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State School Systems for Expats in Indonesia

Submitted: October 2014

State schools in Indonesia are funded by the state. Day nurseries or kindergartens are available for children under the age of 3, but are not funded by the state. Also from the age of three, children may attend a taman kanak-kanak or traditional kindergarten, though these again are not state-funded.

Compulsory state-funded education begins with primary school, which is called sekolah dasar (SD), and lasts between the ages of 6 and 11/12. The curriculum at SD level is heavily 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. Much of the teaching is by rote. English is introduced in the fourth year at primary level.

SD level school is followed by junior middle school or sekolah menengah pertama (SMP), and 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, and children get the Secondary School Certificate of Completion which details the marks achieved in the exam. To receive a Certificate of Graduation and be allowed to continue into higher education, students require a minimum average mark of 6, with a minimum in any individual subject of 4.26. Children wishing to continue on to higher education must then sit the university entrance exams.

Out of over 3,000 universities and other institutes of higher education 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 universities. 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 required for registration:

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

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. Expats should be aware that all tuition at state schools is conducted in Indonesian, so unless your child is fluent or near fluent in Indonesian, or very young, placing them into the state education system may cause some problems. Most expats choose not to put their children into state education in Indonesia.




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