Indonesia is leaning towards nationalism. From new rules on smelters to efforts to reduce imports, the government is implementing changes to reinforce its national identity. This trend is also true in education, where new regulations will soon force international schools to become more localized and even have them drop the use of the word “international” altogether in their names. The Australian International School-Indonesia, for example, may rebrand itself as AIS Indonesia.
International schools have a long history in Indonesia—over the years they have had to adapt to many reforms and regulations, and now they are bracing for another swell of change. In April, the government passed regulation 31/2014, which requires all non-government schools to reapply for operating licenses by the end of the year. To receive a new license, schools must meet certain criteria, such as requiring Indonesian students, regardless of where they go to school, to take national exams. While this new regulation has far-reaching consequences, it has not received much attention as the media spotlight on international schools has been focused on the sexual abuse scandal at the Jakarta International School.
The regulation requires international schools merge with national schools to form a Joint Education Units (SPK). “There is a big shift happening at the moment,” says Vivien Brelsford, business director of Jakarta International School (JIS). “We are all having to change, and most of us are going to become an SPK.”
Indonesia has flirted with different nationalist education programs since the Taman Siswa, a Javanese educational movement in 1922, and that nationalist spirit can be seen in the current regulations. “It’s part of a country and its development, wishing to regulate and control education in its own country,” says Simon Dennis, principal at the British International School (BIS).