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Indonesia-Primary and Secondary Education

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Indonesia Index

Following kindergarten, Indonesians of between seven and twelve years of age were required to attend six years of primary school in the 1990s. They could choose between state-run, nonsectarian public schools supervised by the Department of Education and Culture or private or semiprivate religious (usually Islamic) schools supervised and financed by the Department of Religious Affairs. However, although 85 percent of the Indonesian population was registered as Muslim, according to the 1990 census, less than 15 percent attended religious schools (see table 10, Appendix). Enrollment figures were slightly higher for girls than boys and much higher in Java than the rest of Indonesia.

A central goal of the national education system in the early 1990s was not merely to impart secular wisdom about the world, but also to instruct children in the principles of participation in the modern nation-state, its bureaucracies, and its moral and ideological foundations. Since 1975, a key feature of the national curriculum--as in other parts of society--had been instruction in the Pancasila. Children age six and above learned its five principles--belief in one God, humanitarianism, national unity, democracy, and social justice--by rote and were instructed daily to apply the meanings of this key national symbol to their lives. The alleged communist coup attempt in 1965 provided a vivid image of transgression against the Pancasila. Partly to prove their rejection of communist ideology, all teachers--like other members of Indonesian bureaucracy--swore allegiance not only to the Pancasila, but to the government party of functional groups, Golkar (see Political Parties , ch. 4; Glossary).

Inside the public school classroom of the early 1990s, a style of pedagogy prevailed that emphasized rote learning and deference to the authority of the teacher. Although the youngest children were sometimes allowed to use the local language, by the third year of primary school nearly all instruction was conducted in formal Indonesian. Instead of asking questions of the students, a standard teaching technique was to narrate a historical event or to describe a mathematical problem, pausing at key junctures to allow the students to fill in the blanks. By not responding to individual problems of the students and retaining an emotionally distanced demeanor, the teacher is said to be sabar (patient), which is considered admirable behavior.

Nationally, the average class size in primary schools was approximately twenty-seven, while upper-level classes included between thirty and forty students. Ninety-two percent of primary school students graduated, but only about 60 percent of those continued on to junior high school (ages thirteen through fifteen). Of those who went on to junior high school, 87 percent also went on to a senior high school (ages sixteen through eighteen). The national adult literacy rate remained at about 77 percent in 1991 (84 percent for males and 68 percent for females), keeping Indonesia tied with Brunei for the lowest literacy among the six member nations of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN--see Glossary).

In the early 1990s, after completion of the six-year primary school program, students could choose among a variety of vocational and preprofessional junior and senior high schools, each level of which was three years in duration. There were academic and vocational junior high schools that could lead to senior-level diplomas. There were also "domestic science" junior high schools for girls. At the senior high-school level, there were three-year agricultural, veterinary, and forestry schools open to students who had graduated from an academic junior high school. Special schools at the junior and senior levels taught hotel management, legal clerking, plastic arts, and music.

Teacher training programs were varied, and were gradually upgraded. For example, in the 1950s anyone completing a teacher training program at the junior high level could obtain a teacher's certificate. Since the 1970s, however, the teaching profession was restricted to graduates of a senior high school for teachers in a primary school and to graduates of a university-level education course for teachers of higher grades. Remuneration for primary and secondary school teachers compared favorably with countries such as Malaysia, India, and Thailand. Student-teacher ratios also compared favorably with most Asian nations at 25.3 to 1 and 15.3 to 1, respectively, for primary and secondary schools in the mid-1980s when the averages were 33.1 to 1 and 22.6 to 1 for Asian-Pacific countries.

Data as of November 1992

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