Jakarta — Senior economist Djisman Simandjuntak suggests strengthening educational partnerships between European Union and Indonesia, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, to improve the quality of the country’s human capital to allow it better compete in a digital world. “Europe serves as a very important source of knowledge that we can deploy in pursuing our own development interests in Indonesia. However, important market it is for palm oil, footwear, etc.; I think the important thing is to access the ‘brain resources’ of Europe,” Djisman said during a panel discussion titled “European Union and Indonesia: Ever Closer Partners Facing Joint Economic Challenges” at Institut Francais d’Indonesie in Jakarta on Wednesday (12/04). Djisman believes in what we called “knowledge-based development” for Indonesia’s human resources. He says the country must reach out to provide the required education, because Indonesia has problems with subject availability and the expertise of teachers. “Education in Indonesia, particularly higher education, is dominated by social sciences, including religious studies, while STEM education is very limited,” said Djisman, who is also rector of the Prasety Mulya Business School. He highlighted funding, which is for research for hard sciences. Twenty percent of Indonesia’s state budget is allocated for education, which is distributed to many sub-sectors, leaving only 0.2 percent for research. “Research and development expenditure is dominated by the government, rather than corporate sector,” said Djisman, who serves as deputy chairman of the board of directors of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). So far, Indonesia and EU have already ongoing educational partnerships, provided by exchange programs and scholarships at the higher educational level. “There are exchange programs for students, researchers and university-level teachers. We always want to do more but we’re not doing too badly. Last year we had about 9,000 Indonesians who benefited from exchanges to joint university studies or research programs in Europe. We should strive together to increase interest in these exchanges,” said Christian Leffler, deputy secretary general for economic and global issues at the European External Action Service (EEAS). According to EEAS’ official website, of the 9,000 Indonesians, 1,600 have studied through scholarships from the EU and its member states. One of the most popular scholarships is Erasmus+, previously known as Mundus, for students for developing countries. Leffler said that Europe students are also encouraged to go to Indonesia to do part of their research or studies. However true that Indonesia needs partnerships in STEM studies, the problem does not only lie at the higher education level. Djisman said Indonesia rates low on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report. The PISA report is a triennial assessment of the reading, mathematics and science proficiency of 15 year old students around the world, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD). The latest survey conducted in 2015 involved a sample of around 540,000 students, representing the total of 29 million students from 72 countries. Indonesia improved its rank to 64 from 71 previously. Indonesia is far behind regional countries such as Singapore and Vietnam, which are both in the top 20.