I was so fortunate to be able to meet Ms. Sri Mulyani, our former Finance Minister, in Ramadhan 2013. I blame it on having too much enthusiasm as I was too busy trying to greet and convey my support for her without expressing any gratitude for her big idea that has already come to life, which I am going to tell you in this writing.
Indonesia needs to mark 2012 as a big year for this nation’s future since this could be the U-turn for our astern education relative to other countries, not to specifically mention Malaysia. If you did not miss History class too much, you would not be surprised if we did send a lot of qualified teachers to their country as a proof of comradeship between two neighbors back then, aimed to improve their education. Sadly, we are now trailing Malaysia in terms of providing high quality education to our people. This is now going to change.
Let me introduce you to LPDP which stands for Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan (Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education), an institution that provides scholarship for future leaders of Indonesia who are highly encouraged and passionate to build the nation. LPDP was fully established in January 2012 as a BLU (Badan Layanan Umum) which means that it now has the full authority to manage a big portion of Indonesia’s education budget. In other words, it is a bright light at the end of the tunnel as everyone now has equal access to higher education without having to stumble over a lot of constraints.
LPDP rolled out their first batch of scholarship application in April 2013 with nearly 15,000 students applying. The achievement in their first year was impressive as thousands of scholarships have been granted (as per September 4th, 1,019 applicants have managed to receive the financial aid; Source: LPDP RI), both for Postgraduate (Master) and PhD (Doctoral) Program, either domestic or abroad. The simplicity of the requirements is second to none: you just need to make sure that your targeted university must be placed in World Top 200 of QS or Times Higher Education. You are free to choose any university in any country you intend to apply with no limitation to specific countries. To complete their kindness, LPDP also allocates a big chunk of the money to fund the research for thesis and dissertation of students running their final projects. For those wondering, undergraduate scholarship is not available yet, but I personally believe LPDP will establish this in the near future.
Then, I bet the next question would be: “What do I need to give back?” Surprisingly, NOTHING. LPDP does not demand anything other than your conscience to return to Indonesia and get your hands dirty in order to build the nation. Of course, there are lot of bullets in the agreement, but I can promise that you’re not obligated to work for them and will not end up paying penalties for quitting or be forced to be a lecturer even if you don’t want to.
The requirements are very general. I won’t mention them all here but I personally think that they are very standard for a scholarship application process. You definitely need to submit an online application form, ask a couple of letters of recommendation from your professors or from close influential public figures, and write multiple essays to articulate your desire for further study. Also, be prepared with your English test, be it TOEFL or IELTS. One thing to highlight is that you need to have your Letter of Acceptance from the university you apply to before you click the SUBMIT button. No need to worry, even a conditional one will do.
Once you fulfill all the administrative works, you’ll get to the first phase of the selection where the application-processing team will make a go-or-no-go on your application by checking its completeness. Data showed that the biggest cut happened at this stage with merely 23% passing rate. The old saying “Failing to prepare, prepare to fail” seems to hold true.
The announcement of successful application will bring you to the next and most crucial phase of selection: interview process. Candidates will be invited to the nearest venues to attend an interview with a panel consisting of two professors and a psychologist. Furthermore, all the documents submitted during online application will be verified in this occasion. Do not even think about submitting false documents.
For many other scholarships, the interview will determine the success of a scholarship application. This is not the case for LPDP scholarship. Even if you pass the interview, you need another stage of selection before being officially granted the scholarship. This stage is called Program Kepemimpinan (Leadership Program) which works as a tool for selecting the best among the great and equipping the candidates with skills to contribute to Indonesia once they finish their studies, regardless of the type of scholarship they apply to. Personally, this eleven-day program was fantastic. You are going to meet a lot of inspiring people, both speakers and other candidates, with a few surprises throughout the program. To give you some idea, I was lucky to embark on a navy ship for three days and learned a lot during the period, one of the greatest moments in my life.
I am writing this to let you know that higher education is now around the corner. It is only about willingness and slightly more effort to have your childhood dream comes alive, be it studying at Harvard or living in London. All the best living your dream!
P.S. You may visit www.lpdp.depkeu.go.id for details or www.beasiswalpdp.org for applying.