The character of Indonesia’s education system reflects the country’s diverse religious
heritage, its struggle for a national identity, and the challenge of resource allocation in a poor
but developing archipelagic nation with a population that is young (median age 27.6 years)
and growing (at an estimated annual rate of about 1.1 percent) in 2009. Nearly 98 percent of
students complete primary school according to United Nations Educational, Scientific, and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates in 2001. The adult literacy rate ranges between
88.5 percent, according to a U.S. Government estimate for 2003, and 90.2 percent, according
to a 2001 UNESCO estimate.
Indonesia has a twelve-year public and private education system (primary—grades one
through six; junior high school—grades seven through nine; and senior high school—grades
ten through twelve). In Indonesia educations begins with six years of elementary school
(sekolah dasar, SD) followed by three years of middle school (sekolah menengah pertama,
SMP) followed by three years of high school (sekolah menengah atas, SMA).
The system is supervised by the Ministry of National Education (which is responsible
for nonreligious, public schools—about 92 percent of total enrollment at the primary level
and 44 percent at the secondary level) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (which is
responsible for religious, private, and semiprivate schools—about 15 percent of total

Curriculum and Religious Education in Indonesia
Under the National Education Law, religious instruction in any one of the six official
religions is required when requested by a student. In a survey by the U.S. State Department in
2000, 95 percent of all respondents said schools should provide more religious instruction for
children. In the mid 2000s Islamic factions and parties pushed through a national education
bill which required schools to provide students with religious teaching according to their
Angel Rabasa of Rand Corporation wrote: “In Indonesia, religious education in state-
run schools is multi-religious. Every student who belongs to any of the five recognized
religions (Islam, Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism) is
entitled to religious instruction in his or her religion (although a minimum number of students
is required before instruction in a particular religion is provided). If no religious instruction is

available in accordance with the student’s faith. Children age six and older learned by rote its five principles—belief in one God. provincial and district-level administrators obtained increasing autonomy in determining the content of schooling. Some schools also require Muslim students to recite verses from Qur’an every morning before the lessons begin. a key feature of the national curriculum—as was the case for other national institutions—has been instruction in the Pancasila. Since 2000. national unity. Most religious schools emphasize Islamic values and thought. ordering Muslim students to wear Muslim-styled uniforms either every day or at least on Fridays. said a teacher at the school. Some schools now hold a daily mass recital of Qur’an before formal classes begin. In public schools. In one school in eastern Jakarta. when Muslims go to mosque. courses in “Pancasila Morality” have been known as “Civic Education” and their intensity and propagandistic qualities much reduced. but screened by the Ministry. speaking on . and social justice—and were instructed daily to apply the meanings of this key national symbol to their lives. and Pancasila began to play a diminishing role in the curriculum. for example. 2005] A central goal of the national education system is not merely to impart secular wisdom about the world but also to instruct children in the principles of participation in the modern nation-state. Instruction in Confucianism can also be offered as an option in state schools. Rand Corporation. the general competence aims for the other religions are cited in the introduction to the curricula for every religion. democracy. September 12. But with the end of the New Order in 1998 and the beginning of the campaign to decentralize the national government. emphasis on moral and civil studies under the rubric of Pancasila was altered after the end of the New Order. Beginning under Guided Democracy (1959–65) and strengthened in the New Order after 1975. Senior Policy Analyst. Textbooks are produced by autonomous publishers. the majority religion. [Source: Angel Rabasa. in consultation with representatives of the different religious communities. Public Schools in Indonesia Increasing Go Islamic In the past 10 to 15 years. although Confucianism is not a recognized religion. Muslim students spend 15 to 20 minutes reading Qur’an every morning. humanitarianism. schools have increasingly adopted policies that favor Islam. guided through a public address system. and its moral and ideological foundations. In order to enhance the teachers’ knowledge of other religions. its bureaucracies. The religious curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education. the student has the right to be excused from religious instruction.

