Sat, 03 Apr 2004


Gaining easier access to better job opportunities

Sudibyo M. Wiradji The Jakarta Post Jakarta

In today's global economy, many companies tend to seek prospective employees with international-standard proficiency in foreign languages.

And, as frequently advertised in printed media, multi-national companies offering job vacancies often prefer graduates from overseas universities rather than those who have graduated locally.

In addition to qualifications, overseas university graduates are perceived to have better interpersonal skills thanks to their study environment that allows them to communicate and interact with people from different nationalities and cultures. Thus, it is not exaggerating to say that overseas university graduates are more 'marketable' and have more bargaining power in the job market.

"The public appreciate overseas university graduates more than graduates from local universities, giving them more prestige," a noted the rector of the Jakarta State University Connie Riouwskina Semiawan Stamboel said.

This might explain why many affluent Indonesian parents send their children overseas for higher education, even though several quality universities with international standards are now available in the capital.

The trend of the rich sending their children abroad began in Indonesia in the 1990s when overseas educational institutions started high-profile campaigns about the benefits of overseas study in several big cities, including Jakarta.

Although the country has not yet recovered from its prolonged economic crisis, it remains an important market for overseas educational institutions because many wealthy families in the public, business and political elite have not been significantly affected by the downturn.

Almost every year numerous overseas universities from the Unites States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore exhibit their wares in Jakarta. Such events always attract big audiences predominantly made up of high school students.

"Certainly, studying at overseas university is expensive. But studying at local university with international standards is now also costly. Despite the high cost, graduates of overseas universities have an easier access to better job opportunities at multi-national companies," Franky Tambunan, a prospective student, said.

Franky, a university graduate majoring in business, will take his masters degree in international marketing at the University of East London. He will leave the country for London in September of this year.

Like Franky, Luky Triadi Annas will also study abroad due to employment considerations. Luky, who studied at a local university for two years, will take a diploma degree on mass communication at the TMC Academy For Advanced Education in Singapore.

"Overseas universities are equipped with superb facilities. Besides studying abroad, I will become accustomed to speaking English. Hopefully, when I complete my studies, I will have an opportunity to work not only in Indonesia but also in Singapore," he said. He will start his course in July of this year.

Meanwhile, Connie said the high costs charged by local universities, especially quality ones with an international standard curriculum, made overseas study an attractive option.

"When calculated, the amount of money spent on overseas study is not that much different from that spent on study at local university. Therefore, many parents prefer to send their children to study abroad because (with the added advantages) overseas study is more cost-effective," she said.

Many Indonesians, including those employed at state institutions, universities or private companies, have the opportunity to study abroad on scholarships.

Fajar Hidayat, who took post-graduate study majoring in international banking and finance at Britain's Birmingham University in 2002, said his study abroad had provided him with valuable additional knowledge a from high-quality education system.

"After graduating from Birmingham University I had more flexibility about what I wanted to do in the job market and I found alternatives to the standard, straight-ahead banking job," said Fajar, an economics specialist at the Embassy of the United States in Jakarta.

Adi Dzulfuat, who works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is another ex-student who believes he has benefited from studying overseas. "Culturally, my overseas study has allowed me to recognize different behavior, ways of thinking, lifestyles and appreciate the standard of living of people in developed countries. Academically, it allows me to think systematically and logically, thanks to access to an educational system supported by exceptionally good facilities," said Adi, who took MscEcon's Intelligence and Strategic Studies program in international politics at the UK's University of Wales in 2002.

But many also study at an overseas university or college because their parents' work in a foreign country. Andi Martosubroto, for instance, lived in Italy for a couple of years with his father working at the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). During his stay in Italy, he took a masters degree in electrical and electronic engineering with a minor in Japanese at the University of Manchester. He said the quality education system had enabled him to complete a masters degree faster. "We do not have a four-year Masters Degree model in Indonesia. Here, it usually takes longer due to various reasons, such as the difficulty of finding a lecturer due to their tight schedules," Andi said.

Above all, the study enabled him to interact with people from different nationalities, ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds. "This helps enhance my social and interpersonal skills in working within a mixed group. In some ways, it has been easier for me to find a job," said Andi, who currently works as a consultant.

Connie emphasized the positive effects of studying abroad on students, saying overseas study could broaden students' horizons.

"Overseas study experiences are good for the personalities of Indonesian students, enabling them to have wide insights into science, culture, and perhaps, technology, which will certainly benefit the quality of Indonesian human resources," she said.

Education expert Simon Marcus Gower shared Connie's view: "Students that come back to Indonesia will have gained both valuable intellectual development from their studies as well as cultural awareness."

"They will have been exposed to different ways of thinking and problem-solving that can be applied to Indonesian life and the development of the nation," he said.