Monday, December 04, 2006

Foundation grooming Indonesian Einsteins

Monday, December 04, 2006
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Inspired by the achievement of its students in international science and math competitions over the past 10 years, a school foundation has launched a special class for gifted high school students for the next academic year.

BPK Penabur, in collaboration with the Surya Institute, will open what is dubbed the Brilliant Class with a specially designed three-year curriculum, with a focus on the sciences and maths at high school, under-graduate and graduate levels.

"From my experience with students who have won prizes in the physics Olympiad, it only takes one year for them to master the materials at the bachelor and master's level. Why should we slow them down?" said Yohanes Surya, the chairman of Surya Institute.

The class, which will be conducted at Gading Serpong Christian High School in Tangerang, only admits students with an IQ of 150 or above, who are well above average or categorized as a genius. The selection of students will start in January 2007.

"About one in every 1,000 people has an IQ of 150 or above and about one in every 11,000 people has an IQ of 160, which is the level of Einstein. It means that Indonesia with its huge population has about 25,000 Einsteins," said Yohanes who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Physics Olympiad Foundation (TOFI).

Yohanes, who used to work with the U.S. Nuclear Physics Center in Virginia, said Indonesia had been left behind in the field of science because the government had not made the most of its people's talents and had not set up the basic conditions that would encourage its scientists to come home after studying abroad.

The class, that aims to prepare students to study in high ranking universities in the U.S., will be taught by a group of experienced university lecturers using a special curriculum focusing on mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry, developed by the Surya Institute.

Yohanes, who met President George W. Bush during his recent visit in Bogor, said the president had endorsed his idea of expanding quotas for outstanding students from Indonesia in American universities.

A total of Rp 2.2 billion (US$241,700) a year is needed for the program while the education of a student costs Rp 100 million annually.

BPK Penabur, which was established 56 years ago, has 120 schools in Jakarta, West Java and Lampung provinces. Some of its students have excelled in national and international science and mathematics competitions. On such student is Jonathan Mailoa who won a gold medal at the International Physics Olympiad in Singapore last year.

Surya Institute established a "super-class" at State High School No.3 in Setiabudi, South Jakarta, in September 2005 in collaboration with the Jakarta Secondary Education Agency, the TOFI and car maker BMW Indonesia.

The institute has also received several applications for a similar project from several other schools including Al Maarif High School in Surabaya.

By working together with more and more school institutions, the Surya Institute hopes to reach its target of sending 200 brilliant students to study at top U.S. universities every year.

"From the financial point of view, this is a high-cost project, but in the long run we hope we can contribute a lot to the human capital in this country," said Yohanes. (02)