This profile was prepared when Yohanes Surya was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Yohanes is replacing a teaching method based on rote memorization with one that explores science through a logical framework, making the study of physics and math fun and interesting for young people. By engaging students and requiring them to figure out and understand the theory behind what they learn, his new educational methodology fosters critical thinking skills students need to be successful professionals. The primary means by which Yohanes is achieving this goal is through the organization he established: Surya Institute. He uses his organization to endorse new teaching materials he has developed and to train teachers across Indonesia in more effective methods of teaching physics. Instructors are supported by new materials and follow-up meetings, and are encouraged to spread what they learn to their peers. The Institute currently has forty core trainers and has already trained thousands of teachers, but it can hardly keep up with demand. Yohanes has garnered so much public attention that local governments, teachers’ colleges, and teachers throughout Indonesia are clamoring to learn his methods. Yohanes first drew public attention by training a champion Indonesian physics team in the international Physics Olympics, and has since capitalized on that momentum to bring science to the forefront of students’ interest in particular, but also to the public, through national physics/science/math competitions, science camps, science fairs, introducing science working together with entertainment parks, comics, and popular science articles. Through this work and his tireless efforts to endorse more effective teaching methods, he hopes to change the education system and eventually the nation’s mindset in ways that will ultimately help his country progress.