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Grant Thornton Indonesia's Update

Self - Learning Culture in Indonesia : A mission (im)possible?

In today’s advanced technological era, where people no longer has face-to-face interactions, meetings are conducted via video-conference and transactional activities are done by a swipe of a finger, does the old fashioned way of learning ( an institution based learning or learning with tutors) still have its place in this era? Or the self learning method has come to replace it completely. This article will discuss further on this subject while answering question emerging “does companies in Indonesia nowadays need to nourish a self-learning culture to their employees?”

The Oxford Dictionaries define learning as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study or being taught”1. Based on this definition, it covers not only a learning inside a classroom but also outside classroom (through experience). In Indonesia, the common understanding of learning mostly happens inside classroom, the formal institution, such as schools, colleges or universities which regarded as a place to learn. On the other hand, self-learning methods are sometimes frowned upon. I am speaking from experience, during my time teaching in one of “bimbel”, one of my student was homeschooled and she was regarded as an “alien” by her peers. The concept of self learning itself is very uncommon in Indonesia although it is gaining popularity. One example happened in 2006 when Indonesian Medical Council (IMC) imposed the standard and the regulation for teaching and learning processes. The standard dictates all medical school in Indonesia to change their traditional curriculum into student-centered, problem based, integrated, community-based, elective and systematic approaches. However, many institutions believed that it is hard to implement this standard because most Indonesian teacher and students are accustomed to teacher-centred learning. Aside from our teacher-centred culture, the education system in Indonesia forces self-learning methods to be left out. Take in National Examination as example, which test student only on math, social or science studies. Students’ talent and interest are being disregarded, which means if you fail on the test / subject, students are considered unintelligent. If only that were true, then when Albert Einstein said “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”, he was completely wrong.  

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, we already know the basic foundation of education system in Indonesia is systematically teacher centered, so where does self learning falls in place? It may not have its place in Indonesia education system and far cry from its turning point, but it is all the rage in most workplace especially big companies. In most big multinational companies, employee are not only considered as assets but also partners to grow the companies together. Employees are encouraged to develop themselves by any means necessary, be it attending training program from HR Department or listening to podcasts on maximizing work efficiency, although the latter is more favorable. Let’s take a look at examples of Dropbox, as one of the leading global collaboration platform and having a mission to unleash the world’s creative energy, they give their employee a plenty room to grow. They have a program called “Hack Week”, which basically allows everyone to return to their roots or pursuing a professional interests. Another example comes from one of the biggest consumer products company, Unilever. They give their employee a generous Tuition Reimbursement Program, in which employee are given opportunity to broaden their skill and knowledge. You may raise a question, “why does company want to invest in the self-learning program at all?”. The answer is simple, because it benefits both the employee but also and specifically the company.

The benefit of self-learning goes beyond the employee but also the company. Self learning benefits the employee in three ways, firstly, self learning grants the employee in greater development of specialized skills. Self learning never dictates what your passion is, you choose what you like and you learn what you are passionate about. With a higher interest on the said subject, there will be a greater chance the employee will learn a new skill, thus improving their value. Secondly, self-learning is adjustable to the employee’s needs. We all have different pace and style when it comes to learning, self-learning allows employee to do as their wish. Some employee may feel comfortable learning by reading, others may prefer listening. Self-learning basically put the freedom back into the learners’ hand, in this case the employee. Thirdly, self-learning allows employee to experience deep learning instead of surface learning. In teacher-centered learning, most of the methods used are memorization, the learners tend to forget the subject easily. But with deep learning, the learners grasp the main idea of the subject and they also have their mind wrapped around it.

There are also three benefits of self-learning for the companies, first is that self learning is cost effective. When self earning is implemented towards employee, companies don’t have to think about travel, learning materials and also catering. Given the cost saving a company can see from implementing self-learning to their employee, ROI is the clearest benefit a company can get when implementing self-learning. Second, self-learning is also convenient and flexible. This means companies don’t have to spend time coordinating where and when a course will take place. We all know gathering a whole team of employees is never easy and never efficient. Lastly, self-learning improves performance and productivity. Self-learning has no boundaries, it can be done anywhere, anytime. Employees can utilise this method in their free time, during break and far more efficient than classroom learning, thus the learning will not disrupt the valuable work time resulting in productivity and performance improvement.

Now we come to the big question, “Is it impossible for companies to implement self-learning in a country where teacher-centered learning is considered major methods of learning?”. The answer is no, but Rome was not built in one day. Self-learning is more than a program or method, it is rather a change of general culture and attitude in your workplace. The approach must be done in a top-down manner, from CEO to intern. This will ensure the application of self-learning in your workplace. Though it will not happen overnight, you can always start small, let your employees have some time to improve their skills or abilities once a week or month. And it is also a good idea to open up your resources to your employees, by doing so you let your employees access through training they would never consider in the first place. Like any other habit or culture, it will take some time to develop. Once developed, self-learning will stay and if you are patient it will nourish and you will feel the difference already.