Sukanto Tanoto, the Indonesian-born entrepreneur and philanthropist who heads the $15 billion RGE Group of companies, believes in giving back to the community in ways that make tangible improvements in people’s everyday lives. That is the reason behind the Tanoto Foundation’s emphasis on funding innovative projects in education, community-building, and local empowerment. Through their support of these causes, Mr. Tanoto and his family hope to move Indonesia forward in its quest to alleviate poverty.
One recent Tanoto Foundation initiative involves the support of elementary education programs in Riau and Jambi Provinces on the island of Sumatra. The Tanoto Foundation believes in the importance of games and play as essential to learning, particularly in a child’s early years.
Traditionally, Indonesian educational philosophies have held that play has little role in classroom instruction. However, through the efforts of the Tanoto Foundation’s teacher training sessions, educators have learned to incorporate games into their day-to-day lessons plans, in order to promote creativity, discovery, and passion for problem-solving. Recently, Mr. Tanoto’s son and rising RGE Group executive Anderson Tanoto visited SDN 01 Sering Barat in Riau’s Pelalawan Regency to play Cokor de Alphabetica with the students. The alphabet game, whose mathematical counterpart is Cokor de Numerica, challenges students to compete to see who can be the first to step on a designated letter card on the floor; the child who amasses the most points wins, but everyone comes out ahead by having fun while learning.
A wide range of recent academic studies points to the crucial role games and play have in learning. A 2013 panel discussion at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University highlighted several key points. Both imaginative play and interaction with the natural world encourage young children’s intellectual development.
In addition, boys who may lag in reading skills in the classroom nevertheless have demonstrated the capacity to read and understand complex strategy manuals tied in with popular online games or other topics in which they have an intense interest. Finally, character traits, such as patience and self-discipline, that unfold naturally when children engage in creative social play, are at least as important as intellectual ability for success in later life.