Indonesia Education


The Indonesian education system is chronically underfunded, although Indonesia invests around 20% of the national budget in the education sector. Figures on the education system show a clear need to catch up compared to countries with a similar level of economic development.

According to internetsailors, the Indonesian educational landscape is very diverse.

The school system is tripartite. It consists of a six-year elementary school (Sekolah Dasar – SD), a three-year middle school (Sekolah Menengah Pertama – SMP) and a three-year high school (Sekolah Menengah Atas-SMA).

In rural areas in particular, secondary and high schools are often difficult to reach.

There are also middle and high schools in which job-relevant knowledge is imparted. Despite the increasing efforts of the Ministry of Education, there is still little direct cooperation with business. In comparison with other countries in the region, the low level of education in Indonesia is a significant disadvantage for foreign investors.

In the context of decentralization, the regions are currently getting more rights to adapt curricula to the needs of the local economy. Large areas of the education system are now also administered independently by the districts and provinces. As a result, among other things, the quality of schooling in poor districts and provinces or those ruled by particularly corrupt local leaders has deteriorated significantly. This is especially true in remote provinces like West Papua.

The quality of school education is poor compared to other Southeast Asian countries. The illiteracy rate was 6.1% in 2017. In the 2015 Pisa study, Indonesia ranked 66th for reading comprehension, 64th for science, and 65th for math (out of 72 countries).

In the Pearson Study, which measures the quality of education, Indonesia came in last out of 40 countries examined. Natural sciences play a rather subordinate role in the state education system. An important part of school education within the framework of nation building is also the education for a national sense of togetherness.

Around half of the Indonesian workers only have a primary school certificate. Women attended school for an average of 7.5 years, men for 8.4 years.

With the exception of a few (mostly state) elite universities, the quality of the universities can hardly keep up in international comparison. Most universities are privately funded. 4007 private universities are compared to only 307 state universities (as of 2018). About 6.5 million Indonesians are currently studying. 24% of the degrees in 2017 were in education, 4.8% in human sciences and the arts, 18.1% in business administration and law, 3.2% in natural sciences and mathematics, 4.0% in agricultural sciences, 8.9% in Computer Science, 7.3% in Engineering and 17.4% in Health Sciences.

In 2019, the number of degrees was 1.2 million, including business administration and law: 18.3%; Science and Mathematics: 3.3%; Computer science: 8.3%; Engineering: 7.9%.

The state universities from which a large part of the Indonesian political elite are recruited include the Universitas Gajah Mada, the Universitas Indonesia, the Institut Teknologi Bandung and the Institut Pertanian Bogor.

Around 4200 Indonesian students study in Germany.

Some universities funded by Saudi Arabia are currently contributing to the radicalization within Indonesian Islam.

In addition to the state school system, there are also a large number of schools and universities in the Indonesian educational landscape under Christian or Islamic sponsorship. In these religiously bound schools the pupils and students often get better educational opportunities than in the state school system. Due to scholarships and fee discounts, they often offer a great opportunity, especially for poor families who would otherwise not be able to afford a secondary school or university.

A large proportion of Indonesian students are still barely or not at all able to read English-language literature. At the same time, since there are only a few books to buy, there is only a small supply of Indonesian-language textbooks.

An important weak point of vocational education in Indonesia is its lack of practical relevance.

The promotion of environmental awareness is not yet in many Indonesian schools not an issue. School books either do not mention this topic at all or only marginally.

Children in school uniform

Labor and the labor market

According to the national statistics office, unemployment is 8%. However, only registered employees who previously had a formal employment contract (subject to social security contributions) are included in these figures. However, more than half of Indonesians work in the informal sector without an employment contract. Depending on the parameters used, the figures on unemployment and employment vary widely.

Since women are employed to a lesser extent in the formal sector, they are clearly disadvantaged when it comes to access to social security systems.

For employees with formal employment contracts, there are minimum wage regulations that take into account the local price level and can therefore vary widely from region to region. For example, the minimum wage in the capital Jakarta is about twice as high as in the eastern regions of Java.

The structure of the labor market in Indonesia is characterized by a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises. Most of the workers are employed in them.

Due to the low qualification of a large part of the Indonesian workforce, the high unemployment and the low degree of organization of employees, the enforcement of workers’ rights is currently still very difficult. Labor rights and minimum wage regulations are therefore often disregarded in operational practice. There are only strong unions in a few industrially oriented fields of work.

Nevertheless, the trade unions have achieved considerable success, especially since 2012, and have even been able to implement significant increases in the state minimum wage in some regions.