Indonesia’s public education has seen steady improvement over the last 15 years. Teaching is now one of the most popular and well paid jobs among civil servants, with Jakarta teachers earning up to Rp 15 million per month. As such, permanent teachers have increased 23%, while the number of part-time teachers has skyrocketed 860%. Today, 44 million students are enrolled in general education, a figure on par with industrial nations, and class sizes are smaller than in developed countries such as South Korea.
Despite recent growth, Indonesia’s education system continues to rank poorly on global metrics. Out of 65 countries surveyed, Indonesia ranked 60th in reading and second last in math and science. Many are concerned that Indonesia’s schools are not giving students the skills they need to succeed in the modern world. Speaking at a recent Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club event, Indonesia’s Minister for Education and Culture Anies Baswedan addressed the government’s plans to tackle these challenges.
The government has outlined three major problems with the education system: poor education quality, inequality between poor and rich areas, and lack of transparency among local governments. Anies stressed that although most critics blame Jakarta for failing students, the central government cannot be held fully responsible, because control of schools and teachers were transferred to local governments in 2001. This means that although the Ministry of Education and Culture plays a supervisory role, it no longer has direct power over how these schools are run.
Often times, local governments do not comply with national standards and regulations. For example, the constitution mandates that both the national and local governments allocate 20% of their budgets to education, but many local governments spend well below this amount. In Belitung province, for example, only 7.15% of the provincial budget goes towards education, or Rp 378,442 per student a year. This under-spending results in a quality of education where 76% of Belitung’s classrooms are damaged and 37.5% of its students drop out of high school.
Even more shockingly, Cirebon Regency in West Java spends only Rp 52,000 per student per year, less than the cost of lunch in most restaurants. It’s not surprising, then, that the quality of education in these areas cannot compare to provinces such as Jakarta, which allocates 18% of its budget to education and spends Rp 6 million per student per year.
Anies says that creating an “education ecosystem” that forces authorities to be more transparent is crucial to solving this problem. “There’s no way the central government can oversee all 516 districts in Indonesia alone, so we’re exposing this information to the public and inviting them to participate,” he says. The Ministry of Education is now distributing fliers containing the names and phone numbers of everyone responsible for education in a particular area and urging citizens to call, in the hopes that public pressure will force local governments to make much needed changes. A “report card” that summarizes data on the performance of school districts will also be made public.