Educational Challenges In Indonesia

By Leticia Cox

One-third of Indonesia’s population are children- around 85 million, the fourth largest of any country in the world.

Education provides humankind with information, knowledge, skills and ethics to know, understand and respect our duties towards society, families and nation, and helps us progress further.

Education is a way of life where one can learn and share knowledge with others. “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation,” said former South African president Nelson Mandela.

In Indonesia, like in most parts of the world, children must attend twelve years of compulsory education, which consists of primary (grades 1–6), junior secondary (grades 7–9), senior secondary (grades 10–12), and higher education.

Youth can choose between state-run, nonsectarian public schools supervised by the Ministry of National Education (Kemdiknas) or private or semi-private religious (Islamic, Christian, Catholic, and Buddhist) schools managed and financed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Over two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, students and educators in Indonesia and around the world are still grappling with a massive learning crisis. A June 2022 report by UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank and others uncovers an estimated 70 per cent of 10-year-olds globally are unable to understand a simple written text, up from 57 per cent before the in white dress shirt sitting on brown wooden bench

Photo by Ed Us on Unsplash

Covid-19 Aftermath. 

Learning in Indonesia was already below curriculum expectations before the onset of COVID-19, with wide disparities by gender, region, disability, and other marginalization dimensions. Most students tested were performing two grade levels below their current grades. For example, grade 5 students, on average, were reading at the grade 3 level.

According to conducted research and surveys in the field, one of the reasons was the absence of clear educational goals before the learning activities were carried out, which caused students and educators not to know what ‘goals’ would be produced so that they do not have a clear picture in the educational process. In some areas of the country, there is evidence of an increase in the percentage of early-grade students who cannot read.

The vast school closures and job loss due to COVID-19 have worsened the situation. Underperformance is more acute for children in vulnerable situations, including children from low-income households, children with disabilities and children living in under-developed parts of the country, which are most at risk of school exclusion.

Even before the pandemic, child marriage was an issue in some poorer areas. Evidence shows that child marriages have surged during the pandemic as low-income families are looking to reduce their economic burden.

Child labour is now more likely to occur in the home or support the household’s livelihood (e.g., farming and fishing) as lockdown measures restricted employment opportunities.

Indonesian children with disabilities face considerable challenges. Research has shown that the disability of both children and parents is affecting their learning and the likelihood of returning to school.

Poor Educational Facilities and Infrastructure

Poor school facilities and infrastructure quality are also part of Indonesia’s education challenges.Seventy-five per cent of Indonesia’s schools are in disaster risk areas; the nearly 800,000-square mile country is exposed to large earthquakes, tsunamis, high winds, volcanoes, landslides, and floods.

Uneven access to the internet, and discrepancy in teacher qualifications and education quality, appeared as the biggest challenges in implementing distance learning. Remote learning for young children and the diversity of the country’s digital access levels cause further inequalities for marginalized children.

Low Quality of Teachers

One of the core causes of the poor quality of education in Indonesia is the low quality of teachers due to the teacher recruitment process, which does not focus on selecting professional education personnel but instead on meeting the demands of civil servants.

Most teachers do not have adequate professionalism to carry out their duties as stated in Article 39 of Law No. 20 of 2003, namely planning lessons, implementing lessons, assessing learning outcomes, mentoring, conducting training, conducting research and performing community service.

As part of the civil servant recruitment process, the teacher recruitment process generally does not pay attention to the work skills required of a professional teacher.

In a recent survey, teachers in the educational system who took the Teacher Competency Test (UKG), which measures competency in learning and understanding the subjects taught, did not even meet the minimum score.

The survey also shows that teachers who are educated below the standard set by the government are pretty high, namely 64.09% for junior high school, 61.5% for high school and 10.14% for vocational school.

The teaching profession requires complex work skills. Teachers must be able to teach effectively and have high commitment and motivation to educate their students.

Meanwhile, teacher recruitment in the civil servant recruitment system generally prioritizes nationalism and general knowledge and not teaching competence.

Prospective teachers with the highest scores on the essential competency selection will participate in a written section that examines their learning management skills and knowledge of the subjects they teach. There is no way of knowing the competence of a professional teacher through a written general knowledge test.

In general, the recruitment of teachers in the civil servant process can’t select the best prospective teachers- the system prioritizes nationalism and general knowledge, not teaching.

In education, the “calling” or passion is essential to becoming an educator since it is closely related to their love of the knowledge taught to students and their enthusiasm to explore students’ potential. Being a good teacher is challenging if it isn’t your calling.

Written By Leticia Cox

References An – Indonesia case study.pdf

Cover Photo by Husniati Salma on Unsplash

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