Canadian & Indonesian Universities Work Towards Sustainable Development in East Indonesia

The Declaration, Volume 2, Number 2 : June 1998  [Partnerships]

by John M. Munro and Christopher J. Dagg

Canadian universities have a lengthy history of working with universities and government agencies in Indonesia’s eastern islands on projects to strengthen the capacity of these organizations to participate in local and national development efforts. Since 1988 Simon Fraser University, a provincial university with 18,000 students located in Vancouver, has been working with four universities in eastern Indonesia to strengthen basic science teaching and research through the 10-year Eastern Indonesia Universities Development Project (EIUDP), jointly funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Government of Indonesia.

For the last five years the Project has included a specific component focussed on sustainable development. The purpose of the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) component of the Project is to introduce sustainable development ideas and approaches into teaching and research at the Member Universities through their basic science courses.

Indonesia’s Environmental Situation

This ESD component is easily understood in the context of Indonesia’s environment and its vulnerability to damage caused by badly planned or executed development activities. The World Wildlife Fund has estimated the cost of last year’s immense regional damage from forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra at US $1.4 billion. While this disaster comes first to mind, there are many other examples which demonstrate that the fundamental objectives and principles of sustainability have been neglected and which justify including education for sustainable development within a university assistance project.

In its recent report “Indonesia: Environment and Development,” the World Bank noted that “… institutional shortcomings are the most serious impediment to sound environmental management,” suggesting a role for institutions which have credibility and expertise and are ready to train local experts to deal with these shortcomings. The Eastern Indonesia Universities Development Project has tried to respond to this concern through its work with universities in Eastern Indonesia.

Indonesian University System

Indonesia’s university system was developed after Independence in 1945. The system comprises 77 state institutions with an enrollment of over 550,000, and close to 1,300 private institutions of varying quality with enrollments totalling 1,500,000. Overall management of the system is the responsibility of the Directorate General of Higher Education within the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The system is expected to grow in size and improve in quality: national long-term development education plans focus on improving relevance, efficiency, and quality. A tripling of enrollments and a concomitant increase in teaching staff with higher qualifications over the next twenty years is foreseen, with highest priority given to science and technology. Greater emphasis is being given to quality — a National Accreditation Board is spearheading an evaluation of all university programs and funding will be awarded in the future on a more competitive basis. A greater focus on regional needs and accelerated development of off-Java institutions mark an effort to assure greater equity in the education system.

Universities are expected to perform a three-fold role (the tridharma): teaching, research, and community service. Teaching staff promotion systems still give most weight to teaching and management activities, but recent revisions give increased weight to research. All state universities and the better private institutions have established Environmental Study Centres to coordinate university participation in local environmental impact assessment and environmental study and research programs.

Eastern Indonesia Universities Development Project

The Eastern Indonesia Universities Development Project has been funded by C $52 million in CIDA grants and by Indonesian funds. EIUDP operates in four eastern Indonesian universities. The Member Universities are Universitas Sam Ratulangi in Manado (North Sulawesi), Universitas Pattimura in Ambon (Maluku), Universitas Halu Oleo in Kendari (Southeast Sulawesi), and Universitas Cenderawasih in Jayapura and Manokwari (Irian Jaya).

The Project has two basic purposes:

  1. To strengthen teaching programs, primarily in the basic sciences that support the applied sciences’ role in regional development;
  2. To promote the establishment of long-term linkages between Indonesian and Canadian institutions.

Instruction in the Member Universities is in Indonesian but access to international science requires facility in English. Thus, the establishment of English Language Training Centres has been an important part of the Project. The Project also aids applied anthropology programs at the university in Irian Jaya to improve its capability to deal with the impact of development on indigenous peoples. Women in Science and Technology and Education for Sustainable Development strategies are woven into all aspects of Project activity. In implementing the Project, Simon Fraser has worked in close cooperation with five of Indonesia’s senior universities, which have provided many of the Project’s services. Other Canadian universities have also participated.

To upgrade teaching staff at the Member Universities, the Project has provided over 180 post-graduate fellowships for study in Canada, in the ASEAN region, or at senior Indonesian universities. The fellowship program, which included very comprehensive pre-departure preparation and extensive support during the period of study abroad, has been highly successful in terms of degree completion and return to home campus. Over 100 Indonesians have received scholarships leading towards Bachelor of Science degrees. Short term training activities have benefitted an estimated 4,000 Indonesian participants (teaching staff, library and lab personnel, and university leaders). Over 800 person-months of Canadian professional services have been deployed for training and for technical assistance assignments in curriculum design and laboratory development. English Language Training Centres have been established on each campus where the Project is active to provide English language training to university faculty, to give them access to the world’s literature in science, to study abroad, and to international peer networks. Computing laboratories have been established at each university campus and library facilities and systems have been upgraded.

