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Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies

ISSN: 0007-4918 (Print) 1472-7234 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cbie20

Education in Indonesia

Jerry Strudwick

To cite this article: Jerry Strudwick (2014) Education in Indonesia, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 50:1, 140-142, DOI: 10.1080/00074918.2014.896265

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00074918.2014.896265

Published online: 24 Mar 2014.

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140 Book Reviews

Finally, a small detail: Knight translates the Dutch word welvaart (as in onderzoek naar de mindere welvaart [investigation into the reduced prosperity]) with the Eng-lish term ‘welfare’, something often done by Dutch people, but he, a native speaker of English, should have known better. ‘Welfare’ is a much too modern term (‘the welfare state’); in my view, ‘prosperity’ would be a perfectly adequate translation.

Peter Boomgaard KITLV, Leiden; University of Amsterdam; European University Institute, Florence

© 2014 Peter Boomgaard


Education in Indonesia. Edited by Daniel Suryadarma and Gavin W. Jones. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2013.

Pp. xxvi + 278. Paperback: S$29.90/$24.90.

Education in Indonesia is mainly a collection of papers given at The Australian National University’s Indonesia Update conference in September 2012. In general, it provides the reader with a very reasonable and balanced picture of the state of the Indonesian education sector and its many problems. Additional chapters beyond the papers presented at the conference add value to the book by widening its scope. The book speaks to many of the more recent developments in the sec-tor, draws on an impressive group of knowledgeable contributors, and contains a good blend of descriptive information and analysis. Its commentary is thoughtful and its recommendations often insightful.

As with any compendium of papers that attempts to ‘capture the moment’, this

volume’s facts and igures and its interpretations of policy, policy intent, and pol -icy opportunity may by now appear a little dated. This should not distract or dis-suade the potential reader: the descriptive material and the consideration given to many of the challenges faced by Indonesia make this collection particularly

valu-able. Many of the authors’ efforts acknowledge the dificult task ahead of Indo -nesia as it moves to bring its education system on a par with others in the region. The volume provides the reader with a reasonably comprehensive overview of the context and progress of recent policy reforms. It also gives a broader view of the options before many stakeholders, as they determine how best to move away from a somewhat debilitating status quo and transform large parts of a very com-plex and partially dysfunctional education system. Many of its chapters express concern about how best to gain much better returns from the very large public and private investments in the sector.

Most obvious and most welcome is the constructive tone of the book’s 12 chap-ters, which carry a resilient, glass-half-full (or better) set of messages about Indo-nesian education. On the one hand, the book speaks to and illustrates the gains of the last two decades, in both access and policy reform. On the other hand, it pro-vides effective descriptions of where, and gives telling advice on why, some critical reforms have yet to have the intended impact on low-performing elements of the sector. Perhaps the most obvious examples are the discussions of teacher policy reforms and the central government’s attempts to improve the quality of

school-ing by way of teacher certiication and salary inducements. The book frames the


Book Reviews 141

government’s continual and increasing efforts to make the system more

produc-tive by spending public resources more eficiently and by quantifying outcomes.

But, as many of the chapters remind us, the journey to meet these goals is going to be long, most glaringly because existing incentives militate against those attempt-ing to make the necessary changes to the education system.

A common theme carried by many of the chapters (both in and between the lines) is that Indonesia’s education policymakers must coordinate their efforts if the sector is to play its part in helping the country avoid the middle-income trap, into which it is already slipping. The chapters’ authors point out the immensity of the challenge, considering the starting point—low-skilled graduates at all levels of the system, and the low level of learning that can be attributed, on average, to each additional year of schooling. These are challenges for the sector’s political leaders and managers, and for the many captains of Indonesia’s industry and commerce. Unless, as the chapters point out, Indonesia’s education and training institutions, at all levels, can become substantially more productive and provide

a reliable and adequate low of young people with marketable and in-demand

skills (from basic literacy and numeracy to more advanced technical skills), there is little hope that Indonesia will achieve the sustained economic growth required to raise it from the lower ranks of middle-income countries.

