Iowa State administrators help develop a new private school of education in Indonesia

AMES, Iowa -- A group of Iowa State University administrators is working with the U.S. Department of State and the Sampoerna Foundation of Indonesia to help establish a new university in Indonesia.

Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy; Associate Provost David Holger; David Whaley, an associate dean for teacher education in the College of Human Sciences, who directs ISU's Teacher Education Program; and David Acker, associate dean of global agricultural programs, have all visited Indonesia in the past year and served as consultants in the creation of the Sampoerna School of Education. The school is the nation's first private teachers' college and the first school to be operational at the proposed university, which is being designed to model U.S. land-grant institutions, such as Iowa State.

According to a 2010 UNICEF report on Indonesia five years after the tsunami in the country, "challenges persist with the quality of basic education." Those challenges include teacher qualifications, effective teaching methods, school management and community involvement -- making the creation of the new school an important U.S. diplomatic initiative to a country with the world's largest Muslim population (210 million people, or 86 percent).

New partnership with Sampoerna Foundation, school

Iowa State also is participating in an ongoing partnership with the Sampoerna Foundation and personnel at its new school.

"Iowa State University is proud to be a partner with the Sampoerna School of Education," said Geoffroy, who delivered welcoming remarks via video conferencing for the school's inauguration in November. "Iowa State is eager to contribute its expertise, where appropriate, in subject matter and pedagogical areas, including mathematics and English literacy. Our faculty will also help facilitate the development of underprivileged students from the Sampoerna School into world-class teachers and leaders. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the school as it grows and develops in new areas."

Leaders from the Sampoerna Foundation and Iowa State recently collaborated on a new funding proposal in response to a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative.

"This proposal is one example of the great potential of a partnership between the Sampoerna School of Education and Iowa State -- one that respects that richness of Indonesian heritage, cultures, and practices and works to create a world-class Indonesian approach to teacher education and educational leadership," Geoffroy said.

Iowa State was first approached about developing the partnership with the Sampoerna Foundation more than a year ago by Lawrence Johnson, commercial attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Since its inception in 2001, the Sampoerna Foundation has awarded more than 33,500 scholarships, supported 23 schools and trained more than 10,000 teachers throughout Indonesia.

Sampoerna Foundation leaders -- including founder and Chairman Putera Sampoerna and his wife, Katie -- visited Iowa State last April. Whaley reports the Sampoerna officials expressed interest in creating a land-grant type institution and decided to launch the school of education first. The new, four-year institution opened last fall with 100 students now studying for degrees in two majors -- English literacy education and mathematics education.

"They started the school of education and they've developed a first-year curriculum," Whaley said. "They've been working with Massey University in New Zealand and with a very good university in Singapore to develop the curriculum. But they would very much like to partner with Iowa State in terms of helping them develop curriculum, looking at exchange programs, etc."

Plans to place student teachers at the Sumatra Academy

Geoffroy also met with Sampoerna Foundation leaders during a trip to Indonesia last summer. Whaley, Holger and Acker visited the new school of education in October to conduct a faculty workshop on research opportunities in education, and to make a presentation to the student body. Whaley also visited the Sumatra Academy -- a residential high school in South Sumatra, sponsored by the Sampoerna Foundation -- where he hopes to be able to place ISU student teachers as early as this spring.

Whaley's visit to the Sumatra Academy in October attracted attention from local news media.

Hina Patel, ISU's director of teacher education services, has agreed to become the coordinator for the student teaching experience in Indonesia. She will visit the Sumatra Academy this summer to work out logistics and further planning.

"My strongest belief is that we have much to learn. It's not a one-way delivery," Whaley said. "If it's going to be a partnership, there need to be gains on both sides.

"We want to be an integral partner with them in their school of education to help them design the curriculum," he continued. "We want to be able to participate in faculty exchanges -- their faculty here, our faculty there. We want to be able to place student teachers in some of their schools. And we ultimately would like to see a student exchange program develop. We feel that their students will want master's degrees, so there would be an opportunity for the graduates of their school to continue their education here."

Whaley says that faculty from both schools are now communicating regularly via Facebook and also participating in a joint online reading group. He has future plans to try and provide a distance education delivery of one of ISU's research methods courses to Sampoerna faculty.