Contributor: Magello Fenis | Editor: Supriyono
Muhammad Ismail Sunni, an MA student of the Faculty of Economics and Business at the Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII), created an online community along with his colleagues aimed at making a positive impact by empowering his community to improve their English-speaking proficiency.
OTA Community, in which Ismail now serves as the lead convener and a co-founder, is a non-profit organization that aims to provide a platform for individuals, irrespective of their educational, social, economic, and political backgrounds, to freely express their thoughts in English through both academic and non-academic discussions.
The initiative was driven in 2020 during Ismail’s IELTS studies. Working together with his esteemed tutors, they envisioned establishing a platform to foster a supportive ecosystem that would enhance their language skills. However, due to challenges such as financial constraints and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to shift the plan to a virtual platform, ensuring the continuity of the initiative.
Indonesia's English proficiency ranks 62nd out of 100 countries, according to the EF English Proficiency Index (EPI) 2013. While Indonesia has made progress in improving its English language skills, it still lags behind neighboring ASEAN countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Challenges persist in the English education landscape, including limited exposure to English language environments, hindering effective solutions.
“I believe that many Indonesians lack access to immersive English-speaking settings and opportunities to practice their language skills. It is crucial to prioritize the urgency of English education in Indonesia, considering English is a foreign language and schools often serve as the sole avenue for English language learning,” Ismail said.
Additionally, Ismail argued that psychological factors contribute to the importance of English education, as learners in Indonesia, regardless of age or social status, may encounter anxiety, low self-esteem, and fear of making mistakes, all of which detrimentally impact their English-speaking performance.
Such predicaments are often exacerbated by factors like insufficient teacher expertise, institutional weaknesses, and limited resources in educational institutions. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, Ismail remained motivated to pursue his advocacy. As a result, the name OTA was chosen, which symbolizes "to speak up" in the Minang language, as a reminder to respond to these issues.
Staying true to OTA's objectives, the organization conducts weekly discussions covering a wide range of subjects including interpersonal relationships, political affairs, economic landscapes, environmental concerns, and educational matters, among other controversial topics of local and global significance. Membership in OTA is free of charge, providing the opportunity to invite and encourage others to participate in OTA-sponsored programs and potential partnerships.
With a deep sense of accomplishment, OTA Community has now around 150 active members dominated mostly by students at the higher education level. It has celebrated the milestone of its 163rd consecutive weekly discussion.
“Accessible through popular social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn, OTA Community eagerly welcomes new members seeking to enhance their speaking proficiency," states Ismail, extending a warm invitation to individuals who recognize the need to improve their oral communication skills to join the OTA Community.
Stay informed about OTA Community's weekly discussions by following them on Instagram at @ota.community2.