Nadiem Makarim: A New Hope for Indonesia’s Education World


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Gojek became a staple in urban (and even rural) living in no time, thanks to its CEO and the man behind the brand, Nadiem Makarim, we are now free from having to walk to taxi pools, watching in fear as the meter goes up and up due to cheeky drivers trying to get more money from our wallets, and being afraid that the driver is going to do something bad thanks to their emergency alert feature.

Born in Singapore on 4 July 1984, Nadiem is the son of Nono Anwar Makarim, an activist and lawyer of Minangkabau-Arabian descent; and Atika Algadri, the daughter of Hamid Algadri. Nadiem’s two sisters are Hana Makarim and Rayya Makarim, who is known as a filmmaker.

He married Franka Franklin and they have two daughters together. An Ivy League alumni, Nadiem attended high school in Jakarta and United World College of Southeast Asia (UWC SEA), Singapore, proceeding to Brown University for a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations. He then did his Master’s Degree at Harvard University.

Nadiem created Gojek in 2010, an online transportation company which has become a decacorn company with valuation over US$10 billion today. First established as some kind of a call centre, offering only courier delivery and two-wheeled ride-hailing services, Gojek has been transforming into a super app, providing more than twenty services all and all, ranging from transportation, food delivery, groceries shopping, massage, house cleaning, and logistics services, all the way to a cashless digital payment platform GoPay.

The idea of Gojek comes from the fact that he often uses a motorcycle taxi, known in Indonesia as Ojek. Combined with the idea of online transport like its successor Über and Grab, he brewed the idea to a very promising business opportunity and developed it into Gojek, founded in 2010.

When he saw that Gojek was very well received (by customers, not so much by conventional taxi drivers, initially,) and eventually received US$1,3 billion funding from investors, in a 2018-round led by Alphabet Inc’s Google, Inc and Tencent Holdings. Gojek became the first Indonesian Unicorn. By 2019, however, the firm grows even larger and became Indonesia’s first decacorn with a valuation of up to US$10 billion.

It was a stunning and perhaps rather surprising thing when President Joko Widodo appointed Nadiem as the Ministry of Education when he was elected for a second term; a decision that makes more and more sense in the next couple of months after the appointment was made.

Not many people know, but Nadiem, along with Melinda Gates (yes, THE Melinda Gates) and the Minister of Finance of Indonesia, Sri Mulyani, served as one of the commissioners of Pathways for Prosperity for Technology and Inclusive Development, an organization focusing in helping developing countries to adapt with various new digital innovations that change the working culture.  This is very much in line with The World Education Congress which focuses on “Evolving Trends in Education”. With the fast changes in the world, it is necessary to examine modern as well as traditional knowledge system and further explore how education can help develop mental, emotional and physical skills to help facilitate personal excellence as well as psychological and Socio–economic wellbeing, in the challenging times the world faces today. A new and unique in-depth approaches to understanding important academic issues is very much needed in today’s fast-paced business environment.

According to The World Education Congress, new education system needs to influence the evolving culture of education and educational pedagogy, with the objective of deep systemic change. It also needs to build strategies for Higher Education Institutes and provide exposure to latest education tools, technologies and solutions to encourage better learning environtment and experiences. The last sentence is most certainly what Nadiem knows best. With such a giant company in his hands, it is no wonder that he is accustomed to think big, think different, and think quick. In less than two months since President Joko Widodo appointed him the new Minister of Education, Nadiem and his fresh non-bureaucratic eyes have already mustered up four changes to be applied to the Indonesian Education System in the near future.

The first one is the change in format for USBN (Ujian Sekolah Berstandar Nasional – National Standard School Exams.) From the usual exam mode, Nadiem instructed school teachers to transform the boring questions-answers method with a much more personal projects like making a porto-folio, a paper, or even a group assesment. With such freedom in their hands, Nadiem wishes for the teachers to factor in the students’ personality and traits into the final scoring.

The second, and the most exciting one, is the removal of the infamous UN (Ujian Nasional or National Exams.) Although not going to be applied before the next school year (2020-2021), the idea surprisingly came from the FSGI (Federasi Serikat Guru Indonesia-The Federation of Indonesian Teachers Union) who have been saying that UN has brought so much pressure upon not only the teachers but also the students and their parents; the kind of pressure that snatches away the fun in learning and producing students that are good in reciting without understanding what it really means. To make things even easier for everybody, the new format of national exam is planned to be held in the middle classes too, as opposed to the highest level classes we all know these years.

According to Nadiem, instead of the former UN format, 2020-2021 students will face Minimum Competency Assesment (Asesmen Kompetensi Minimum or AKM) and Character Survey (Survey Kompetensi or SK) for a change. With the AKM based on Literacy and Numeracy (not the same with Bahasa and Matematika,) Nadiem hoped that students will be able to apply their literacy and numeracy skills to solve almost any problem in any subject.

According to him, “These materials are the basic competency needed to study any materials on any subjects.” In lieue to the AKM is the SK, which he said is necessary to map the overall education system in the country. The survey will hopefully reveal the well-being levels of students across the nation: whether they are doing okay at home, their living conditions, if they are being bullied, and so forth. This brings tears to our eyes as we sigh in relief upon realizing that public schools will finally be a happier place for our children to learn and study; that the government is finally going to a new direction, that there is finally hope for a change in Indonesia’s conventional education system (one we inherited from the Dutch hundreds of years ago.)

The third change is formulated specifically to reduce the workloads of the teachers; in which the RPP (Rencana Pelaksanaan Pembelajaran- Teaching Plan) is simplified into one single page; a simple thing that has got teachers feeling grateful already. The final change that Nadiem is going to do is loosening up the Zonation method which has been carried out fo the last few years. Instead of the previous 15%, Nadiem is going to increase the excelled students admission quota to 30%, giving chances for more students to get into the closest schools from their houses, hence reducing the time they have to spend on the way to and back from school and invest them in something else.

For millenial parents that have had enough of the old school teaching method, these changes are just what they want their children to experience. To have fun and enjoy the learning process, to be able to socialize with their friends, and to have an overall better learning environtment to be the best version of themselves. Nadiem Makarim is a new hope, and hopefully from his cool hands, our sons and daughters will no longer have to fake being sick just to avoid going to school. Happy working, Mr. Nadiem, Sir. Our best wishes to you and your office.