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Ineffective Learning From Home During a Pandemic Has The Potential to Erase Demographics – Indonesia is predicted to experience the peak of the demographic bonus period, where the number of the productive age population (aged 15-64 years) is greater than the population of the unproductive age (children and the elderly). By 2035, the productive age population will reach 64% of the total population of 297 million people.

However, the ineffective implementation of home learning in Indonesia during the COVID-19 pandemic could erase the opportunity to benefit from the bonus. School students who are currently studying from home around 2035 will enter the world of work. Unfortunately, research in 2020 from the SMERU research institute noted that the learning process from home in Indonesia encountered many obstacles, ranging from inequality in access to online learning facilities to the uneven ability of teachers.

This widens the gap between students in Indonesia – with the worst learning loss among the poor – thus exacerbating the existing problems of poor employment competence. How can all of this affect Indonesia’s golden employment opportunities in the future, and what should be done from now on to anticipate them?

The education quality of workers was already low even before the pandemic

To reap the “gift” of the demographic bonus in the form of an abundant population of productive age, Indonesia must ensure that the quality of their education and skills is really good, including readiness to face a competitive global labor market.

However, in terms of employment, Indonesia still faces two major challenges related to the quality of education and worker competencies that existed even before the emergence of learning from home due to the pandemic.

First, around 59% of the current workforce is Junior High School (SMP) graduates and the majority is even lower. The learning outcomes of these graduates during school – which are even conducted face to face – are also very low. A study from the Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE-SMERU) program in 2018 reports that the majority of secondary school graduates have not mastered simple arithmetic skills that should have been mastered at the elementary school level. Second, the education and skills obtained by prospective workers while at school are not in accordance with the needs and minimum competencies. As a result, the world of work is difficult to get the manpower that is really needed.

Based on the records of the Demographic Institute (LD) at the University of Indonesia which processed the results of the 2015 National Labor Force Survey (SAKERNAS), for example, there is a ‘vertical mismatch’ of workers’ education levels of 53% of the entire workforce. This means that many workers have a lower level of education than is required by their workplace.

In addition, the majority of workers also experience what is referred to as a ‘horizontal mismatch’. In this case, in addition to their own level of education, 61% of workers also have a type of education, competence, or training that does not match the needs of the place where they work.

Deteriorating learning outcomes will further threaten the demographic bonus

The two problems above have the potential to get worse due to ineffective learning from home in the midst of a pandemic. A study from the World Bank, for example, estimates that ineffective home learning results in a loss of student learning outcomes in Indonesia. Furthermore, the impact is even more severe for those from the poorest groups. Studying from a bad home for just four months will widen the gap in learning outcomes between poor student groups from the rich group in Indonesia – from 1.4 years behind in the learning process to 1.6 years behind in the learning process.

For students from families with the most vulnerable economic conditions, they even have to face the risk of child marriage and also dropping out of school. The latest level of education and learning outcomes that are getting worse will cause their productivity and competitiveness to be even lower in the future. Schoolchildren currently adversely affected by ineffective home learning, for example, are expected to enter the workforce in the 2030s – or at the peak of the demographic dividend. In fact, in the future, researchers estimate that 65% of the variety of jobs now will be replaced by new types of work that have not been imagined and require various competencies that are far more complex than today.

If our learning system does not immediately find a quick way to improve its quality, the majority of the population who are expected to be part of the demographic bonus will be marginalized in the modern and formal world of work. Many Indonesian workers in the future can actually become a “burden” as second-class citizens in their own country.

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Education policy in the region is the key

Since the implementation of the decentralization and regional autonomy policies two decades ago, the affairs of primary and secondary education have become the authority of local governments. This means that the front line responsible for improving the quality of education are various local educational apparatus and institutions throughout Indonesia. In the short term, the local government should be able to guide schools to slowly reopen face-to-face learning – of course, taking into account the factors of the spread of COVID-19, the vulnerability of students, and the readiness of health facilities in the area.

Once schools reopen, they must also direct schools to focus on recovering learning outcomes lost during the pandemic, especially on poor students. In the long term, local governments must improve their policies that have not been effective so far. In 2018, the RISE-SMERU program found that only 62 out of 508 – or around 12% – districts/cities in Indonesia had innovative education policies.

In general, our researchers found that various local education policies have not been effective in improving learning outcomes. The number of teacher training policies, for example, does not correlate with the SMP National Examination (UN) scores in each district/city. This means that there is still a large gap between educational needs in the regions and the policies issued, and more research and studies are needed to find alternative solutions at the regional level before it is too late.

What is clear, given the low quality of existing learning outcomes, is that there is no choice for education apparatus working in ministries, regional education offices, and schools – from ministers to teachers – other than to work harder and conduct large-scale evaluations of various policies. education that has been done.

If this is ignored, Indonesia’s demographic bonus will not have much meaning. Instead of being a gift, they can actually be a heavy burden for the nation.