poor laboratories. and 97 percent were private. private institutions have budgets that are almost entirely tuition-driven. A onetime registration fee (which can be quite high) is determined at the time of entry. faculty salaries are low by international standards.2 million students.1 percent of the student enrollment. Whereas tuition in such state institutions is more affordable for average students than private-university tuition. . universities have considerably more autonomy in curriculum and internal structure than primary and secondary schools. 3 percent were public. [Source: Library of Congress] By 2009 there were 2. for fear of professional repercussions. and a poor level of English-language proficiency. including the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. founded by Indonesians in 1946. institute. read their religious texts while sitting in the same rooms as their Muslim classmates reciting the Qur’an. If a university has a religious affiliation.condition that neither she nor the school be identified. with 42. academy. or polytechnic institute.9 of the student enrollment. founded by the Dutch in the 1930s. and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. Christian students sit together in one room. The government provides only limited scholarship support for students wishing to attend private universities. Approximately 15 percent of Indonesia’s students of higher education attend a public or private Islamic university. The best universities are mostly in Java. Top universities include the University of Indonesia in Jakarta and Bogor Agricultural University in Bogor and Universitas Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta. to read the Bible. Private universities are generally operated by foundations. Unlike state universities. Lecturers often have other jobs outside the university to supplement their wages. Universities in Indonesia There are some 1.975 institutions of higher education and more than 4. Of these institutions. which keeps many students from using such foreign textbooks as are available. Bandung Institute of Technology (Institut Teknologi Bandung) is the top technical university.634 institutions of higher education. Among these is the State Muslim University (UIN)—formerly called the State Institute for Islamic Religion (IAIN)—which has been an important venue for progressive debates about Islam. with 57. Even though government subsidies finance approximately 80 to 90 percent of state-university budgets. it can cover some of its costs with donations or grants from international religious organizations. who don’t have their own religious teachers in the school. a shortage of adequate textbooks in Indonesian. within hearing of the Qur’an recital. Hindu and Buddhist students. Higher education has suffered from a lecture-based system.

largely because universities prefer to offer social science courses that do not require expensive laboratories and equipment. In this effort the government has received considerable support from the World Bank. In 2003 the unemployment rate for college graduates with the sarjana degree was approximately 20 percent. laboratory and research facilities. Because doctoral programs are few in Indonesia and there is little money to support education overseas. Increasingly. This level stood at 652. about 52 percent of all non-teacher-training students enrolled in higher education were social sciences majors in the 2008–9 academic year. However. most institutions of higher education receive large numbers of applications.000 in 2001 to nearly 683. the number of students completing their sarjana degrees grew dramatically from about 308. foreign governments. Despite these difficulties. while only 3 percent majored in laboratory- intensive fields of study. Only 7 percent of university faculty overall held a Ph. in the mid-2000s. in state institutions. in private institutions. however. a 122-percent increase. From 2001 to 2004.” roughly corresponding to a bachelor’s degree) and the pasca sarjana (master’s or doctoral degree). better-educated people serve at all levels in national and regional governments. Professional schools offer “diploma” and “specialist” degrees. is finding employment suited to their newly acquired education.D. [Source: Library of Congress *] Discussion about how to improve Indonesian higher education focuses on the issues of teacher salaries." depending on the level of advancement. the latter graded either “SP1" or “SP2. Today many Indonesians have earned advanced degrees abroad and most have returned to serve their country.364 graduates at the end of academic year 2008–9. and professors’ qualifications. although the proportion was greater (11 percent) in state institutions. the acceptance rate was nearly two out of three. this situation is improving only slowly. The major academic degree programs are the sarjana (literally “scholar. and the private sector has benefitted greatly from these educational efforts. University Programs in Indonesia Indonesian institutions of higher education offer a wide range of programs. . and private foundations. less than one in four applications was accepted in 2004. One of the most serious problems for graduates with advanced degrees. United Nation agencies.Research in universities is limited and mainly serves government projects or private enterprise and allows researchers to supplement their salaries.000 in 2004. and 10 percent for graduates of professional schools.

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