Talking About Reading: Sukanto Tanoto’s Tanoto Foundation Sparks Conversation on Reading

Indonesia, for all its success and potential today, still faces difficulties in creating a literate populace. In a 2016 study released by Connecticut State University, Indonesia came in second last out of 61 countries in terms of reading interest. Coming just above Botswana, it was a disappointing result highlighting the minimal interest Indonesians had in reading. It is a worrying statistic, one that Sukanto Tanoto’s Tanoto Foundation intends to change.

Sukanto Tanoto, co-founder of Tanoto Foundation with his wife Tinah Bingei Tanoto, strongly believes in education as the key to poverty alleviation. It is a worldview his early experiences influenced, when he left school to carry on his family’s business at seventeen. While he has become a success, the billionaire entrepreneur regrets his unfinished education, and is intent on ensuring no one else goes through the same. His success – Sukanto Tanoto is founder and chairman of resource-manufacturing giant RGE and a host of other companies such as APRIL and Sateri – may be thoroughly well-deserved, but is indubitably an exception.

Tanoto Foundation’s fight to make reading interesting

To this end, Sukanto Tanoto has, through his foundation, been a tireless champion of improving the country’s quality of education. Tanoto Foundation believes sustainable change must begin from a young age, and has acted accordingly. For example, the Foundation’s Pelita Pendidikan Programme is a holistic programme that has helped over 466 schools in Indonesia. Not only does it help improve education facilities, it also helps to improve teaching quality, resources, and student interest in reading.

Most recently, Tanoto Foundation held a discussion forum on the latter topic, focussing on ways to creatively improve interest in reading. Many ideas were raised, including the use of role-playing techniques, such as encouraging students to write in the perspective of a journalist, to using the 5Ws and 1H (who, what, where, when, why, and how) to help students find meaning in what they are reading. By using creative methods to get students to read, Pelita Pendidikan Programme Manager Rahmat Setiawan hopes that Indonesia can overcome the lack of reading interest in the face of the increasingly digital generation.

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