More than 60% of the national education budget in Indonesia is used to improve teachers’ welfare. The budget is used in almost 100% of all regions in the country. However, raising salaries and providing teacher allowances do not necessarily improve the quality of learning or the number of school graduates.
In Indonesia, cheating on national exams was so widespread that a mother who exposed that her child's teacher promoted cheating was accused by other parents to be a ‘disgrace to the school’. When cheating is so common, it is likely that teachers and students collude to cheat. In that case, there is little chance that they will work to mitigate it, so it becomes hard to fight.
In our previous blog, we discussed recent policy changes to shift junior secondary school admissions to those based on house-to-school proximity instead of the Grade 6 exam score. We showed that when Yogyakarta implemented this new admission policy, colloquially referred to as the ‘school zoning policy’, the student composition changed significantly. Many students with lower test scores and poor students who had not been previously admitted to public schools were now attending them, substantially improving equity in access to public schools.
Basic education in Indonesia is compulsory and includes six years of primary school (Grade 1-6) and 3 years of junior secondary school (Grade 7-9). In the past decades, Indonesia has achieved huge progress in improving access to basic education. As of 2019, net enrolment rates were 98 percent at the primary level and 79 percent at the junior secondary level. This achievement can be largely attributed to government efforts to provide free education in public schools. Nevertheless, Indonesia still faces the challenge of improving equity in access to quality education, specifically at the junior secondary school level.
A new paper by the RISE Indonesia Country Research Team tackles social norms head-on. In this paper, Risa Nihayah, Shintia Revina, and Syaikhu Usman analyse extensive fieldwork in three Indonesian districts that have successfully introduced innovations for educational improvement. The three studied districts—Bukittinggi, Yogyakarta, and Gowa—share an innovative streak, but differ in both their social norms and the innovations they initiated.
What causes gains in student learning? When a policy change or intervention yields better student learning outcomes, this is cause for celebration. But if we want those learning gains to become a reality for other children in other contexts, we need to go beyond celebration toward analysing what exactly the intervention achieved—such as whether the learning gains were accompanied by undesirable side effects—and how exactly the intervention achieved it.
During the commemoration of the Teachers’ Day on November 25, Indonesia’s newly appointed Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Makarim asked teachers to become the agents of change for the freedom to learn in the country.
Hikmat Hardono (Chairperson of Indonesia Mengajar, Member of RISE Programme in Indonesia Advisory Board) invites us to rethink the concept of student attendance and the one-size-fits-all policy that is still Jakartacentric even though students' conditions differ from Sabang to Merauke.
Teacher competence and professionalism play an important role in the success of student learning. As long as the government does not prioritise improving the quality of teachers or mapping the competence of teachers, it is difficult to imagine that the quality of education in Indonesia will be better.