Part 1: A brief overview of education in Indonesia and more particularly on the island of Bali

Bali, Indonesia. A small island in the south of the archipelago where more than 4.2 million people live. This tourism paradise, which is the island’s most important economic activity, receives several million visitors each year, which has disastrous impacts on its environment and on its other main economic sector: agriculture. Indeed, the land devoted to the cultivation of rice, coffee and the few vegetables and fruits for which the island is known is evaporating year after year, transformed into hotels and resorts for vacationers. But despite the negative effects of this mass tourism on their environment and their quality of life, the new economic system that has been built in recent years prevents any turning back in the eyes of the population and their government. It is the totality of what they have built over the years that would collapse, including their education system, which although at the very bottom of the ladder when compared with other countries industrialized, still allowed them to be part of studies. And this link with the outside world is very important for the Balinese population whose values ​​and lifestyle differ enormously from the rest of the country. Indeed, the island of Bali is the only Indonesian island that has not abandoned Hinduism in favor of another religion, that is, the vast majority of them, the Muslim religion. Moreover, on this subject, it is important to know that for them (and it has been repeated to us a very large number of times), all religions have a common base, with the exception of the Muslim religion which they fail to understand. That said, they are extremely peaceful and respect Muslims who are welcome in Bali (5% of the population is Muslim), but this major difference in vision with the rest of the country makes trade more difficult. Here, 93% of the population practice Balinese Hinduism and the province is considered one of the most religious places in the world because religion is such an important part of life there.

Why am I talking about this aspect, you say? Quite simply because of the very, very important part that religion holds in the education of young Indonesians, which makes the differences even more striking between young Balinese and young Indonesians from the rest of the country given the difference in religions in which they are high and that is also the mainstay of their education. Here, the public education system is based on two major aspects: religion and nationalism. As a result, the educational program (as well as the platform of all the political parties in the country) is developed taking mainly into account these two values. And at this level, the results are extraordinarily well achieved. On the other hand, when we compare Indonesia to other countries in the world in studies such as PISA which judge the academic knowledge of young people at the age of 15 years or PIAAC which judge the skills of adults from 16 to 65 years, their results are found far behind, at the back of the pack.

Study results

To illustrate these statements, let us dwell on a specific example, taken from the PIAAC study, carried out in 2017 by the OECD, the main objective of which was to judge literacy, mathematical understanding and problem-solving skills. in a technological environment for adults aged 16 to 65, in around 40 countries. Indonesia placed last in all categories and for all age groups. Let us go even further, adults 25 to 65, with an Indonesian university education, obtained, in literacy, a score lower than the average of adults from 16 to 24 years having only an education of primary level, in other OECD countries. Needless to say, a university degree obtained in Indonesia has virtually no value in the eyes of future employers, even in the archipelago. Children from the wealthiest families will therefore all leave Indonesia to continue their education. Note that this study was only carried out in Jakarta, the country’s capital, suggesting that the results would surely be even worse elsewhere.

These results, combined with those of other studies indicate, according to the World Bank, that Indonesian children would reach, thanks to their education, only 50% of their full potential.

Here, compulsory education is, in theory, 9 years. Either 6 years of primary and 3 years of secondary. But schooling is free for children for a period of 12 years, leading to the end of high school. Unfortunately, studies show that even for a child attending school for this entire period, their actual quality of learning is only 7.9 years, even if in 2018, 20% of the national budget was allocated to the ‘education. The government really recognizes the problem and makes it a priority. But the absenteeism rate of teachers, the lack of teachers and schools in the most remote areas of the archipelago (including the north of the island of Bali) and the poverty that force many children to start working very young, makes the situation difficult to manage. 85% of Indonesian children are currently completing primary school (ages 7 to 12), but many will not have the chance to go any further.

Statistics: Private schools in Indonesia

As you will no doubt understand, faced with this situation, families who can afford it are turning to private education in order to offer more opportunities to their children.

0 to 5 years: The vast majority of Indonesian children do not attend any daycare or educational service. And those that exist are all private.

5-7 years: Kindergarten not compulsory. Since over 99% of them are private, they are reserved for the wealthiest families.

7 to 12 years old: Attendance at primary school. Here, 7% of schools are private.

13 to 15 years old: College. 25% of schools are private at this level, and the rate of private schools then increases considerably since school after this stage is no longer compulsory.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to some of the schools we’ve been fortunate enough to visit on the island of Bali and tell you about the impact they have on their community. We will also focus on the solutions put forward by the Balinese government and local groups to improve the situation of the island in terms of education and a project we are working on. So don’t forget to follow us in our file on education in Bali! See you next week!

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