Uplifting Indonesia's Economy with Mobile Learning

Hotelier Indonesia

Uplifting Indonesia's Economy with Mobile Learning

1) How important are languages to the growth of Indonesia’s economy?
Language proficiency is an important factor for the economic progress of all countries – language is vital for the trade of goods and services. For example, language allows a seller to explain to a buyer the features of the product or service that he or she is offering, and the buyer to explain to the seller the features that they require in the product and service that they would like to purchase. This is the same for simple products such as an apple or an orange, to commodities, financial investments or hotel rooms.

In today’s globalised world it is important for individuals to be bi-lingual. At the moment the English language is the lingua franca of international trade, which accounts for over 30% of world GDP, and it is important to be able to speak the common language for trade in the country where they are based. As China continues its path of development, the Mandarin language will become increasingly important too. Exports represent around 4.4% of Indonesia’s economy and by improving its external trade, Indonesia could stop having what its president recently called “sluggish growth”, one of the ways in which Indonesia can do this is by improving the language proficiency of its citizens.

Also, in-bound tourism is really an export of services. Given the growth desired by the governments, many more people will be needed in this industry to cater to foreign visitors. The inability to communicate with guests costs billions of dollars in lost business. Competition is also increasing in many areas of Asia, with other Asian nations with better language skills taking business that could go to Indonesia.

2) How proficient are Indonesians in languages?
Most Indonesians are actually quite proficient in speaking two languages, as many of them can speak their national language, Bahasa Indonesia, and their ethnic language which is the mother tongue used by people of a certain tribe, island, etc. It is estimated that there are over 646 known ethic languages in Indonesia. Although knowing how to speak their national language is helpful, Indonesians often struggle to speak in international languages including English and Chinese, and this is not ideal for a nation that wants to trade beyond its borders.

Indonesia’s low English language proficiency is a problem that has existed for a while, in a recent global English Language Proficiently Index (ELPI), Indonesia received a ranking of 39, falling seven places from 2016’s Index, Indonesia has consistently received a below average regional ranking in all the previous ELPI’s that have been published. It is also important for Indonesians to start being more proficient in speaking Mandarin, the official language of China, Indonesia’s top export destination, as it can help them spur more trade with the world’s second largest economy and world’s largest manufacturer. For hotels, it will allow them to welcome and retain more Chinese tourists and business travellers, raising revenues.

3) How are languages taught traditionally? What are the pros and cons of these methods?
Languages have traditionally been taught to children and adults through classroom-based tuition, where a teacher would provide the students with theoretical and practical lessons to train the students’ proficiency in language. This method has been the most common method used to learn a language in Indonesia, due the belief that language learning requires the constant attention of a teacher. Furthermore, learning by rote is commonly used to teach languages, especially grammar and vocabulary. Recently however companies, parents and students are looking beyond classroom-based learning and starting to embrace technology as a means to augment their studies.

I think we need to be brutal on this point. Classroom learning has been a disaster for foreign language acquisition. Decades of evidence in Japan and Korea, with really motivated people. Good pronunciation models, timely feedback, high frequency of practice, data, etc. In colleges, good programs have really strong bilingual instructors, small class size (10 or fewer students), daily classes for two years, plus lots of work outside of class. This is the minimum for success. It is very costly and hard to do. But worthless if not done as it should. We may want to use the analogy of using too little antibiotics. Result is zero.

4) Why is mobile learning technology a more effective solution for individuals to use for learning a language?
A fundamental problem of traditional, classroom-based language learning is that classes typically occur once a week, limiting the amount of time and frequency students spend practicing and learning. Furthermore, cost is a prohibitive factor for many hotels, with the average price for just a single lesson a week with a qualified teacher out of reach for many Indonesian properties, especially on the larger scale needed to train their staff. Additionally, traditional language learning is too time-consuming and is out of sync with modern lifestyles and work schedules. Indonesian hoteliers’ schedules are notoriously hectic, and employees are far too busy to spend time sitting in a classroom and have even less time for meaningful practice – an essential component of language learning.

Mobile learning bridges this gap, by allowing users to access lessons across multiple platforms – PC, tablet, mobile – anytime, anyplace. Employees and students are able to learn on the way to school or work, during lunch or in the evening. This flexibility, coupled with lower costs and proven success makes mobile learning much more accessible and far more effective when compared to traditional forms of classroom-based language learning.

Another advantage that mobile learning has is its ability to incorporate game-based elements into lessons. With rising school dropout rates and a general lack of student engagement, governments have been forced to explore alternative ways to connect to students. Game-based learning combined with mobile learning has shown to increase student engagement, resulting in improved performance. Game-based learning, or ‘gamification’, makes routine lessons more interesting and engaging through active thinking, and competitive elements encourage faster improvement.

Student scores and results are generated instantly onto an easy to understand dashboard which parents, teachers and training managers can use to monitor improvement and areas of strength and difficulty. This instantaneous data is not available to students or teachers within the traditional classroom-based system.

Lastly, mobile learning has the power to not only improve language skills, but real vocational skills and abilities that can improve employee performance. We have developed Qooco Upsell, developed especially for the hospitality industry, that teaches users techniques on how to upsell to guests, be they at the Front Desk, Spa or Restaurant. We also have solutions that teach vocational skills such as how to serve guests in an F&B setting, Front Office skills and more. Learning to communicate with guests, developing the right technical skills and going further to provide upselling opportunities can all be taught through mobile learning.

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