conference elicited a range of scholarly responses to the historic and contemporary role of education in shaping Indonesian subjectivities. Rather than assuming ‘education’ to be a stable thematic field, presenters from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (Anthropology, Economics, History, Language Pedagogy, Linguistics, Political Science, Public Policy Studies, Religious Studies, Sociology, Theater and Performance Studies, and Women’s Studies) drew from a host of methodologies and theoretical orientations to critically assess ‘education’ and its presupposed role(s) in Indonesian economic, political, and sociocultural life. Also attentive to questions of policy and praxis, presenters sought to highlight the potentials and achievements of education in promoting actively engaged Indonesian citizens in an increasingly globalized Indonesia.

Conference presenters at the Fourth International Indonesia Forum hailed from a number of countries, with representatives from North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

The conference proceedings began with an opening speech by Rachmat Wahab, President of Yogyakarta State University and a keynote address by Suyanto, Director-General of the Department of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Education for the Republic of Indonesia. Both opening speakers addressed the crucial role played by education in facing the challenges and seizing the opportunities associated with economic and political developments in an increasingly globalized Indonesia. The two-day conference was divided into a series of ten panels: (1) Enriched Through Culture, (2) Critical Approaches to Education, (3) Education and Politics, (4) Identities and Reconstruction, (5) Religion, Media, and Education, (6) Roots and Identities, (7) Values and Islam, (8) People and Institutions, (9) Economics, Politics, and Ethics, and (10) Self Development and Social Justice.

One particularly salient theme assessed the role played by education in the constitution of ‘the local’ in contemporary Indonesia and the ways by which formal education informs experiences and construals of ‘locality.’ Conference attendees who spoke to these issues acknowledged the local as a dialectically constituted form, and discussed the various ways in which locality is relationally defined with reference to the non-local (e.g., the national, or the global) in educational settings. An additional theme addressed the historical roots of Indonesia’s education system, and questioned the ways in which colonial-era discourses have informed and continue to frame experiences of this system in contemporary Indonesia. A third focus interrogated current policy and praxis in Indonesia’s formal education settings.