The world today faces tremendous challenges related to cultural and religious tensions, social injustice, political and economic crises as well as sustainable development issues. In Indonesia, we have also witnessed shortfalls in leadership, corruption and increasing conflicts and tensions in many areas.
To deal with the challenges and complexities of today’s world, we need to critically look at our education and answer the question: How can we educate our younger generations to be people of conscience, values and principles who strive for a better world for all; people who are interculturally competent and are able to communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds and cultivate a sense of belonging to the global community?.
This November, AFS Indonesia organized a seminar at the Ministry of Education and Culture Republic as one of activities to celebrate 60 years of AFS Intercultural Programs in Indonesia and 31st anniversary of Bina Antarbudaya, the Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning. We invited around 90 practitioners, experts, academics, policy makers, and concerned citizens to discuss and provide recommendations on the importance of character building in Indonesian education. This was also a good opportunity to promote intercultural learning to a wider audience in Indonesia.
Two keynote speakers opened the seminar: Prof. Arief Rachman, Executive Chairman at the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, and Ms. Melissa Liles, Chief Education Officer at AFS Intercultural Programs. Professor Arief Rachman presented the objectives and principles of education. He also pointed out problems in current educational practices in Indonesia, and suggested that education is crucial for peace, human rights, and global citizenship. Ms. Liles pointed out that AFS Intercultural Programs promotes education for learning to live together that emphasizes the development in personal, interpersonal, cultural, and global realms. Besides facilitating and empowering youth as participants of intercultural exchanges, AFS also facilitates development, training and best practice sharing among educators.
In her presentation on diversity, Ms. Irid Agoes, Co-Founder of Bina Antarbudaya, analyzed the multi-ethnic groups in Indonesia, and the implication this has on national unity and conflicts. She concluded that corruption is common in national institutions, and that “Character Education” that helps people understand, care about, and act upon core ethical values could help prevent this problem in the future. Education systems should emphasize relationship building and values such as trust, care, appreciation, adaptation, social skills, effectiveness, and happiness, Ms. Agoes pointed out.
Human rights, peace, sustainable development, and international understanding are key to global citizenship, according to Mr. Bagus Riyono, President of the International Association of Muslim Psychologists. Mr. Riyono also emphasized that global citizens should have global concerns, respect towards differences, concern for humanity as a whole, and universal values. None of these values and traits of global citizens implies that people should only follow trends, compromise their own identity or personality.
During her presentation on independence, Ms. Jasmin Jasin, Founder of Gemala Ananda School, stressed the importance of experiential learning through individual reflections and open and meaningful conversations of people with differing points of view. These practices allow learners to think critically and help them better understand themselves and others.
This seminar also produced four key recommendations about diversity, global citizenship, and independence:
These recommendations are focused on the Indonesian society and educational context, but they can also be adapted and applied in many other national and local contexts. AFS Indonesia is happy to share lessons learned from this seminar and support other AFS Network Organizations in developing similar events.
This article was written by Deena Soedikto, Volunteer Development Coordinator at AFS Indonesia.