Creating a 21st Century Education System: Three New Reports Address Indonesia’s Learning Poverty and Inequality
Jakarta: The COVID-19 pandemic threatens Indonesia’s achievements in the education sector, unless the country remains focused on protecting and building its human capital through improving equity, capacity and accountability for learning, according to the three new reports released by the World Bank today.
Indonesia has made commendable progress over the past 15 years in expanding access to education, with student enrollment increasing by more than 10 million, or 31 percent since 2002. However, significant challenges remain. Student learning as measured by national exams as well as international assessments remain low across all types of schools, and the new reports show that students on average are 1.5 years behind the learning level expected by the national curriculum for 4th grade.
As a result of these low levels of learning, many students do not achieve the minimum level of knowledge and skills needed to participate fully in the economy and society. The reports highlight important inequalities in enrolment rates, especially in upper-secondary and early childhood education. The COVID-19 pandemic is adding to these challenges.
“Indonesia has made great progress in the education sector, including significant improvements in enrolment and gender parity. However, it is crucial that government expenditures are targeted at improving student learning outcomes and reducing learning inequality,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
The Revealing How Indonesia’s Subnational Governments Spend their Money on Education lays out in detail for the first time what sub-national governments do with the money they receive for education. The Measuring the Quality of Ministry of Religious Affairs’ Education Services examines the quality of education service education spending pays for, and the Promise of Education in Indonesia report identifies ways to strengthen the overall education system.
The reports recommend that two years of quality early childhood education be made accessible to all, to make sure that children get a good start and are ready to learn when they enter first grade. Report data showed that districts/cities spend very little on early childhood education and development, on average just 2.6 percent of their education budgets. Efforts to reduce learning gaps could be targeted at children from families who are the poorest, live in remote areas or have disabilities, to ensure that no children are left behind. Teachers and school directors could use student assessments to identify their students’ learning gaps and provide targeted support.
“How much students learn throughout the education system has a direct impact on how productive they can be as adults,” said Noah Yarrow, World Bank Indonesia Senior Education Specialist. “If they are equipped with the skills they need for the job market, Indonesia’s youth have the potential to boost Indonesia’s overall productivity, economic growth, and prosperity.”
The reports recommend that subnational capacity and reporting also need to be strengthened, while teacher candidates need to be selected based on subject knowledge and pedagogic ability, and then given effective support throughout their careers. It is important that national and subnational governments address learning poverty and inequality in Indonesia, and invest in a more resilient education system to protect learning gains in the present pandemic, as well as to prepare for future challenges.
The reports were prepared for the Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) and with support from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).