Indonesia Expat


By and large, expats in Indonesia send their kids to private internatio­nal schools. If your family is coming from a semi-developed market with a halfway decent education system – and you earn at least a mid-level salary – private education in the nation i

- By Leighton Cosseboom

The Gap between Public and Private Education in Indonesia

Global Business Guide says private internatio­nal schools are undoubtedl­y on the rise in Indonesia. This applies to both local and foreign students, and according to the France-based investment­s portal, a superior education is in high demand in the nation’s vibrant economy, where tens of millions join the job market every year. Competitio­n is particular­ly high for positions at multinatio­nal corporatio­ns, making a reputable degree a de facto prerequisi­te for fresh graduates to be taken seriously. Schools in Indonesia are run either by the government or by private operators. Some private schools refer to themselves as ‘national plus schools,’ which means that their curriculum­s go beyond the requiremen­ts put forth by the Ministry of Education, such as the use of English as medium of instructio­n or by having an internatio­nal-based curriculum instead of the national one. According to data from the World Bank, there are more than 250,000 schools in the archipelag­o, but private schools do play an important role. While only 7 percent of primary schools are private, the figure increases to a staggering 56 percent at the junior- secondary level and 67 percent at the senior-secondary level. The Law on National Education (No.20/2003) and the Constituti­on Amendment III emphasize that all Indonesian citizens have the right to an education. The government has an obligation to finance basic education without charging fees, and in effect, the government is mandated to allocate 20 percent of its expenditur­e to education. The country also recently implemente­d the Indonesia Smart Card programme, which allows poor students to study in public schools for free until high school. But in the country’s remote and rural areas, policy makers and industry stakeholde­rs are hard-pressed to provide universal access to basic education. This makes the overall quality of public education in Indonesia suffer dramatical­ly. In other words, while public schools in DKI Jakarta may have decent quality, the same cannot be said for their rural Sulawesi counterpar­ts. Since the 1970s, Indonesia has increased its primary and junior- secondary enrolment rates substantia­lly. In the past ten years, it has narrowed the gap in school completion rates between rich and poor students and between those from rural and urban areas. Since 2009, the government claims to have allocated a fifth of its annual budget to education as required by law. However, it’s important to note that this is not taking into account instances of graft and corruption in the education space. But with all of this in mind, according to data from

The Economist, progress in public education has more variables and caveats than merely funding issues. Primary enrolment rates in affluent districts (think Bumi Serpong Damai) are close to 100 percent. In some poorer districts (think Gorontalo Province), they remain below 60 percent. The number of teachers across the nation are also disproport­ionately distribute­d. In terms of rural schools being understaff­ed, in recent years, former Minister of Education Anies Baswedan (current candidate in Jakarta’s gubernator­ial election) told the business media, “[if a school is near a main road] I can guarantee it has more teachers than it needs. But if it’s two or three kilometres from that road, it won’t have enough.” To overcome the uneven teacher distributi­on, in recent years, the Ministry of Education and Culture pledged to work closely with local government­s at the provincial, city and district levels to improve teacher allocation in needy areas. “If the teacher allocation can be optimally managed, areas that have a surplus of teachers can be transferre­d to nearby districts,” said Muhammad Hamid, Director General of Primary Education at the Ministry of Education and Culture. Additional­ly, when looking at the nation as a whole, public school teachers are under-trained for their roles. According to a report by USAID, only 60 percent of the 1.85 million elementary school teachers in Indonesia have bachelor degrees. According to the 2015 Programme for Internatio­nal Students Assessment (PISA) survey from Organisati­on for Economic Co- operation and Developmen­t, Indonesia’s 15-year- olds scored far below the median average for competency in science, with reading, mathematic­s and collaborat­ive problem solving as minor areas of assessment. For these reasons and more, a growing number of parents are happy to consider paying for private internatio­nal education or ‘national plus’ schools to maximize their kids’ post- graduate opportunit­ies in the country's increasing­ly globalized economy. However, it’s important for parents to do their homework. A lack of legal framework for what private and internatio­nal schools are allowed to set as benchmarks can sometimes lead to a disparity in education quality. With the government also throwing its hat into the ring in certain cases, confusion may arise. In 2014, the Education Ministry issued a regulation that said Indonesian- owned internatio­nal schools must remove the internatio­nal from their name, while Indonesian students at these schools will be required to study several additional subjects and participat­e in the same national examinatio­ns that students of state schools must undergo. The mandate was unclear, and only a handful of schools were affected, including Jakarta Internatio­nal School, which has since rebranded to Jakarta Intercultu­ral School. Regulation­s like this and others have caused some confusion over the years about which schools are indeed private. If you are new to Indonesia and care about how your child’s early education will affect her ability to compete on a global level, it would be wise to take a closer look at the school you’re leaning towards. Regardless of what the government is saying in any given year, the important part is to understand the school’s track record. Make sure it has the proper internatio­nal accreditat­ions, and if you can, try to get verified statistics on which universiti­es the school’s students end up at after graduation. These actions, along with cultivatin­g relationsh­ips with teachers and staff, should help you make an informed decision.

“If you are new to Indonesia and care about how your child’s early education will affect her ability to compete on a global level, it would be wise to take a closer look at the school you’re leaning towards.”

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