Inside Indonesia’s MIT

GovInsider interviews Professor Bermawi Iskandar, Vice Chancellor of Bandung Institute of Technology.

Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) is one of the best science and engineering universities in Indonesia. But its head of academic affairs wants it to become one of the best in the world. Professor Bermawi Iskandar became Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs nine months ago, and his priority is for ITB’s education to compete on the global stage. The university was ranked 431 in the world this year by QS, moving up 30 places, but this is “not the biggest achievement for ITB”, Professor Iskandar believes. “We are struggling to improve our ranking”. “By the end of 2019, all our undergraduate programmes should have international accreditation,” he believes. The university plans to change radically to achieve this. GovInsider spoke to Professor Iskandar to find out how he plans to make ITB the MIT of Indonesia. New approach to curriculum First ITB is redesigning its undergraduate curriculum based on feedback from employers and graduates on what skills are required. This is “the key change in ITB for the last 10 years”, he says, and a radical one for the university. For 90 years before that, the university decided what to teach based on academics’ perception - “what we think the industry needs and we think is better for the sake of science and technology”. Now, it uses “outcome based curriculum”, and has been for the last six years. The university regularly collects feedback from recent graduates, alumni and employers to understand which skills are needed. Every semester, all teaching staff need to assess the relevance of their lectures with the industry findings. “The head of the study programme will need to evaluate the whole curriculum,” he adds. ITB has already started changing its curriculum to make students more employable. Employees need multidisciplinary skills to solve problems in their jobs, Professor Iskandar says. “That is what companies require and expect from our graduates.” There is now a with a cross-department course that is compulsory for all third year undergraduates. Three or four students from different departments work on a project together. The university partners with a company to give students a real problem that needs to be solved in the industry. This year it partnered with Toyota, for instance. Professor Bermawi Iskandar Massive open online courses Next, ITB is changing how it teaches students. It began offering MOOCs to students across Indonesia last year, and plans to more than quadruple this next year with 40 new online courses. These courses are free now, but will be charged a fee in the future as the number of students grows. MOOCs help engage students better as their needs change, Professor Iskandar believes. They can watch the videos online on any device and re-watch it as many times as they like. “They use a lot of gadgets. Technology influences their behaviour very much. They like to multi-task,” he says. [blockquote]Technology influences their behaviour very much.[/blockquote] The university has been complimenting its own classroom teaching with online material for the last five years. 70-90% of its courses are now taught using this “blended learning” method, he notes. Students can access material online and teachers can quiz them electronically to see how well they understand the subject. However, ITB now needs to measure how effective the MOOCs have been, Professor Iskandar adds, in keeping with the outcome-based learning approach. In the future To stay competitive, the university’s academic and teaching environment need to become more international in the future, he believes. Up to 21,000 Indonesian students go to the US, UK or Australia every year for higher education, he estimates. ITB wants to offer them an alternative at home. The university now offers one degree where classes are taught in English with international students. But “10 years from now I think the majority of departments in ITB will offer international classes”, he says. Professors will be invited from abroad to teach these classes. The advantage for ITB is that it can offer this “international” experience for a much lower tuition fee than universities in Australia, US or UK, he adds. Professor Iskandar is not a stranger to ITB himself. He graduated from the university in the class of 1981 a degree in industrial engineering. He returned 10 years later as the coordinator of the department’s post graduate programme. He then moved up to become its Dean, and was appointed the university’s Vice Chancellor in February this year. ITB is already well-known in Indonesia with two former Presidents as its alumni. But there’s a long way up the ladder from number 431 to 1, and Professor Iskandar has his eyes set on this goal. ITB is OTW - one to watch. Top image by Ikhlasul Amal