In a joint project called TeachCast, Oxford University Press, Eleutian and IndoMobil hope to bring English learning to communities across Indonesia. Unlike most schools or ELT tuition, however, the students will not be expected to make it to far off classrooms. Instead, the classrooms will come to them.
Through an innovative partnership with Indonesia’s largest automobile manufacturer, IndoMobil, Eleutian is delivering OUP ELT syllabus from classrooms built on the back of trucks, with a satellite link-up to bring teachers in the US live to Indonesia.
At the beginning of 2018 the project reached it’s 1,000th student. There are 15 trucks on the island of Java, but the goal, so says Brian Holiday co-founder of Eleutian, is expansion.
“We are building trucks every month and we are expanding”, he told The PIE, “We are initially rolling it out across Java island, and then across all of Indonesia,” he added.
Joseph Noble, head of partnerships and innovation at OUP, said that the market in Indonesia was a particular draw for the British company.
“Demographically there are only three regions in the world which are still growing in terms of population. Indonesia is one of them, India is another and Sub-Saharan Africa is the third… It’s a really important point to reach these developing economies,” he said.
Holiday noted that the strength of local partners, and their vision, is what gives the program the strength to attract global companies.
“Jusak [Kertowidjojo, executive director of IndoMobil] saw the need to hire English speaking employees… this is really a longterm play for them to teach the whole country English,” he explained.
“If you look just north of them there, they have Singapore which has very good English. The standard of living there is extremely high and hopefully this program will raise the standard of living in Indonesia,” Holiday continued.
Along with IndoMobil, the project is in part funded by the Salim Group, one of the largest conglomerates in Indonesia. The head of the group, Anthoni Salim, had the initial idea of teaching farmers and rural communities on Java, which led to this project.
With the help of OUP and Eleutian, the project has transformed into an ELT program, with a focus on low-cost tuition for learners outside of Jakarta.
“The key thing is, if you are living in Jakarta and have access to native English teachers, and go to a private language school in Jakarta, you are paying a very large amount of money,” Noble pointed out.
“Really what we are doing here is trying to bring down the cost of that native speaker training program. Bringing the teachers to the students at a cost which is affordable by someone in rural areas”.
But safety is also an issue, according to Gerry Kertowidjojo, director of TeachCast.
“Simply bringing in a native speaker to teach English in these rural villages brings… risks and challenges, as many of the villages do not even have accommodation or medical support to sustain a teacher. Having the satellite truck with a built in classroom that can be assembled and disassembled within minutes helps to provide a solution to these problems,” he clarified.
Perhaps this could have been done with laptops, and a system like Google’s ‘Project Loon’, or Facebook’s ‘Aquila drone’. But the manoeuvrability of this project is clearly what sets it apart from those more ‘traditional’ edtech ideas.
“If you have a brick and mortar classroom, you open that up and you don’t do so well, what do you do?” Holiday asked.
“With the truck you can flip to the next city where there are more students who want to learn. You can move your classroom every day, every other day, whatever you need to do”.