Higher Education Grows in the Developing World

Self-made entrepreneur and business leader Sukanto Tanoto established the Tanoto Foundation to share the success he has achieved as head of the $15 billion RGE Group of natural resources manufacturing companies. To date, the foundation has awarded numerous higher education scholarships to young Indonesians with high potential but meager financial resources, allowing them to gain opportunities that have been out of reach for previous generations. Indonesia’s large cohort of student-aged citizens can help the country move forward as a major player in the world economy, but they will first need to be empowered through quality educational programs.

Sukanto Tanoto understands the importance of higher education in the development of a country and the role private sectors can play in strengthening this area of gap in the nation.


In the United States, recent statistics reveal that the gap in earnings between young working adults with college degrees and those without has reached its widest span in close to 50 years. Throughout the developing world, more and more individuals are dedicating themselves to getting as much education as they can. This goal resonates strongly with Sukanto Tanoto, who was forced to leave school as a teenager but went on to further his education by attending The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and other business programs.

Brazil, Russia, India, and China, the “BRIC” group of economic powerhouse nations, have experienced a recent surge in the number of college graduates. China alone is responsible for adding about 140,000 engineers annually to the global ranks of that profession. In all four of these nations, students are opting for careers in the applied sciences, information technology, business, and medicine that can best translate into high earning potential.

While Indonesia’s college graduation rate hovers at only about 4 percent, the country has recently placed great emphasis on funding for education. In 2007, the country was spending the equivalent of $14 billion on education in general, or more than 16 percent of the total annual government budget. Yet for many young people of secondary school and college age, obtaining a high-quality education remains out of reach. Because of the work of the Tanoto Foundation, that problem has started to appear more solvable. However, a good start does not indicate anything, it is tenacity and perseverance that speak the loudest – whether the foundation is able to finish the race strong. From the past years of dedication of Tanoto Foundation, we can be relieved that they are committed to this cause for long and not just a short excitement over philanthropy.

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