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Private Schools for Expats in Indonesia

Submitted: October 2014

The main problems for expats with the publicly funded state schools in Indonesia are that all of the teaching is done in Indonesian, and the standard of education and resources offered may not be considered high enough. As a result many expats’ children will attend private schools.

There are generally two kinds of private schools in Indonesia: Indonesian private schools and International schools. Indonesian private schools teach the Indonesian curriculum, aiming to educate the children to the level required for entry into university. International schools tend to educate to standards such as GCSE (UK), PSAT (USA) and the International Baccalaureate. This article is only concerned with Indonesian private schools.

Private day nurseries or kindergartens are available for children under the age of three. Also from the age of three, children may attend a private taman kanak-kanak  or traditional kindergarten (literally ‘park children’).

Private schools at primary and secondary level are known as National Plus schools, so called because they teach beyond the national curriculum taught in state-funded schools. In many National Plus schools, English is used as the medium of instruction, and there is in international element in the curriculum.

Compulsory education begins with primary school, which is called sekolah dasar (SD – ‘school basic’), and lasts between the ages of 6 and 11/12. The curriculum at SD level is weighted towards the pancasila, the five principles of life in Indonesia. These are:

In addition children are taught maths, Indonesian, science, social science, art and P.E. Some of the teaching is by rote.

SD level school is followed by junior middle school or sekolah menengah pertama (SMP – ‘school middle first’), which lasts between the ages of 12 and 14/15. The curriculum at SMP level is less weighted towards pancasila, but otherwise the subjects taught are pretty much the same as at SD level.

The National Exam system ensures that children are examined at both SD and SMP level. The exams test the children in maths, Indonesian and science with English added at SMP level. There is a fair amount of criticism levelled at the quality of National Exams, with plenty of accusations that cheating in these exams is rife.

The last year at SMP level represents the end of compulsory education in Indonesia. After this children can move on to upper middle school, which is called sekolah menengah atas (SMA). SMA involves three years of primarily vocational training. Here the curriculum is divided into seven fields:

Each field has a number of subject options which the students can choose, but all students must continue their studies in maths, Indonesian and English. National Exams are taken at the end of the three years to give students a final grade. Students wishing to continue on to higher education must then sit university entrance exams. Out of over 2,000 universities in Indonesia, there are only around 80 public universities; this number includes polytechnics and Islamic universities. The public universities generally offer a higher standard of education than the private ones. As a result competition for places is extremely high with around one place available for every six applicants.

Generally children attend a school which is near to their home. It is possible to arrange for enrolment at a school near your work if this is more convenient. In order to register a child for school, you should go the school. The following minimum information is generally required for registration:

You may also want to provide information showing your child’s previous attainment level in your home country.

Unlike state schools, private schools are free to set their own term dates, so you will have to check these with the schools themselves The Indonesian school year begins in mid-July with a holiday in late December, a short break for Eid (the timing of which depends on the Islamic calendar) and the final holiday at the end of the school year.




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