Starting 2014, after the election of the new president of Republic of Indonesia, to ensure the effectiveness of the administration, the Ministry of Education and Culture formerly coordinated education from preschool up to higher education, is being reformed. The respective ministry is now divided into two entities. One of them focuses on higher education and research which now is the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. Meanwhile the Ministry of Education and Culture is now in charge of coordinating basic education and culture. This structural reformation brings a positive change at SEAMEO RECFON as we continue serving our excellence in higher education for nutrition professionals; we now also cater our partners’ mandates to contribute to the improvement of basic education from food and nutrition perspectives.
In this regard, a specific unit named “Community Development” at SEAMEO RECFON has been serving as think tank and administration body for the organization of school-based as well as community development projects. The United Nations defines community development as “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems“. Due to gear shifting as mentioned above, since 2015 SEAMEO RECFON has aimed to document best practices of community development projects that take place at schools. This documentation has resulted in some project initiatives and research among school children at all levels since 2016 and branded as “Nutrition Goes to School – NGTS”.
In August 2016, simultaneous visits to various Directorate Generals at Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) Republic of Indonesia were initiated by Director of SEAMEO Secretariat together with Centre Directors from SEAMEO BIOTROP, SEAMEO SEAMOLEC, SEAMEO RECFON, SEAMEO QITEP in Language, SEAMEO QITEP in Mathematics, and SEAMEO QITEP in Science. The meeting envisions the leadership role of the Minister of Education and Culture Republic of Indonesia as the SEAMEO Council President 2017-2019. The consultative meeting have resulted a proposed 3-year cooperation program with Directorate General of Teacher Education and Development, Directorate General of Early Childhood Care Education and Family Education, Directorate General of Primary and Secondary Education, and Directorate General of Culture. This document signifies an important milestone for the direction of NGTS program at SEAMEO RECFON.
Solution to nutritional problem in Indonesia has been adopting the “first 1000 days of life” approach. The problem of stunting among under five children that remains high based on the recent national survey in 2013 suggests that the approach which focuses on the nutrition intervention from womb until the child reaches the age of 2 years needs further complementary approach. The global attention is then shifted to solve nutrition problems through adolescent nutrition because the adolescent girls of today are mothers-to-be in the future.
This concept is further translated into many school-based nutrition alleviation projects to also respond to the fact that school children at primary and secondary levels are part of the target groups that are vulnerable to nutritional problems such as stunting, underweight, anemia, as well as overweight and obesity. School is regarded as an effective media for character building education that may be oriented around good nutritional practices. This is relevant as many studies found that Indonesian students are prone to not having breakfast, not bringing foods from home, poor consumption of fruit and vegetable, high consumption of sweet drinks and processed foods.
In turn, investment of nutrition solution through schools will contribute to nutrition alleviation in the community as many studies show that school-based nutrition programs have also contributed to the development of change agents that may influence practices at home.