To encourage research, over 100 “starter” research grants have been awarded to Indonesian faculty members; most have been used to research local development issues. In addition, larger grants were awarded under a cooperative arrangement with the International Development Research Centre. A special initiative is currently underway to develop collaborative networks in biodiversity research with access to international research funding.

The four Member Universities have developed institutionally to the point where they are being considered as the sites for new faculties of science. As the Project nears its end, increased attention is being given to the development of continuing linkages involving Indonesian universities and institutions from across Canada. These linkages will involve arrangements such as collaborative research, cooperative education programs, university bilateral cooperation agreements, training programs for NGOs, and networks for on-going technology transfer in areas related to science, technology, and environment.

Education for Sustainable Development

In the words of the Brundtland report, “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable development should be inclusive, involving environmental, social, cultural, economic, and political systems. The concept of education for sustainable development includes consideration of development values and assumptions, as well as the assessment of development impacts. It introduces interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches to environmental, social, and economic impact analysis and community economic development.

The inclusion of ESD as a component connected to all Project activities was based on the recognition that the upgrading of basic science teaching and research capabilities in universities in this region of Indonesia offered an exceptional opportunity to improve the sustainability of development initiatives expected to flow from meeting the Project’s objectives.

In working towards concrete action to incorporate sustainable development concepts in the work of EIUDP, Project staff recognized that there was already some measure of awareness about sustainability issues at the Member Universities and some sustainable development activities already underway. However, the many priorities facing administrators at these young universities have prevented full development of educational components to support comprehensive regional sustainability programs.

The Project accepted the following eight principles of sustainable development to guide its activities:

  1. All sustainable development initiatives should support harmonious life and social equity.
  2. Renewable resources should be managed on a sustained yield basis.
  3. Income generated by depletion of non-renewable resources should be accompanied by investment in renewable resources with at least an equivalent income stream.
  4. The assimilative capacity of ecosystems should not be exceeded in space or time.
  5. In organizing resource extraction activity, management decisions should not compromise overall productivity, ecosystem functions, and income generation.
  6. Natural resources should be used efficiently and the principles of good stewardship, conservation, and income generation are not compromised.
  7. Sustainable development includes all levels from individuals to micro- and macro-levels of organizations, institutions, and societies and all should operate with an sustainable development vision and ethics.
  8. Sustainable development for the Eastern Islands will need to be based on local environmental. economic, and socio-cultural characteristics with special recognition of traditional knowledge and resource management systems.

The ESD plan, as originally envisaged, had four phases:

  • A series of workshops to introduce sustainable development and the role of the universities at each of the five campuses.
  • Focused activity to develop curriculum materials to insert sustainable development concepts and examples into courses in the basic and applied science curricula.
  • Promotion of liaison with government agencies and NGOs with roles in promoting sustainable development in the region.
  • Facilitating research on topics of importance in sustainable development (e.g., biodiversity).

Each campus has appointed a Sustainable Development Coordinator to promote the development of ESD and organize activities in support of its objectives. Also, two Project-level Coordinators, one Canadian and one Indonesian, were appointed to act in an advisory capacity to EIUDP management teams in Canada and Indonesia, to provide technical information and advice, to liaise with Indonesian environmental organizations, and to be involved actively as advisors and mentors to the ESD groups and others at each member University campus.

Curriculum Initiative

The most important initiative in the ESD component is the development of curriculum materials for basic science courses. Project staff believe that introducing modules, examples, and illustrations based on sustainable development concepts into basic science courses will make Member University faculty aware of the importance of these matters, provide interesting and effective teaching tools, and bring the concepts and approaches of sustainable development to the attention of students early in their university careers.

The design of the curriculum initiative was worked out beginning in 1996 in a series of planning meetings and workshops involving representatives of the Member Universities and Indonesian and Canadian experts. The Indonesian ESD Co?ordinator, Dr. Mohamed Soerjani, of Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta, supervised the work of teams of faculty at each Member University which prepared draft lecture material using the abundant examples of sustainability available from Indonesia. The process was reviewed at the individual university level at further workshops and testing of the materials in classroom use began in January, 1998.

Simon Fraser University’s role in the Eastern Indonesia Universities Development Project will diminish between now and 2000, when the Project will formally end. We have every reason to expect that the values and approaches inherent in Education for Sustainable Development will by then be an integral part of course material at the Member Universities. While this will be only one of the ways in which the EIUDP leaves a sustainable legacy at these institutions, we hope it will be one of the most important.

John M. Munro is Canadian ESD Coordinator, EIUDP and Christopher J. Dagg is Project Director, EIUDP, both at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. Dr. Munro can be reached at EIUDP, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6; Tel: 604-291-3934; email: Dr. Dagg can be reached at the same address; Tel: 604-291-3949; email:

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