Public Primary and Secondary Education

Indonesians are required to attend twelve years of school. They must go to school six (or five, depending on the institution) days a week from 6:30 a.m. until afternoon (usually 2 or 3 p.m.). They can choose between state-run, nonsectarian public schools supervised by the Ministry of National Education (Kemdiknas) or private or semi-private religious (usually Islamic) schools supervised and financed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Students can also choose to participate in extracurricular activities provided by the school such as sports, arts, or religious studies. However, although 86.1 percent of the Indonesian population is registered as Muslim, according to the 2000 census only 15 percent of school-age individuals attended religious schools. Overall enrolment figures are slightly higher for girls than boys and much higher in Java than the rest of Indonesia.

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, its bureaucracies, and its moral and ideological foundations. Beginning under Guided Democracy (1959-65) and strengthened in the New Order after 1975, a key feature of the national curriculum--as was the case for other national institutions--has been instruction in the Pancasila. Children age six and older learned by rote its five principles--belief in one God, humanitarianism, national unity, democracy, and social justice--and were instructed daily to apply the meanings of this key national symbol to their lives. But with the end of the New Order in 1998 and the beginning of the campaign to decentralise the national government, provincial and district-level administrators obtained increasing autonomy in determining the content of schooling, and Pancasila began to play a diminishing role in the curriculum.

A style of pedagogy prevails inside public-school classrooms that emphasises rote learning and deference to the authority of the teacher. Although the youngest children are sometimes allowed to use their local language, by the third year of primary school nearly all instruction is conducted in Indonesian. Teachers customarily do not ask questions of individual students; rather, a standard teaching technique is to narrate a historical event or to describe a mathematical problem, pausing at key junctures to allow the students to call out responses that "fill in the blanks". By not identifying individual problems of students and retaining an emotionally distanced demeanor, teachers are said to show themselves to be patient, which is considered admirable behaviour.

Children aged 6-11 attend primary school, called Sekolah Dasar (SD). Most elementary schools are government-operated public schools, accounting for nearly 93% of all elementary schools in Indonesia. Students spend six years in primary school, though some schools offer an accelerated learning program in which students who perform well can complete the level in five years.

Three years of junior high school (Sekolah Menengah Pertama, or SMP), which follows elementary school. Some schools also offer an accelerated learning program in which students who perform well can complete the level in two years.

After completion of them, they may be attend three years of high school (Sekolah Menengah Atas or SMA). Some high schools offer an accelerated learning program so students who perform well can complete their level within two years. Besides high school, students can choose among 47 programmes of vocational and pre-professional high school (Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan or SMK), divided in the following fields: technology and engineering, health, arts, craft and tourism, information and communication technologies, agro-business and agro-technology, business management. Each requires three years of study. There are academic and vocational junior high schools that lead to senior-level diplomas. There are also "domestic science" junior high schools for girls. At the senior high school level, three-year agricultural, veterinary, and forestry schools are open to students who have graduated from an academic junior high school. Special schools at the junior and senior levels teach hotel management, legal clerking, plastic arts, and music.

Students with disabilities/special needs may alternately opt to be enrolled in a separate school from the mainstream called Sekolah Luar Biasa (lit. Extraordinary School).

Indonesian education system is fourth largest in the world with more than 50 million students, 3 million teachers, 300,000 schools. Primary to high school level is compulsory. Primary and middle school is free, while in high school, there is small fees. The completion rate for Indonesian primary schools is high. In 2011, the net enrolment rate for primary education is about 95.55%, but the number of enrolment rate is decreasing for middle school to 77.71% and for high school to 57.74%. While the tertiary-education participation is even lower about 27.1% although this number is still quite high compare to other member ASEAN states. For the same year, the survival rate for primary, middle, and high school as the following numbers: 95.3%, 97.68%, and 96.8%. The higher the percentage of survival rate means the fewer students at certain education level who are drop out. Although Indonesian government has achieved significant improvement in education sector, there are still many challenges that should be addressed, including funding, management, equity, and education quality.

Teacher-training programs are varied and gradually being upgraded. For example, in the 1950s anyone completing a teacher-training program at the junior high school level could obtain a teacher's certificate. Since the 1970s, however, primary-school teachers have been required to have graduated from a senior high school for teachers, and teachers of higher grades have been required to have completed a university-level education course. Remuneration for primary- and secondary-school teachers, although low, compares favourably with that in other Asian countries such as Malaysia, India, and Thailand. Student-teacher ratios also compare satisfactorily with those in many Asian nations: They were 23.4 to 1 and 18.8 to 1, respectively, for primary and secondary schools in 2004; that same year, the overall averages for Asia-Pacific countries were 22 to 1 and 18 to 1, respectively.

By 2008, the staff shortage in Indonesia's schools was no longer as acute as in the 1980s, but serious difficulties remain, particularly in the areas of teacher salaries, teacher certification, and finding qualified personnel. In many remote areas of the Outer Islands, in particular, there is a severe shortage of qualified teachers, and some villages have school buildings but no teachers, books, or supplies. Providing textbooks and other school equipment to Indonesia's 37 million schoolchildren throughout the far-flung archipelago continues to be a significant problem as well, especially in more remote areas.

School grades
The school year is divided into two semesters. The first commences in July and ends in December while the latter commences in January and ends in June.

Level/Grade Typical age
Pre-school playgroup 3-4
Kindergarten 4-6
Primary School
1st Grade 6-7
2nd Grade 7-8
3rd Grade 8-9
4th Grade 9-10
5th Grade 10-11
6th Grade 11-12
Middle School
7th Grade 12-13
8th Grade 13-14
9th Grade 14-15
High School
10th Grade 15-16
11th Grade 16-17
12th Grade 17-18
Post-secondary education
Tertiary education (College or University) Ages vary (usually four years,
referred to as Freshman,
Sophomore, Junior and
Senior years)
Graduate education
Adult education