Improving Indonesian universities

Published: Tuesday 23rd February 2016

ACU academic Mary Gallagher from the Faculty of Education and Arts has a number of strings to her bow.

She has worked as a teacher for almost thirty years and a lecturer for the past ten years. Mary has also been involved in international development since 2001, teaching police, lawyers, public officials and educators how to teach others in Indonesia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

For the past five years Mary has worked on an important and ambitious project involving the education faculties of state Islamic universities (UIN) in Indonesia, Australia’s nearest northern neighbour, with a population of over 250 million people, almost 80 percent of them Muslim.

In recent years, these UIN have sought to reform and modernize, primarily by bringing their curricula into line with international standards and adding conventional disciplines of study to their well-regarded Islamic offerings.

Mary has reviewed these curricula, through extensive interviews with staff, students, alumni and lecturers, and thorough analysis of relevant material (curricula, syllabuses, class schedules and timetables, course guides and examples of examinations).

The challenges faced by these UIN make the problems we face in Australia seem insignificant! For example:

  • Most lecturers carry a face‐to‐face workload of at least 20 hours per week.
  • Very few lecture rooms are air‐conditioned (those who have been to Asia will appreciate the significance of this).
  • Lecturers are paid low salaries; many of them need to supplement their income with outside work.
  • Student load is very heavy: students are required to complete up to nine subjects a semester.

These reviews allow Mary to escape Canberra’s cold winters, eat tasty Indonesian food, visit beautiful temples and climb awe inspiring volcanoes. More important, however, are Mary’s contributions to education standards in Indonesia.