When the idea of forming ASEAN Economic Community was initiated, the primary concern was making the region wealthy and safe.
For that purpose, a strong, highly-competitive region was formed so it could win in global economic competition and also strengthen the competition between the member countries. By lifting restrictions between member countries, like tariffs, the members are better connected to each other. This will have an impact on the distribution of goods and services, including human resources moving from one country to another. This condition then triggers two different perspectives.
On one hand, this condition opens large opportunities to improve the economy in each country. On the other hand, it creates new challenges for the ASEAN member countries.
When the hindrances in the movements of goods, services and people are removed, it would be easy for those components to enter a country. It means that competition will be tighter. Therefore, the receiving country is required to be able to survive the onslaught of incoming economic components.
One of the important components in qualified human resources is the mastery of foreign language, particularly English. The English skills of Indonesian people are still below average if compared to neighboring countries in South East Asia, like Malaysia, Singapore or The Philippines.
Tubagus Hanafi, MBA, MSi., the Program Director of the MM Executive at BINUS BUSINESS SCHOOL (BBS) pointed out the importance of having good English skills in the regional competition that will come soon. According to Hanafi, good English skills will help the person communicate well. “One of the weaknesses of Indonesian human resources is the language. By content, Indonesian human resources don’t lose competitiveness, but when they go abroad they have to use English; there they lose versus human resources from other countries, especially those that use English as the second language,” explained Hanafi.
The Head of Program at the Graduate School of Management at BBS, Dr. Pantri Heriyanti, S.E, M.Comm, also emphasized the importance of having good English. She said English communication skills are a must. “Communication is a vital thing, so English is a necessity. That’s why we at BBS require our students to have a good TOEFL score to answer this challenge,” she explained.
Applying English skills in educational institutions could be a way to improve the quality of Indonesian human resources. As an institution whose job it is to produce qualified human resources, higher education must find ways to make the quality of the human resources as high as the standard of the competition.
Besides applying the requirement of foreign language skill, another way that could be used by educational institutions is creating an international atmosphere for the learning activities, by using English text books and other references, using foreign lecturers, and accepting foreign students – either as regular students or exchange students.
“International standardization means the internationalization of an institution. Therefore, the standard application in the campus learning activities is needed, and there’ll be exchanges of knowledge, including language, not just the students’ physical presence,” said Rini Setiowati, SE, MBA., the Head of Program at the Graduate School of Marketing at BBS.
Rini added that by having an international atmosphere in the class, students could also get other benefits than just good English. For example, students could discuss many things, not only based on an Indonesian context. Class discussions would be livelier.
“Students could get more knowledge and benefits like how the businesses in their foreign friends’ countries are run. They could exchange views and widen their knowledge and global networking. Moreover, they could also see business opportunities in other countries,” she added.
Hanafi said the tendency to not seize business expansion potential was caused by many businesses in Indonesia being lulled by the huge domestic market of domestic. “There is a study saying many companies in Indonesia only become ‘jago kandang’ (local champions) because they are too focused on the domestic market. Actually there is also a foreign market that could be an opportunity to make business. Our market is large, but the growth isn’t,” he added.
Educational institutions like BBS have to understand business competition in the free market era. This is why the campus uses comprehensive materials from cases close to Indonesian industries to other business cases occurred in other countries. The purpose is making students able to see and learn the business situation in the South East Asian region.
“Other than studying case studies in our own country that we produce ourselves, we also study other case which happened in other countries, especially in ASEAN countries. The case studies we chose certainly are the ones that fit with the Indonesian condition,” Pantri said.
Looking at what has been applied at BBS, Hanafi, Pantri and Rini are optimistic that Indonesia is ready for the future in the AEC.
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