Mon, 07 Mar 2005

RI students seek broader experience in Britain

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Tinna, a 23-year-old graduate of Pelita Harapan University, is convinced that studying abroad will expand her horizons and enrich her with experiences she could not possibly get in Indonesia.

"I cannot make a comparison about the quality of art education (in Indonesia and the UK), but I guess wider experience is not something I can possibly get here," she said, explaining her interest in taking a post-graduate art degree in the UK.

She was speaking on the sidelines of an education fair over the weekend held by the British Council at the Hilton Hotel. Some 21 UK universities participated in the event.

Her mother, Retiana, who supported Tinna's plan, said, "Actually, wherever a child studies, it depends on how serious she is. But studying in the UK will hopefully increase her independence, especially as it is a country with a different culture to ours. The many restrictions in Indonesia would prevent her from developing her personal skills."

Assistant director of English Language and Education at the British Council here, Simon Colledge, said that strongly held traditions along with a cosmopolitan, modern society and cultural diversity were some of the main attractions for students to come to the UK.

The long traditions of the UK's universities had ensured high national standards, with universities being regularly assessed by the UK Department of Education to vet their teaching, resources and research capabilities.

"Professors are expected to be up-to-date in their particular fields of study. They must do independent research in their areas of expertise, with the results being published nationally or printed in textbooks."

"Courses and lectures are consumer focused. They give individual attention based on academic interest. For example, a post-graduate student is assigned a personal tutor."

According to Ria Widjaja, marketing communications officer for the British Council, over the past five years between 600 and 750 Indonesian students went to the UK each year to continue their studies. The figures were expected to grow by 20 percent this year, she said.

The cost of undergraduate study in the UK is between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds sterling per year (about US$5,235), while minimum living costs, including accommodation, food and transportation, come to about 700 pounds sterling per month.

The British Council's public relations manager, Mona Monika, said that the quality of UK graduates was recognized by the Indonesian Ministry of National Education.

"It might be due to the fact that all universities apply the same national standards in terms of quality and pricing. The fact that test papers are checked by lecturers from other universities ensures that a student's hard work and achievements are the key to the success of his studies."

She added that one of the UK's strengths was its national students union, which had a network of local student unions.

"The power that the national students union has in the UK enables it to provide input for education legislation in the UK, ensuring that the students' interests are heeded," she said.

She added that the presence of careers guidance departments that collaborated with top international companies such as Macintosh and IBM, in UK universities made it easier for students to find jobs after they graduated.

"Students can ask for advice on where to focus in their studies should they be interested in working for a particular company. The advisor will send them in the right direction."

Mona said that this benefited both the students and companies looking for employees. "A strong interest in the students' future after graduating is something that is lacking in Indonesia," she added. (005)