Opportunities for Indonesian students are currently limited beyond the secondary level, which may lead to challenges as more students reach working age. Image: UNDP Indonesia.

Increase in US-Indonesia Educational Exchange Benefiting Economies, Deepening Bonds

ASEAN Indonesia

Whilst Indonesia is not the leading destination for US study abroad students, the increasing commitments of the two nations through their US-Indonesia Higher Education Partnerships have resulted in a steady increase in the number of exchange students in each country.

Since the first US-Indonesia student exchange program in 1953, the two nations have been working collaboratively to seek ways to improve their teaching and research. The most notable project in recent years is the US-Indonesia Education Partnership, started in 2010, which aims to double the number of exchange students in each country. The US government announced that it would invest $165 million into the project, which allowed binational programs, such as the American Indonesian Exchange Foundation, to expand their projects to provide scholarships to Indonesian students to study in the US.

By looking at the trend of US-Indonesia student exchange, it is evident that both nations are making progress in achieving their goal. There is an upward trend in the number of Indonesian students studying in the US, rising from 6,943 in 2010 to 7,920 in 2014. The trend in the number of US students studying in Indonesia more than doubled, from 221 in 2010 to 493 in the 2013/14 academic year.

Not only will these trends continue, but it is likely they will grow at a faster rate. Unlike many other Asian countries, Indonesia does not have an ageing population, with 43% of the population under the age of 24. However, their economy is growing too fast for the labor force to keep pace, which makes talent shortages an important issue for Indonesia to address. Overcoming this issue can be accomplished by making world-class education accessible to more students. Given that Indonesia is still in the process of improving its education system, it is likely that more students seeking professional qualifications will choose to study in high-ranked US institutions.

Now five years into the US-Indonesia Higher Education Partnership, bilateral cooperation has allowed the US and Indonesia to deepen their relationship. As both countries continue to engage through this and other programs, the relationship will only continue to strengthen.

Sakura Kajimura is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at the University of Western Australia.