THE Indonesian education sector experienced a “shock” when the new education and culture minister was announced.
For the longest time, the position was occupied by senior academics from Indonesia’s higher education institutions.
Many had strong reputations, built on long institutional leadership experiences, giving much confidence to major stakeholders.
That is now put under scrutiny.
The appointment was said to have stirred a turbulence of its own.
Foremost, the person is a non-academic and young (read: lack of experience).
However, this was more than made up by his fame that none of his predecessors seemed to have.
Nadiem Anwar Makarim, better known as the co-founder and chief executive officer of the ride-hailing firm Gojek, has made his grand entrance into politics.
He is an entrepreneur par excellence, responsible for a start-up worth an estimated US$10 billion, which is one of the largest in Asean.
I first heard of him some five years ago when Gojek was introduced to me by a friend as a solution to Jakarta’s traffic woes.
Gojek became a source of “alternative” employment for youth.
But not everyone agreed with the idea, citing that Malaysia is not Indonesia.
This cannot be more true with reference to the education sector, where there are clear differences.
But let us not forget that there were times in our education history when Indonesian academics were instrumental in complementing and training locals.
They were here in big numbers, involved virtually in all fields and disciplines, especially for “sains dan teknologi”.
Yes, it coincided with the change in the medium of instruction to Bahasa Malaysia.
As a result, it led to the “mushrooming” of universities in a relatively short period of time.
In a manner of speaking, its spread is similar to the Gojek experience — smooth, fast and easy!
Is the Indonesian education sector then poised for another Gojek ride?
Now that the founder is in the “driver’s seat”, he is eager and excited, just like any anxious pillion rider would.
All in anticipation of a fun “educational” journey beyond the usual “smooth, fast and easy” mantra.
Nadiem is expected to infuse the much needed innovative solutions and drive into Indonesia’s education sector.
Will his endeavour to educate Indonesian youth be a Gojek-like success? After all, there are not too many education ministers who made it to Time magazine’s most 100 influential individuals.
According toTime, Nadiem is in “a position to shape the future leaders of the world’s 16th largest economy”.
Expectations are indeed high.
Indonesians thus can count on their lucky stars in this regard.
Perhaps Malaysia, too, can learn from our Indonesian counterparts to make our universities “entrepreneurial” as spelt out under the Higher Education Blueprint 2015-2025.
Not surprisingly, the education minister commanded high respect when President Joko Widodo openly recognised Nadiem’s leadership.
Joko said Nadiem is an addition to his “innovative” cabinet and is expected to “invent a number of breakthroughs to create a ready to work human resources”.
This endeavour is well aligned with the president’s vision to position human development as a major priority of his administration, intended to help the nation realise its huge creative potential.
Nadiem may just be the catalyst to elevate Asean to a new growth trajectory.
The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector