If well-informed persons anywhere in the world were asked about what they knew about education in various countries, they would be likely to have something to say about countries such as India or South Korea. On India, they would be likely to mention the striking contrast between the production of top-flight statisticians and IT professionals on the one hand, and the failure, on the other hand, of millions of Indian children, especially girls, to complete primary school. On South Korea, they would be likely to mention the brilliant performance of Korean students in objective tests, but also that this is achieved at considerable cost, represented by the prevalence of cram schools and the unrelenting pressure on children to succeed.
The same informed persons would be unlikely to have ready answers if asked about education in Indonesia, however. There appear to be few distinctive images of Indonesian education that are widely known internationally. Yet in Indonesia, as elsewhere in Asia, education will inevitably play a key role in the trajectory of national development as the twenty-first century unfolds. Indonesian education may lack a clear image – benign or otherwise – in the international community, but that is not because nothing is happening. The past decade has seen major changes in the structure of the education system and in the schooling trajectories of Indonesian children and adolescents. It has also seen major policy discussions and initiatives. The purpose of this book is not to build an image, but to explore the reality of the current state of education in Indonesia.
Before addressing Indonesian education specifically, we should set the scene by emphasizing just why attention to educational trends and issues should be a key concern for any country pursuing a development agenda. What is the role of education in development?
The literature on this topic is vast and covers a wide range of aspects, including the connections between education and overall economic development, health, fertility, sustainable population growth, workforce productivity and the development of democratic systems of governance. 1 The general import of this literature is that education is of crucial importance, almost across the board, in advancing both workforce and non-workforce-related aspects of development. Equally important is the timing of investments in education; earlier is better, because of the long lead times in translating increased levels of schooling into a more productive workforce.
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