What hasn’t changed in education

Kompas – November 2, 2019

From an oped piece titled What Hasn’t Changed in Education

In his state of the nation address in August, President Joko Widodo outlined his vision to develop Indonesia’s human capital in the face of fierce international competition.

While this vision was also articulated by Widodo’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, it raises the question of what will actually change in terms of education in Widodo’s second term.

The government plans to spend around US$36 billion on education in 2020, an increase of 30 percent but still within the 20 percent mandated by the constitution – which it has spent on education for almost a decade.

Despite this, the country’s educational performance continues to lag behind regional peers.

The country’s labour force is still dominated by low-skilled labour, with enrollment rates in secondary and tertiary education low by regional standards. Around 40 percent of working Indonesians only have primary education and just 9 percent a university degree.

Indonesian students aged 15 rank 62 out of 70 countries on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment survey compared with Vietnam which is ranked as 22nd, Thailand 56th and Singapore coming in first, with China in 10th place.

Part of the problem is that most of the budget – around 60 percent – is spent on teachers’ salaries, allowances and certification programs to improve teacher competency (and therefore receive higher salaries) which eats up a massive US$4.3 billion or 15 percent. In practice however, certification can be obtained easily and there is little monitoring of teaching performance after the test.

This huge jump in salaries however has not translated into better quality education and Widodo has been accused of simply dishing out more money to teachers, a critical vote base.

It is also common knowledge that many teachers are recruited because they have contributed to local election campaigns and promotions are not necessarily based on performance or service standards set by the central government.

While Widodo’s commitment to promoting human development is commendable, whether his vision for Indonesia to capitalise on its demographic bonus can be realised will depend on how Indonesia can raise teaching standards and the effectiveness of how the education budget is spent to these ends.

[Taken from “Commentary: Indonesia has big plans for education but severely lacks good teachers”: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/indonesia-education-quality-teachers-budget-jokowi-schools-11852570.]