Editorial: First, We Must Teach Indonesia’s Teachers

JANUARY 29, 2015

Despite their essential role in education, teachers have been neglected for so long within Indonesia’s education system. It’s no wonder the quality of the country’s education continues to be among the lowest in the world.

The results of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Program for International Student Assessment provide glimpse of the quality of Indonesian students.

Based on results from math, reading and science tests administered in 2012, Indonesia ranks 64th out of 65 participating countries. In all fields, Indonesian 15-year-olds score well below not only the OECD average but also most of their regional peers. Even Vietnam ended up in 17th place.

Successive governments seem to focus more on the curriculum and never want to invest in the human part of the system — teachers and students.

Each education minister in those governments spent so much money on revising new curriculum while failing to upgrade the quality of teachers that allow them keep up with the advancement of science and technology.

According to a 2010 World Bank report, the education of Indonesian teachers is very low, with as little as 37 percent of teachers holding a four-year degree. There seems to be little incentive for them to upgrade their skills and many must work multiple jobs to earn a living, jeopardizing daily attendance.

The budget for education reaches more than Rp 400 trillion ($32 billion) in 2015, so a fraction of it will be enough to give teachers a quality training and raise in salary so that they can concentrate on the teaching process and their students.

Forget becoming a regional powerhouse or even getting out of the middle-income trap. Indonesia will not go anywhere with the current quality of its teachers and students.