Is IISMA a Waste of Government Money?

Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA) is one of the most prestigious programs offered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia. It aims to fund Indonesian students to spend one semester at top universities and reputable industries overseas. This year alone, there are a total of 15,000 Indonesian students applying for IISMA.


However, despite the enthusiasm and high participation, not everyone is in agreement about this government program. Contrary questions and opinions such as ‘What are the exact benefits of IISMA for this country?’ or ‘IISMA is just a waste of government money with no output’ are often heard.


So, is IISMA beneficial for this country?


The head of Unpad’s International Office, Ronny said, “There are always two perspectives on everything; the one who tends to look on the good side and the one who always tends to look on the bad side. Opinions may be subjective, but actual data, surveys, and track records prove that IISMA leads to positive outcomes.”


He continued, “There are programs with short-term outcomes and others with long-term outcomes. When the awardees return home from prestigious universities they’ve never experienced before, their mindset and problem-solving abilities are forever changed. We’re shaping future leaders, and there’s no instant way or result for achieving it.“


IISMA is one of the only scholarships that are fully funded, providing a significant opportunity for everyone. 


“It has always been my dream to study abroad, but one of the major hurdles is the high cost of living and studying overseas. That’s why studying abroad isn’t feasible for everyone,” said Rafly Ramadhan, one of the IISMA 2024 Awardees to Sapienza University of Rome.


The same goes for Rachel Graceya, the IISMA 2023 Awardee who just returned from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. 


“Studying abroad has been one of my dreams and my family’s dream for a long time. But the main consideration is the substantial cost involved.” She continued, “and through IISMA I got to know the notable differences between the education systems in Indonesia and the United Kingdom. “


Other students outside IISMA applicants also think that IISMA is important because understanding the culture, lifestyle, and mindset of other countries is pretty crucial. How can we expect to excel in international affairs and negotiations if we lack an understanding of other countries and have never engaged in international relations? However, to ensure that IISMA is awarded to the right candidates and can reach its full potential, they need to implement a rigorous selection process and conduct thorough background checks.


Students also agree that there are some aspects of IISMA that can be evaluated and improved. Even though IISMA provides a fully funded scholarship, this program is somewhat only accessible to the middle-upper class because applicants still need funds for English Proficiency Tests (EPT) like the IELTS, which can be quite expensive and exclusive to those who can afford. Additionally, there are visa costs that applicants must cover themselves upfront before being reimbursed, which may not always be feasible for everyone.


“Is there a possibility for IISMA to undergo changes? Yes. Does that imply that this program is not important and should not continue? No. The core value and vision of IISMA will remain unchanged, but perhaps its implementation may evolve, “ said Ronny.


“Is there a possibility of IISMA being discontinued? Yes, perhaps, but in my opinion, such a decision would be extreme, considering the unanimous support from all stakeholders and the public for the program’s continuation,” he concluded.


Reporter: Vanessa Aurelia Yotania

Editor: Shakila Azzahra M., Zulfa Salman

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