Pandemic, a Golden Opportunity to Catch Up of an Educational Technology in Papua – Presently, an education in Papua is left out behind other provinces in Indonesia, both in terms of student learning outcomes and digital infrastructure.

In recent years, the region’s Human Development Index and Technological Development Index have consistently been among the lowest in the country. Papuan students’ achievements in the National Examination (UN) also remained to be low as long as 2017 to 2019.

In 2020, amid the importance of online learning, the percentage of households in Papua with internet access is one of the lowest – just 29.5% compared to Jakarta which has 89%. This indicates that Papua is having difficulty in dealing with the demands of online learning during the COVID-19 crisis.

Interestingly, this could be the right moment to invest and develop educational technology in Papua. A 2015 study from the Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership (ACDP) – a collaboration between the Indonesian government, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian Aid, and the European Union (EU) – identified several important prerequisites for developing educational technology in Papua.

In terms of infrastructure, providing an internet connection is generally the government responsibility. However, there are also many other opportunities to provide connectivity for schools, teachers and students, namely in the form of private funding or public-private partnerships.

Even if connectivity in Papua is still low, the solution doesn’t even have to be online. So far, for example, there have been a variety of alternative devices outside of online learning, such as the Raspberry Pi – a computer as small as a credit card originally designed to teach basic computer science in schools and developing countries – which has a capacity of at least 16 GB to store books and digital materials.

There are also opportunities for private funding to provide digital tools and technical assistance for educators. For example, during restrictions on community activities during the pandemic, the Ministry of Education (Kemendikbud-Ristek) collaborated with telecommunications companies to provide internet data support to teachers around Indonesia. The study from ACDP also mentions the importance of monitoring and evaluation to ensure that these various digital devices and services are well utilized. Education specialists can help develop such systems of supervision in schools and educational institutions.

Schools and local governments can also train teachers to use educational technology by cooperating with various institutions that specialize in teacher capacity building. There are even programs like the Driving School – which encourage collaboration between schools and teachers to share innovative learning practices – in order to close the gap in teacher quality in the region.

All of those require hard work, but the results will not be in vain. Improving the digital infrastructure, as well as the capacity of teachers to use it well, will encourage teachers and students to experiment with learning materials and techniques outside of school traditions. A good monitoring and evaluation system will support school leadership, and in the end, lead to a better teaching and learning process.

There are only two possibilities after this pandemic is over, and it really depends on what each stakeholder does during this critical period. Education in Papua can get good support so that it can be competitive, and close the gap with other provinces, or Papua does not get good support so that it is even more left behind. Whatever you do, this pandemic is a golden opportunity to leave a trace of great change for education in Papua.

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