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Jakarta. Thousands of students have been given the chance to learn business skills through a recent government program to boost entrepreneurship in the country. 

The state has been working with the International Labor Organization to implement the project, which stresses the need for business training in schools. 

So far, a network of 250 teachers have been trained to teach a module called “How to Start and Improve Your Business” to students across the country. 

Under the joint program, the ILO works with Vocational Education Development Centers (P4TK) in Cianjur and Bandung, West Java, as well as in Malang, East Java, to train teachers. 

The Ministry of National Education has also replicated the ILO’s “Know About Business” curriculum and has trained 10,800 teachers in more than 4,500 schools since 2008. 

The government wants to address the alarmingly low rate of entrepreneurship in Indonesia and help boost 70 percent of businesses nationwide that make up the informal economy. 

Peter van Rooij, head of the ILO’s mission in Jakarta, said he was optimistic the program would succeed. 

“People here are actually very creative, but the issue is that they lack business skills,” he said. 

ILO’s programs were in line with the state’s drive to support creative industries, he said. 

Suwadi, a trainer from the P4TK in Malang, said Indonesia should maximize its abundant human resources. 

“Our problem is only that we do not have enough spirit or knowledge about business and the courage to start one. [We do not] take risks as entrepreneurs,” he said. 

Suwadi has been training teachers on entrepreneurship for several years, including 378 teachers at vocational schools and high schools in West Papua and Papua provinces. 

He said the entrepreneurship skills that filter down to trainees could help them address the country’s chronic unemployment problem through job creation. 

“If all Indonesians, regardless of their interests, age or gender, are provided with entrepreneurial skills, Indonesia will become a great nation,” he said. 

The joint education program is part of the ILO’s Education and Skills Training for Youth Employment (EAST), a four-year livelihood initiative funded by the Netherlands, which focuses on South Sulawesi, West Papua, East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, Papua and Aceh. 

Patrick Daru, chief technical adviser of the EAST project, says one of the challenges his team has faced is working with various state ministries that have differing standards on the quality of education programs. 

“Quality assurance here is very important, and how you can make sure the practical skills are implemented,” Daru said, adding that it was vital to start teaching entrepreneurship as early as grade school. 

The ILO curriculum included case studies and instructions on carrying out games and business simulations. 

Parents are also encouraged to get involved in developing the students’ business skills. 

Budi Maryono, EAST’s national program officer for entrepreneurship, said the program has already helped around 9,000 youths. 

“The program has given [the students] a lot of skills and self-confidence,” Budi said. 

Last week, the ILO, Indonesian Youth Employment Network (Jejakmu) and the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), organized a three-day seminar in Jakarta on entrepreneurship education. 

Participants from China, Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam also attended the event.