The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Thu, 10/08/2009 11:42 AM  |  National

Seventeen-year-old Sufyan Suri could not hide his enthusiasm when he spoke of his dream to become a teacher.

The high school graduate from Kotabaru, South Kalimantan, leaned forward and used hand gestures to emphasize Indonesia's need for more skilled teachers and to redefine its teacher-student relationship.

"There is a gap between teachers and students that restricts them from effectively communicating with each other," he told The Jakarta Post at the Sampoerna School of Education college in Jakarta on Wednesday. "We need to change this.

"Students should feel comfortable approaching their teachers."

Sufyan and 88 other students, all from underprivileged families, were granted scholarships yesterday from Indonesia's first private teachers college.

Forty-three students received full scholarships worth more than Rp 223 million (US$23,000) each. The remaining 46 were granted scholarships that covered their tuition fees for four years, worth Rp 168 million each.

The students were selected out of 1,200 applicants to major in mathematics or English at the undergraduate institution. Seventy-one students were from Java, 14 from Sumatra, two from Bali and two from Kalimantan.

Paulina Pannen, the school's dean, said she wanted to ensure students were provided with the skills to become highly qualified teachers, exceeding international standards.

The school has teamed up with Iowa University in the US, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Massey University in New Zealand to develop its curriculum.

"We encourage our students to research and develop innovative teaching methodologies," she said.

The school has been structured to qualify students as senior high school teachers. To aid their learning, the school requires students to complete an internship, teaching in high schools for one semester in their final year.

"Our students will teach in one of the 17 state senior high schools and five Madrasah *Muslim schools* that the Sampoerna Foundation supports," she said.

The foundation, established by tobacco giant PT Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna, has been providing schools with assistance to improve teacher quality through its United Schools Program.

Muchlas, from the Directorate of Higher Education at the National Education Ministry, said he hoped the school would enhance education in each of Indonesia's regions.

"I would like to see the school's graduates return to their respective regions to improve education across the country," he added.

Paulina said she strongly encouraged her students to apply their knowledge in their hometowns. She said that was where teachers were needed because schools in cities had "relatively adequate facilities" and many skilled teachers.

"Sampoerna graduates will be great assets to their regions because they are being trained to become highly skilled teachers," she added.

Sufyan said he looked forward to teaching in his hometown.

"We must give back to our communities and help them to prosper," he said. (adh)

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