HAS University of Applied Sciences is structurally involved in international projects centred around knowledge transfer, supply chain thinking and educational innovation. We are currently participating in a two-year Nuffic project aimed at supporting and improving practical education in Indonesia. To do this, we are working together with both Indonesian and Dutch partners including Zone.college, HollandDoor Coöperatie, and Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences.
“In recent years, the Indonesian government has increasingly been investing in revitalising technical and vocational education and training at SMKs, which are Indonesian vocational colleges comparable to Dutch MBOs,” says Bram van Helvoirt, programme leader at HAS University of Applied Sciences. “Dutch companies and institutions are supporting this evolution by collaborating in projects with local Indonesian colleges and the professional field, with a specific focus on the agri-food sector. These projects are co-financed by Dutch government bodies, such as Nuffic.”
Connecting education with industry
Revitalising the vocational schools is an urgent task. Bram: “The agri-food sector in Indonesia is advancing rapidly, which makes it important that students in secondary vocational education accompany have the knowledge and skills to keep up. This also requires new student-oriented teaching methods. At HAS University of Applied Sciences, we want to use our expertise to play a part in this, for example with our experience in problem-based education and having industry involvement in projects.”
Learning from each other
Collaboration in the project is a 2-way process, says Bram. “We want to support these schools and the professional field, but we also want to learn from each other. We use the insights gained to improve our own education.” This view is supported by Jan Steverink from Zone.college, an MBO training centre in green education with branches in Almelo, Enschede and Zwolle, and others. “Comparing our colleges provides interesting insights that we can use to help each other.”
Jan continues: “Agriculture and horticulture in Indonesia are professionalising at a rapid rate, and education is an indispensable link in this process. In recent years, the Indonesian government has paid a lot of attention to higher education, and it’s reassuring to see that this attention is now being shifted to vocational education. The government is well aware that if Indonesia wants to produce enough healthy and sustainable food for its population, vocational education needs to be improved. However, the agri-food sector doesn’t have a great image. It would be good if we could clean up this image, and use attractive education to encourage young people to look for a career in the sector.”
It is crucial that both Dutch and Indonesian partners in educational institutions and the industry join forces to make the project a success. HollandDoor, a small cooperative with members from the agri-food sector, is one of the industry partners. “We run programmes around the world to strengthen agriculture and horticulture by contributing knowledge and expertise to projects, organising study trips, and business matchmaking. We’re involved in both the concept stage and implementation stage,” says Engelie Beenen. “Indonesia is a unique country with a lot of potential. We’ve been doing international projects there for over 15 years. It’s exciting to see that the Indonesian government is so actively committed to reinforcing secondary vocational education. The aim is to convert about 500 SMKs into Centres of Excellence with up-to-date knowledge, modern teaching methods, good cooperation with the business community, and an eye for doing business. All this directly helps the development of the agricultural sector.”
Practical training for Master Trainers at VEDCA.
Improving education is a two-stage process. Bram: “The first step is to train a selected group of Master Trainers who will be responsible for training SMK lecturers. This selected group comes from University IPB Bogor, VEDCA Cianjur and University of Malang. The task of the Master Trainers is to strengthen vocational education as a whole. That means educating and training lecturers, starting with three SMKs in Lombok. In early 2020, we went on a joint orientation mission to Lombok to identify the needs of the business community and the current education programmes at these three SMKs.”
Participation exceeded expectations
“Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which really made it clear how much can actually be done remotely,” adds Engelie. “We were able to simply keep going and achieved many predetermined goals. In fact, because we couldn’t meet physically, our Indonesian partners automatically took on more responsibility. It all worked out very well.” Jan adds: “During the training sessions, we noticed that it was sometimes difficult to make refinements because we only saw each other on a screen. Practicing teaching methods remotely is also more difficult. However, the participation of the Master Trainers really exceeded expectations, and they had an enormous capacity to take things on board. The subsequent training of lecturers on Lombok is quite a challenge. These lecturers are responsible both for the desired educational innovation, and had to convert their own education programmes from physical to online because of the lockdown.”
Pointers in the right direction
Bapak Sutrisno is a food technology lecturer at the SMK Sakra in Lombok. “The project is very useful for all of us,” he says. “That goes for lecturers, students and the school itself. We already had a partnership programme in place with the business community before the project started, but we just couldn’t find the right form of cooperation. The project defined the direction we want to take within the partnership. Aside from student work placements, we are now also developing other types of projects with the industry. For example, we started a work placement programme for lecturers. Our college was also able to form partnerships with various companies, for example, that hire students after graduation.”
He continues: “Participating in the project has motivated me to continually improve myself as a lecturer. This includes skills such as project-based education, problem-based learning, and supporting students who want to start their own business. The improvements give a new dimension to us as a college. For example, there is increasing interest in our college among secondary school students, especially the agribusiness study programme. As lecturers, our role also includes training business-oriented students so they are ready to enter the professional field and actively use their knowledge and skills. This aspect is supported by the project, and I hope these kinds of projects continue.”
The current project will end next summer, but all the partners involved are hoping for a follow-up. “Educational innovation is a long-term process,” says Bram, “especially if you also want to give the practical field a permanent place in the curriculum. Hopefully, these kinds of projects will create a structural partnership between the Netherlands and Indonesia in which we help each other move forward.” Jan concludes: “The countries might be very different, but the problems in education are not. We can continue to strengthen each other.”