Educating future leaders who make a difference

Anggoro Prasetyo Utomo, MT.

Reflecting on Indonesia’s current condition, it is evident that increasing the people’s intellectual capacity is not the silver bullet that will solve the nation’s problems. After the reformation movement of 1998, the transformation agenda now seems to be at a standstill. Many leaders and intellectual people have created new problems in the country by compromising their integrity and getting involved in various forms of corruption. Despite several new pieces of legislation, new agencies, and a new judicial system, the country’s anti-corruption effort seems unable to help Indonesia escape from the sinister spiral. That leads to an arguable hypothesis: the people are undermined by a fundamental factor a flaw in character. Perhaps they are generally overpowered by the greed for power and money.

If the hypothesis is true, Indonesians should come to the realization that character education is as important as competence building, if not more so. Character will then have a more significant impact on the destiny of individuals and the country.

Several programs have been developed to build the character of the young generation of Indonesia. But their effectiveness has varied. The practice at Institut Teknologi Harapan Bangsa (ITHB) suggests that effective character building must be integrated with the curriculum and a spiritual growth program. Faith in God, and fear of the Lord, will have a big impact on character building because character deals with the ‘real self’, not the ‘persona’ or façade projected by artificial public behaviors. When nobody is around and opportunities abound, can someone still make the right ethical and moral choices? Therefore, it is arguably logical that someone’s faith, belief system, perception and relationship with God will become the determining factors.

Apart from the importance of a spiritual dimension in character education, another question remains: what methods are most effective for young adults? Can they be effectively delivered through lectures or seminars?


In universities, not just in schooling during adolescence, students still tend to learn from the examples that they see in their daily life. Having better ability to make judgments, university students will reasonably test a new piece of information gained from lectures against reality before adopting it into their schema and cognitive maps. All the lectures and seminars on character and faith will be ineffective if the educators are not able to demonstrate themselves the behaviors and attitudes they demand from the students. The educators must be able to show how to implement the virtues in daily life. They also need to clearly demonstrate the linkage between behaviors and consequences. At all times, they must try to build a supportive atmosphere, one that is conducive for character development. The lecturers also need to involve all other university staff, parents, and communities. Eventually, the lecturers must genuinely show their care for the students and build closer relationships with them, while maintaining professional social distance, before trying to influence the students’ value systems.

A recommendation by Character Education Partnership, national advocate and leader for the character education movement, based in Washington, DC, shows that extended involvement is key in character education. The non-academic staff in an educational institution must also be  involved and strive to set positive examples. The administrators must set examples by providing excellent care and services to the students and other stakeholders.

Consequently, this ‘involvement of everyone’ requires an explicit organizational culture that will serve as a guide for acceptable behaviors in an organization. The organizational culture must be clearly defined and reflect the values that grow from the intended individual character.

At ITHB, Harapan Bangsa culture is socialized on a regular basis. All new students and employees must understand what is expected of them and what behaviors would conform with or violate the shared values and norms in the institution, that comprise faith, integrity, global excellence, progress, performance, care, service, and teamwork. These values must have real consequences for individuals in the organization, and can’t just become ideals and slogans.

That is why the biggest challenge for universities like ITHB that are concerned with character building is motivating and empowering all lecturers and staff to get involved in character education and do all of the above. This is where the last element of character education –a calling or purpose in life- plays an important part. Without a commitment and passion to fulfill a greater purpose in life, it is very difficult for anyone to withstand the pressure and difficulties found in the educator’s job. People soon get bored and lose their energy. Thus, all lecturers and educators must first have the conviction that teaching, and character education, is truly their calling in life.

These requirements seem daunting, but really are not impossible. Professional educators have many opportunities to impact the nation by imparting their lives and values to the students, both inside and outside the classroom.

Postscript from the writer Anggoro Prasetyo, MT (Deputy Director for Academic Operations ITHB)

I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in developing future leaders who are expected to make positive changes in Indonesia. Through our alumni, I am making a difference in the country. Being around them reminds me of what education is all about. It is not merely sharing our knowledge, but also sharing our lives.

Whenever I am exhausted or tired of doing the same things, I remember that my work is essential in shaping the future leaders of Indonesia. I also remember how Harapan Bangsa graduates have been making a difference in the marketplace. And, my enthusiasm always comes back.