Palladium implementing program for better education in Indonesia

26 August 2020 3 min. read

The Innovation for Indonesia’s School Children (INOVASI) has merged with the Technical Assistance for Education System Strengthening (TASS) to create a second phase of education programmes across Indonesia starting July. Palladium will support with the implementation of the new phase.

Palladium is a global management consultancy that specialises in delivering socio-economic programs in collaboration with government and private institutions across the world. The firm has been implementing INOVASI since the program’s inception in 2016 – an experience that it will now use to implement phase two of the program.

INOVASI is jointly backed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Indonesia’s Ministry for Education and Culture, and is designed to deliver reform to Indonesia’s education system. The program is the latest in a string of education reform initiatives that have been underway for four decades now.

INOVASI’s launch in 2016 was followed closely by the launch of TASS – a program that consults with national ministries in Indonesia to make systemic improvements in the country’s education system. As of last month, a second phase of education reform is underway, which will combine INOVASI and TASS into a single program.Palladium implementing program for better education in IndonesiaAs implementation partner, Palladium will be looking to push the reform forward, leveraging its track record and learnings gained over the past four years. Richard Paulsen, Education Director for Asia Pacific at Palladium, shed light on some of the lessons that have been reaped over this period.

For starters, the environment needs to be right, according to Paulsen. Educators at the local and regional level are often familiar with the spectrum of challenges, and could solve many a problem if given the resources. However, the hierarchical nature of Indonesian government places most authority at the national level, often leaving educators with their hands tied. Coordinating between the local and the national will be a central task for the next phase, mainly to create an enabling environment at the local level.

Secondly, Paulsen highlights that the approach to giving advice must resemble that of a “critical friend” rather than an expert. Advisors must be supportive of those in the education system, and level with them if there is criticism to be made rather than talking down to them. According to the expert, an informal environment has been conducive to driving change so far.

The third lesson he puts forward is that the system must not be pressured or criticised, but “nudged” in the right direction. The government has its own rationale for the current system, which will often be a valid one. It is important for advisors to understand the government’s perspective, and suggest mechanisms that will implement change gradually with all stakeholders in mind.

The fourth and final lesson according to Paulsen relates to the importance of collaboration. He highlights how INOVASI’s 2019 grants program facilitated unprecedented relationships between the government and civil society in Indonesia. The regulatory environment in Indonesia has recently become conducive to partnerships with government and civil society, and Paulsen believes that this will be crucial to driving thorough education reform.

Summing up the experience so far and shedding light on the future, Paulsen said “These learnings will carry forward into our second phase of programming. Enduring change is not inherently technical in nature; it’s behavioural. We need to focus not only on financial resources, laws and incentives, but also to investigate issues of mindset, decision making and social environment.”

Driving change in education is crucial to Indonesia’s economy, particularly as it looks to reinvent its workforce to match future economic demands.