Part of the book’s value is that it draws the less-informed reader into consid-ering much more than the four most commonly known areas of basic educa-tion (access, quality, decentralisaeduca-tion, and school management). Also welcome

are the book’s contributions that debate and offer options for spending eficien -cies, Islamic education, and other ways of strengthening tertiary education. The important yet rarely made argument that Indonesia can improve the quality and relevance of tertiary education by supporting the many smaller regional tertiary institutions that focus on readying their graduates for local employment

opportu-nities, and by addressing local policy and social problems, has already inluenced

the development agenda. The same is true of the discussions of secondary partici-pation, equality, and education outcomes by Suharti (chapter 2), in her report on sector trends, and of the broader case for greater investment in early childhood education and development.

What is clear is that these and many other matters discussed in the book are exactly those of education policy and practice that appear now to be of most inter-est to the public and to policymakers. Since the publication of the book, the media have successfully drawn national attention to Indonesia’s poor results in interna-tional standardised tests, in particular the OECD’s 2012 Programme for

Interna-tional Student Assessment; the potential beneits and dificulties of implementing

the new 2013 curriculum; the troubling features of the national examination; and the low skill levels of graduates from secondary schools and universities. This illustrates the timeliness of both the ANU conference and this book.

From my perspective, the book has two critical shortcomings. First, more could have been said to illustrate the enormous scale of the challenge facing education authorities in respect to the low subject knowledge of teachers and supervisors and the fact that very few of Indonesia’s 2.8 million teachers have any under-standing of pedagogy. Many observers see this as the proverbial elephant in the room (if learning outcomes are to be improved). Second, the book does not dis-cuss the viability of strong partnerships with private education providers at the


142 Book Reviews

secondary level—such partnerships will be vital if the government goal of univer-sal 12-year education is to be achieved in the foreseeable future.

A inal point to note that speaks well of this volume and its contribution to

the recent literature on Indonesian education: many of my colleagues and coun-terparts have read all or most of these papers, and most have commented on the book’s usefulness both as a reference point for the current state of Indonesian edu-cation, and, perhaps more important, as a guide to the magnitude and character of the task ahead. They are a critical lot, so praise indeed.

Jerry Strudwick Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Jakarta

© 2014 Jerry Strudwick


Labour Migration and Human Traficking in Southeast Asia:

Critical Perspectives. Edited by Michele Ford, Lenore Lyons, and Willem van Schendel. Routledge Contemporary Southeast Asia Series.

London: Routledge, 2012. Pp. xvi + 173. Hardback: £85.00.

This book is an important contribution to an understanding of migration, warts and all, in Southeast Asia. Although the editors and the authors are not

econo-mists, it should be of interest to economists working in this ield, as well as other

social scientists. For this reader, who works mainly on labour migration, the book is a nice introduction to some of the hazards and complexities of migration, across a wide spectrum of systems and institutions.

As the title implies, the book brings together work on two closely related

top-ics—labour migration and human traficking (and people smuggling)—which are

generally written about by two different streams of researchers. Labour migra-tion feeds into broader debates on economic growth and development in

send-ing and receivsend-ing countries. Human traficksend-ing, in contrast, is much more about

the exploitation of vulnerable groups (especially women and young children) by people smugglers. It focuses on the failure of governments at both ends of the

migration spectrum to protect their nationals who are prey to proit-seeking inter -mediaries. The book deals with both dimensions of migration, although most of its chapters say more about exploited groups in the ‘hot spots’ of sending and receiving countries.

The book comprises nine chapters—three on Indonesia, ive on its neighbours,

and one informative introductory chapter. Most of the chapters are much more about the exploitative nature of migration processes than they are about the

bene-its of temporary people movements (better living standards in destination coun -tries, remittances, and the accumulation of ‘human capital’) that tend to be the

focus of economists. The chapter by Larissa Sandy deals with conlicts between

differing perspectives of, on the one hand, attempts by international bodies to eliminate prostitution related to the sex trade and, on the other, attempts by

local human-rights organisations and NGOs to improve the social and economic

circumstances of prostitutes in Cambodia. Sandy argues that, often, interventions ‘are doing more harm than good’ (p. 51).


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