Technology for Education
“I only received a Fulbright scholarship for four months,” said Tian Belawati, rector of the Open University. “It wasn’t for a college degree program, but for research. Even so, this short program opened my eyes to the important role that technology plays in disseminating educational programs.”
Born in Jakarta in 1962, Tian is the university’s fifth rector since it was founded in 1984. She received her Fulbright scholarship in 2001. “In Florida there was a consortium program for longdistance education. With the help of Fulbright, I had the opportunity to observe up close the implementation of long-distance education that involved cooperation among several community colleges. I worked in an office at Florida State University, next to the assistant director’s office,” she said.
“Indonesians have always admired and looked to America for education and modernization. However, American academics really admire and appreciate Indonesian creativity, especially in terms of adjusting to circumstances and difficulties rarely faced in the United States, such as in the case of power failures and weather disturbances. They see that Indonesians succeed through creativity despite their limitations
“Now Indonesia has the Open University, with offices in 37 cities, including its center here in Pondok Cabe, Tangerang. The university’s symbol is the satellite dish, which is the symbol of the most advanced technology of 27 years ago. This shows that we are future-oriented and prioritize technology.
“With some 600,000 students, the Open University is the sixth largest in the world. Communications technology makes the management efficient. We only have 800 teachers, because lectures are given in the form of packages. When a tutorial is needed, we recruit lecturers from various universities, and when there’s a need for a meeting place, we can borrow various unused spaces on the weekends.
“Most Open University students work and so can only meet on the weekends. Next year we will be holding an Indonesian language study program for foreigners. Thus, Americans residing in Indonesia will be able to join the Open University program. We must facilitate this kind of language education. We also need to improve our public speaking skills.
“As long as you can read and write, you can study at the Open University. People should not be restricted by geographical difficulties and technological shortcomings. When I was studying in America, I learned the real meaning of ‘making higher education [available] for all.’ In Florida, people who have no background in Information Technology, like myself, learned about resource and cost sharing.
“The distribution of teaching materials in many regions in Indonesia, including West Timor, Maluku, Southeast Sulawesi, and Papua, are still constrained by lack of power and sudden blackouts. Sea transport can be delayed by large swells, causing books and reading materials to arrive late.
“The main task of Fulbright, I think, is to increase the interaction of people from both nations. We encourage people-topeople collaboration. I believe that through exchanges and cooperation in education, we can develop democracy in everyday life.
“My dream is for everyone to feel that they always have a choice. The Open University has implemented a system of education for all, and it promotes lifelong learning. Indonesian and U.S. relations are always stable at the government level, but the relationship is actually determined by the interaction of various parties whose quality is determined by interactions through education.”
In February 2012, Tian Belawati was unanimously elected president of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) in the international meeting of the organization held in Oslo, Norway. She is the first woman from Asia elected to this prestigious position.
This article appears from the book of Across the Archipelago, from Sea to Shining Sea Commemorating the 60/20 Anniversary of Fulbright and AMINEF (Page 199– 201) published in 2012.
Translator: Sagita Adesywi and Piet Hendrardjo.
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