Reformed higher education now has a home on the opposite side of the globe. In Nov. 2013, Dr. Jim Drexler and his wife, Sara, were sent to Karawaci, Indonesia, by Covenant College to help establish the International Teachers College (ITC). The ITC is a college designed to offer undergraduate and graduate teacher training, including eventually an M. Ed. degree. Prior to this move, Drexler served as Dean of the Education and Social Sciences at Covenant College.
The International Teachers College is a school within Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH), a university that has more than 10,000 students, and contains both a medical school, and a law school.
ITC has 33 freshmen this year, hailing from five different countries (Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Nepal, and the United States). They hope to have 50-70 new students next year and to grow to about 300 over the next 3-4 years. According to Drexler, however, “There is not a strong growth push — we are trying to find the right students for what we are doing.”
All ITC students are dually enrolled at Universitas Pelita Harapan and Corban University in the United States. Students will earn their bachelor’s degree from both universities, which will provide them with an American accredited degree and give them a greater chance of securing a teaching position in the United States. Covenant College decided not to formally partner with the ITC, but is providing academic support.
According to Drexler, right now is a good time to start a school in Indonesia, given the political, economic, and religious climate. “This is a very dynamic and exciting time in Asia,” says Drexler.
Recently obtained political freedoms across Asia—Indonesia just held its sixth presidential election—are making it easier for Drexler to recruit in other countries and for students to matriculate at international colleges of their choice.
Indonesia also has one of the largest economies in the world. As it continues to grow, so will the middle class and so will their need for education.
Finally, the church in Asia is growing at an unprecedented rate. Since 1949, the Christian population in China has grown from an estimated one million people to an estimated one hundred and forty million people. Also, the ITC has the unique opportunity to witness Jesus Christ in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world.
It took four years for Drexler to get acquainted with the leadership in Karawaci, for the leadership to get acquainted with Covenant College, and for the idea of ITC to develop. Over those four years, Drexler developed a personal relationship with James Riady. Riady is the deputy chair of a large conglomerate called the Lippo Group, and the founder of the Educational Foundation of Light and Hope, the organization behind the creation of Universitas Pelita Harapan.
ITC is located on UPH’s main campus and uses its main facilities. As part of Universitas Pelita Harapan, ITC receives its funding from the Educational Foundation of Light and Hope.
Drexler helped start ITC and now serves as its President. His duties include recruiting students and faculty, raising funds, establishing connections with schools and churches across Asia, supervising and developing the faculty, and working with ITC’s advisory board. Dr. Drexler even taught two sections of Introduction to Teaching and one section of Christian Mind last semester.
Sara Drexler, Dr. Drexler’s wife, handles most of the admissions and records work at ITC. She has also made herself available as a mentor to the students.
Drexler is not sure whether he will return to a job in the United States or at Covenant College. Right now, he and his wife are “just trusting the LORD each day to make things clear.” If Drexler and his wife end up staying in Indonesia for many years, they plan to be in the United States at least twice a year: once in the summer, so he can teach his class in the M. Ed. program at Covenant College, and again at Christmas.