The Need to Reform Indonesian Education System to Face the Future World of Work
Thu, 29 Nov 2018 || By Arumdriya Murwani

This commentary will talk about the need to reform the Indonesian education system to answer the challenge of Industrial Revolution 4.0 in Indonesia. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or what experts like to refer to as the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (4IR), refers to the phenomena where the fusion of technologies are not only automating production but also knowledge.[i] Klaus Schwab, an economist and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), predicted the 4IR would significantly alter the way we live and work.[ii] In Southeast Asia alone, Mobile Internet and Cloud Technology is a trend that has the most impact on the industry.[iii] Concerning labor, this phenomena could pose a significant challenge—especially regarding automation and the threat of unemployment. The McKinsey Global Institute released a concerning report in 2017, which state that as much as 50% of the current jobs in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting have the potential to be automated.[iv] According to a report by World Economic Forum, workers in low-skilled jobs might find themselves trapped in a cycle where low skills stability means they could face redundancy without significant re- and upskilling even while disruptive change may erode employers’ incentives and the business case for investing in such reskilling.[v] In such backdrop, it becomes critical for our stakeholders to re-think about reforming the educational system so that it would encourage pupils to learn skills crucial to survive the age of automation.

            In the age of automation, one of the prevailing sectors of industry is predicted to be the creative industry. There is no single definition of creative industry, but the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) sees the creative industry as one that is built on the interplay between human creativity and ideas and intellectual property, knowledge and technology—essentially, a knowledge-based economy.[vi] Creative industries thus would cover jobs such as performing arts, fine arts, designs, and others. This commentary sees that many job sectors under the creative industries are more “humane” and thus would prevail in the age of automation. If anything, the rapid development of technology had given us more freedom to create. In the future, creative industries are expected to flourish, especially in the age of digitalization that has provided us with more than enough tools in our toolbox to create. In the United Kingdom, for example, the importance of creative industries had been acknowledged by the government. The creative industries are leading the economic growth—outperforming the UK economy as a whole.[vii] The United Kingdom credited this growth towards the nation's creative education system, which has become a breeding ground for future creatives.[viii] From this small example, we can see how the incorporation of creativity into the educational system had set out the foundation of the United Kingdom’s flourishing creative economy.

What about Indonesia? The creative industry is also one of the flourishing sectors in the Indonesian economy. The Government had established the National Body for Creative Economy (Badan Ekonomi Kreatif—BEKRAF) to fully maximize the potential of the nation’s creative industry. BEKRAF had predicted that in 2018, the creative industry would contribute 6.25% of the total country’s economy and employ 16.7 million workers.[ix] The sector was already posted a strong record of growth since 2015, consistently showing growth in the trillions of IDR: in 2015, the sector contributed 852 trillion IDR; to 922.58 trillion IDR in 2016; and 990.4 trillion IDR in 2017 to the country’s GDP respectively.[x] According to Global Business Guide Indonesia, furthermore, despite the strong economic outlook on the creative industry, the sector still faced constraints related to financing and marketing. Another major constraint related to the expansion of the creative economy lies in the level of preparedness of Indonesian human resources. This commentary sees that the educational system is not yet reformed to fulfil the skill demand central to the expanding creative industry in the country. The Indonesian education system is commonly known for its dogmatic approach to teaching, and have a problem of prioritizing quantity over quality. Although there is a relatively open and easy access to educational facilities, the quality of the teaching had not yet been improved. Indonesians generally have poor performance compared to other countries in standardized tests, such as PISA and TIMSS.[xi] This trend continues into the higher education level, where the system continues to produce graduates that lack the skills needed by today’s demand in the workplace.[xii] The same report by Rosser shows that Indonesian university is lacking in terms of the quality of research and teaching needed to produce graduates with adequate skills to fill professional and managerial roles.

From this description, it becomes apparent that the Indonesian Government needs to reconsider their approach in formulating their educational curriculum to answer the challenges posed by the future of the global economy. Indonesian Government needs to reform their educational system so that it would encourage students to master skills linked to creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. The Government also needs to consider ditching the old chalk-and-talk method in the classroom and encourage their students to explore their surroundings more. By allowing these changes to happen, the Indonesian Government would prepare their pupils to reap the maximum benefit of the emerging creative industries and to answer the challenges of automation in the era of the Fourth Industrial

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Editor: Treviliana Eka Putri

[i] Gleason, N. W., (2018). Introduction. In: N. W. Gleason, ed. Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-14.

[ii] Ibid.,

[iii] World Economic Forum, (2016). Report: The Future of Jobs - Association of Southeast Asian Nations. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 15 November 2018].

[iv] Gleason, N. W., (2018). Introduction. In: N. W. Gleason, ed. Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-14.

[v] World Economic Forum, (2016). The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Geneva: World Economic Forum.

[vi] UNCTAD, (n.d.) Creative Economy Programme [Online] Available at: [Accessed 16 November 2018]

[vii] Harris, Y., (2018). Government confirms design is key to growth. [Online]  Available at: [Accessed 16 November 2018]

[viii] The United Kingdom Trade and Investment Department, (2018). Creative nation, A guide to the UK's world-leading creative industries. [Online]  Available at:  [Accessed 16 November 2018].

[ix] Global Business Guide Indonesia, 2018. Indonesia’s Creative Industry: Set to Become the Next Economic Powerhouse. [Online]  Available at: [Accessed 16 November 2018]

[x] Ibid.,

[xi] Rosser, A., 2018. Beyond Access: Making Indonesia's Education System Work. [Online]  Available at: [Accessed 15 November 2018].

[xii] Ibid.,