Indonesia needs to reform and invest in the teaching profession for classroom learning to be more effective and the quality of education to improve. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Investing in Teachers Crucial to Improve Education in Indonesia: World Bank


SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

Jakarta. The World Bank's senior director of education, Jaime Saavedra, said on Thursday (14/09) that Indonesia needs to reform and invest in the teaching profession for classroom learning to be more effective and the quality of education in the country to improve.

"Teachers are still the essential element to achieve effective learning. The essential focus is on improving the quality of the interaction between teachers and students," Saavedra told the Jakarta Globe in an exclusive interview during his visit to  Jakarta this week.

Indonesia has achieved significant progress in providing access to basic education, yet it still has not been successful in effective learning and struggles to improve the classroom performance of students.

"Indonesia cannot afford to have schoolchildren not acquire the foundational skills that they need in order to succeed in life and help the country grow and prosper," Saavedra said.

Saavedra highlighted the importance of "reforming teachers' careers" for the value of professional teaching to be recognized, providing educators with knowledge of what and how to teach and linking their careers to their performance, which in turn will focus their attention on students' learning.

"Reforming teachers' careers is not an easy task. However, teachers have a tremendous responsibility. They have in their hands the future of Indonesian children and youth, and through that, the future of the nation," he said.

According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that provides education rankings, Indonesian students still perform below average in the three subject areas chosen as indicators: science, mathematics and reading.

PISA 2015, which surveyed students from 72 countries, has Singapore as the top performer in all categories, whereas Indonesia ranks 64th in science, 65th in mathematics, and 66th in reading.

The study also showed that when compared to other OECD countries, Indonesia has a particularly high number of low performers. In reading, for example, many Indonesian students "struggle with recognizing the main idea in a text."

During his visit to Indonesia, Saavedra sought "to identify ways in which we [the World Bank] can continue supporting the government in its efforts to improve the quality of education and the future of its children."

On Tuesday, Saavedra visited a junior high school (SMP Negeri 48) in South Jakarta, where he met with teachers, parents and the school's management to assess the school's struggles and achievements firsthand, and to learn more about the effectiveness of E-RKAS – an online system set up by the provincial government to improve the management of school funds. He also visited schools in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district.

Saavedra told the Jakarta Globe that in order to improve education "countries need to improve the efficiency of their use of funds."

The Indonesian government has identified teacher absenteeism as one of the problems that affect the efficiency of managing educational funds and has incorporated teachers' attendance in the evaluation of their performance, which means that teachers who do not go to school will get lower salaries

"This progress is critical, as saved costs liberate space for other vital expenditures that can increase the quality of learning," Saavedra said.

Learning From Peru

As middle-income countries with low-performing educational systems "that are still far from where they should be," according to Saavedra – Peru's former education minister – Indonesia and Peru have similar goals to achieve.

In 2012, Peru started to reform the teaching profession by introducing more meritocratic criteria for teachers' career development. Better labor conditions were provided, salaries were linked to performance, and incentive schemes were designed to promote continuous professional development.

"Indonesia has taken some steps in this line, but needs to continue working on it so that teachers' performance is given a greater emphasis," Saavedra said.