Education in Indonesia

Country Overview

Indonesia has a young and growing population of 253 million. The 4th most populous country in the world is comprised of over 17,000 islands that span nearly 5,000km. Experiencing GDP growth of 5.5% in 2015, Indonesia is indisputably a country abundant in opportunity, ranking as Southeast Asia’s largest economy, the world’s 16th largest economy (World Bank, 2013) and a member of the G-20. Driven by large industries such as agriculture, construction, petroleum, mining, manufacturing and tourism, it is forecasted that Indonesia will become the 7th largest economy in the world by 2030 (McKinsey, 2012).

Over 87% of the community follow the Islamic faith, which ensures Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country. Bahasa Indonesia is the official language; however, over 700 languages are spoken amongst the 300 ethic groups that inhabit the country. English is the predominant foreign language, and the literacy rate as of 2015 is 93%. According to the National Development Planning Ministry of Indonesia, the population of the country is forecasted to grow by over 50m during the period of 2015 – 2035, resulting in an expected population of 306.5m. This level of growth signifies great opportunity for Indonesia and its stakeholders, yet it also signifies great challenges, predominately in the development of human capital. Furthermore, as urbanization continues to grow (53% urban population), Indonesia faces further infrastructural challenges.

Total Population Forecast

Education in Indonesia

According to Mckinsey, as of 2012 Indonesia had an estimated 55m skilled workers, yet requires an additional 58m by 2030 (113m). In 2013, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) further illustrated Indonesia’s shortage of skilled labour, stating that technical resources are in short supply with annual engineering graduates at about 30,000, while the country’s economic growth requires 50,000 engineers each year. In order to develop Indonesia’s human capital, the government has introduced generous scholarship programmes (Dikti Scholarship & LPDP Scholarship) encouraging Indonesian students to study overseas. On the current trajectory of growth, an additional 90 million Indonesians are expected to join the global consuming class by 2030. Growth in Indonesia’s consuming class is stronger than any other economy in the world, aside from China and India. Indonesia’s rapid ‘youth boom’ and population growth, increasing global consumers, and need to increase skilled labour year on year, represents significant opportunity for international educators.

Education Structure

Two ministries overlook the primary and secondary education system in Indonesia. The Ministry of Culture, Primary and Secondary Education (PSMK) controls all public and private schools, while the Ministry of Religious Affairs controls all Islamic schools; regardless of their public or private standing. For Indonesian children, it is compulsory to undergo 9 years of schooling, which is represented by 6 years of Primary education and 3 years of Junior Secondary School. Beyond this, students can undertake 3 further years in Higher Secondary School, which is required in order to pursue higher education studies. In a positive move, the Indonesian government proposed a plan in 2013 to increase compulsory education to 12 years, which is already being implemented in Jakarta. The language of instruction is Bahasa Indonesia, and the school year operates from mid July – mid June each year (World Bank, 2014).

In relation to governance of higher education, bureaucratic overlap is evident as several ministries take management responsibility. The Ministry of Religious Affairs manages Islamic institutions, the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education manages the majority of public and private higher institutions, while a number of other ministries and government agencies manage specialized higher institutions (LPDP, 2015). The Indonesian government reports that in 2012, 5.6 million students were enrolled in higher education (UNESCO). There are over 3,900 public and private higher education institutions in Indonesia, which can be divided into 7 categories – Universities, Islamic Institutes/Universities, Institutes, Advanced Schools, Polytechnics, Academies & Community Colleges (Dikti, 2014). An Honours Bachelor Degree is awarded after 4 years, a Master Degree is awarded after 2 years, and a Doctorate is awarded on average after 4 – 4.5 years. The academic calendar year operates from September – May.

Indonesian Degree System

Type of DegreeIndonesian TerminologyEquivalent in North America/Europe
Diploma 1 (D1)Profesional ahli pratamaAssociate degree
Diploma 2 (D2)Profesional ahli mudaAssociate degree
Diploma 3 (D3)Profesional ahli madyaAssociate degree
Diploma 4 (D4)Sarjana sains terapanBachelor’s degree
Sarjana 1 (S1)SarjanaBachelor’s degree
Sarjana 2 (S2)MagisterMaster’s degree
Sarjana 3 (S3)DoktorDoctoral degree

More than two thirds of higher education students attend private institutions, which set their own entrance requirements. The remainder attends public institutions, where some places are subsidized and entrance is via standardized examinations. Tuition fees apply at all institutions and vary significantly. Universities tend to teach in Bahasa Indonesia, although some programmes are taught in English. Furthermore, the majority of vocational schools and colleges are privately run, and are equally free to set their own curricula and fees, as well as they possess the ability to teach international programmes (British Council, 2014). Admission into a public university or institute is very competitive, with less than 20% of students succeeding in the national university entry exam in 2014/2015. There were more than 660,000 applicants for 86,000 seats available at the 64 public universities during the SBMPTN entry examination in 2014. Those who do not pass the entry exam mostly enroll in private universities or move to study abroad (European Indonesia Business Network, 2015).