In this issue of Indonesia Expat’s Business Profile, we meet Indri Gautama. Indri is the owner of the Royal Academy School and a very well-respected educator in Indonesia.
You are clearly a woman with a vision of empowering the youth of this country. Tell us, where did your passion for education stem from?
The passion comes from my own personal experience when I pursued my tertiary degree overseas. I found that knowledge is power. Our country is vast and rich in natural resources, what is lacking in this country is human resources. We need to improve our educational system with life skills.
How did the idea to start the Royal Academy begin?
I noticed that education in Indonesia only focus on academic achievement which ultimately makes children stressful and reluctant to go to school. In this digital world with 21st century high technology,school’s educational method is still 20th century. Thus, students are no longer excited at school. Schools must be upgraded to a 21st century education with digital technology, therefore small children are exposed to the world not just one classroom. I have a vision to provide quality education that instills moral values and character at an early age so that children can have personal goals and international mindedness which will support their academic achievement.
You’ve grown from 10 students in 2010 to over 200 students today. What do you believe is the secret to your school’s success?
It’s the same vision that is shared among the school, the staff and the parents. We have a goal to see a child’s life be transformed and become a leader in their home, school and community. As a result, our students have tremendously changed in terms of character and academics. The children have lifelong learning skills and they enjoy school with great desire to explore new things within the moral boundary.
Why do you believe that education is so important in our world today?
Knowledge is power; without knowledge, people do not have direction and vision. Education is a strong weapon to change one nation. We can change people’s thinking and habit by providing the right system to transform their little minds to dream big.
Royal Academy focuses on teaching leadership. Can you tell us why you feel this is an important skill to teach children and how do you do so at Royal Academy?
Every child is born with the potential to be great. It’s up to us educators to unleash this greatness in the them. We teach leadership to children by implementing the IPC personal goals, which produces communication skills, thoughtfulness, resilience, respect, cooperation, adaptability, enquiry and morality. We want to see children having personal goals since their childhood and therefore are able to lead their personal lives at home or at school, and in their neighbourhood.
Do you believe that children of local government schools are receiving a good education? What could be improved?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Firstly, we must determine what ‘good education’ is. Each school has its own vision and mission statement which should give an overview of how ‘education’ is valued in that school. Each school is different. I cannot stand here and say that local schools are less equipped than other schools, but there are some issues we need to look at.
Are local schools looking at Development of Intelligence? Rather than have children sit in a class and rote learn their work, are teachers being trained in looking at how to have children think about higher order questions, develop enquiry skills, have a knowledge base in which they can explore and be challenged on? Are the children being given opportunities to reason and think? Is it child-centred learning? Have the teachers been given enough training to take on the new concept of education for the 21st century? It is not necessarily about a core curriculum but the development of the whole child.
What does the Royal Academy provide that is different to other schools of international standards?
Royal Academy provides an environment where the children are encouraged to love to learn. This might sound simplistic as all schools strive for this, but the reality of Royal Academy is not only based on a very strong curriculum (International Primary Curriculum) but also strives for strong character development. Each child is treated as an individual where we look at their strengths and build on them and if we see ‘perceived’ areas for improvement, we work on them. Some schools have the ‘international’ tag, but is ‘internationalism’ actually taught and enveloped as part of the curriculum? The aim is to give all children the opportunity to explore their talents. We have an enrichment program which is proven so successful that we now have developed our own band, art club and choir. We know we have reached the children’s hearts when we give out the enrichment forms at the end of term and they scramble to choose what they want to do. That is love of learning!
Royal Tots Academy has gained the reputation as one of Indonesia’s most successful and educationally rewarding Early Learning Programs, renowned for its current early childhood practises and excellent teaching programme. What are your school’s core principles?
The core principles in the Early Learning Centre are and have always been that we are a family; parents and teachers work together for the benefit of the school. We have an excellent curriculum – IPC (Early Years) – which gives our teachers the basis for the enquiry approach needed in our school. We have wonderful teachers who go beyond the job scope. We have an Educational Leadership team who always put educational decisions above all else. All the staff and teachers have been trained in IPC so we know what we want for our children and we are very responsive to their needs.
You are also known for your humanitarian work. Tell us about your school in Nusa Tenggara Timur. What attracted you to open a school in this part of Indonesia? What was lacking in the area?
What attracted me to open the preschool – that now has grown to primary school – was the fact that upon my site visit to Central Manggarai, East Flores, during which they suffered from a long drought and famine, to my surprise I was welcomed by so many children aged 2 – 6 years old without shoes. I asked, “Why aren’t you at school?” They said,”No teacher, ma’am!” I understood that these Robusta coffee farmers are illiterate and there is no infrastructure. Where they live, there’s no water and no electricity. It’d be difficult to break poverty without breaking poverty mentality and I know the first step to this is bringing education to all their little children and improve their nutrition. We built a steel structure on a piece of land loaned by the natives. The children have been so happy with the presence of that one school and also a small hospital to serve the sick.
What challenges have you faced with your school in NTT? How have you funded this project?
The challenge is the terrain condition that was impossible for any transportation to come in, except for motorcycle trailers. It’s so difficult to find trained labourers. So we have to bring skilled carpenters, steel and stone workers from Java. We also faced resistance from certain groups of people due to their insecurity, but after one year all their accusations turned out to be false and now we are in our 6th year and the adat leadership gave our foundation another lot of land whereby we can build our elementary school. We delight in the people of Dusun Koko. The way we fund is 100% through sponsorship & donation by our foundation’s mission partner.
What values do you hold close to your heart?
I value life, thus I value people. We are relational people. We work best when we are in a group, working together as a team to reach a goal towards a destiny. What is important is not the building but the people inside the building. Therefore, in the school, I teach these little people love. Because they receive love, they can give love to their parents and siblings and their teachers and school friends. Children learn better in a loving environment. They are very adaptable.