Education System in Indonesia



During The Fist Long Term Program (PJP I) some important changes occurred as a result of the national education development successes of the period. In the early stages of PJP I, the national education system was still based on three laws, Laws No. 4 of 1950 and No. 12 of 1954 on the Principles of Education and Teaching in School; and No. 22 of 1961 on the Implementation of University Education. Since Law No. 2 of 1989 was brought into effect, education has been implemented as one integrated system. Based on this short discussion, the discussion of national education implementation in this chapter is divided into two periods. The first period is referred to as the national education system prior to Law No. 2/1989, and the second period is referred to as national education system according to Law No. 2/1989.


  1. The Education System Prior to Law No. 2/1989
  2. The National Education System According to Law No. 2 of 1989


  • Diagram of the school system in Indonesia according to Law No. 2/1989
  • Diagram of the education system in Indonesia according to Law No. 2/1989

  • The Educational Units
  • The Educational Channels
  • The Educational Types
  • The Educational Levels
  • Basic Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Higher education
  • Special Education
  • Pre-School Education
  • Out-of-School Education


The Education System Prior to Law No. 2/1989

During the period of time that REPELITA I to IV were implemented, the national education system was still implemented based on two legal documents that had not reflected unity in the national education system. As Law No 4/1950, Law No. 12/1954 and Law No. 22/1961 were still valid, they were often considered as a constraint for educational development based on Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. These legal documents did not reflect a foundation of unity in the national education system, as it was then based on the outmoded laws of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Indonesia and they were also not in accordance with the 1945 Constitution.


The implementation of higher education which is needed to keep pace with the development of science and technology during PJP I is in fact still faced basic constraints. The development of higher education in Indonesia was retarded because the structure of higher education was still very simple in accordance with the conditions of the early 1960’s. The higher education program was far too academic (as is reflected in the Bachelor and Graduate pro- grams) but was probably well suited to the needs of society during the 1960’s. However, it clearly lacked the ability or capacity to adapt to the faster pace of modem economic development. The slow development of higher education was not only reflected in the number of students and educational institutions, but particularly in the narrow scope of variety of higher education programs. A much broader range of topics and abilities were needed in higher education to adapt it to the more complex needs of society. The implementation of education as was regulated by the two different laws caused the eventual realization that one national education system as desired by the 1945 Constitution, article 31 clause (2) had not been entirely achieved. In line with the two laws, the school system at that time consisted of the following levels.


  1. Pre-school education which is known also as kindergarten had a one or two year duration. Based on the legislation of the time Kindergarten was only referred to as one of the types of school, and it was not stated that pre-school education was the prerequisite for entering primary school.

  3. Primary school had a duration of six years of education, and received new pupils regardless of having graduated from Kindergarten or not. Based on the effective legislation, primary school was basic education that continued after the entire education of Kindergarten. This consisted of a general education program.

  5. Lower secondary school with three years duration after graduation from Primary School. As reflected in the effective legislation, at that time a commitment developed that vocational education should be started in Lower Secondary School in line with the characteristics of employment that existed at the time. Employment was generally in agricultural and traditional manufacturing sectors. At this time lower secondary education was divided into two groups, i.e. general education carried out through Lower Secondary School and vocational education through Lower Vocational Secondary School. The vocational education consisted of three types of schools, Lower Secondary School—Economics, Lower Secondary School—Family Welfare, and Technical School.

  7. Upper Secondary School with three or four years of study after Lower Secondary School or the vocational school equivalent. The period of REPELITA I to IV was the crucial time range for the expansion of vocational education at this level. The effective legislation at the time had considered that it was imperative to develop vocational secondary education, so apart from general secondary education through general upper secondary school, there was also rapid growth in the range of types of vocational upper secondary schools. Apart from schools that were the continuation of vocational lower secondary education — that are, Upper Secondary School-Economics, Upper Secondary School-Family Welfare, and Secondary Technical School — the other types of schools developed were: Teacher Education School, Upper Secondary Sports School, Household Technology Secondary School, Secondary School on Social Education, Secondary School on Industrial Handicraft, Secondary School on Indonesian Arts, Secondary School of Art, Secondary School of Music, and Secondary School on Agricultural Technology.

  9. University with three to four years for bachelor level and five to seven years for graduate level taken up through either university, institute, academy, or other higher education institutions.

During PJP I various important changes had been made in the education system. One of the changes which occurred in the mid-1970’s was the integration of vocational education at the lower secondary levels into the general lower secondary education. Educational development in Indonesia is influenced also by research findings from the developed countries, especially donor countries such as the United States of America, Japan, and Europe. Research results in some developed countries showed that vocational education is more beneficial if started at higher education level or in industry. Indonesia still needs skilled manpower at the middle level during the early stages of industrialization, therefore vocational education is still needed at the upper secondary level.


Based on these findings, beginning in 1977, the Government changed the functions of vocational lower secondary schools—economics, family welfare and technical—to become general lower secondary schools. During REPELITA III the economics vocational schools were all changed, whereas a number of technical and family welfare schools, were still maintained until the end of REPELITA V, even though in very small numbers. By the end of REPELITA V, all of these schools were replaced by lower secondary plus or standard lower secondary schools with the addition of a number of work skills subjects.


Community education was also an integral part of the national education system at that time. Community education or out-of-school education aims at: first, to provide illiterate adults who didn’t have the opportunity to attend school with knowledge and skills, including the ability to read, write and calculate; second; to assist working adults to be more productive in their business; and; third, to reduce the development discrepancies between urban and rural areas. In order to achieve these objectives, the out-of-school education program was carried out extensively through a number of venues and methods including: (1) basic education learning groups with activities in the form of illiteracy eradication using Packet A learning materials, (2) family welfare education is a learning group which aims to create prosperous and happy families by educating participants in 10 important aspects of family welfare, (3) community vocational education includes those members of the community who study vocational work related subjects to improve their prospects, knowledge and skills in various vocations, (4) Livelihood education is offered to community members to learn various skills of enterpreneurship to improve their livelihood, and (5) out-of-school education courses conducted by the community for members who wish to learn various skills, or increase their knowledge by attending various courses according to the demand and availability.


Since early in PJP I, the government played a relatively large role in developing community education to increase learning opportunities. The President of the Republic of Indonesia introduced the strategy when he delivered the State Speech before the Parliament on 16 August 1978. The strategy of learning opportunity expansion through out-of-school channel was stated as "Other attempts to equalize educational opportunities throughout the nation is through the learning while working program or "Program Kejar", which is especially directed toward those who are outside the school system, by providing basic knowledge, ways of thinking and skills, without neglecting daily duties or work commitments. In rural areas, the ‘Kejar program’ is linked with the new style illiteracy eradication program, aimed

at the three basic areas of ignorance or three "blindnesses", i.e. Latin characters and numeracy, Indonesian language, and basic education.


The new style illiteracy eradication program or Program Kejar Packet A is called new style as it integrates illiteracy eradication with post-literacy programs in various fields of life. To meet the various needs, there were 100 Packet A books which were prepared in 22 levels of difficulties. Books AI-A20 were arranged in twenty different consecutive levels of difficulty as they were for basic education or the initial levels of the illiteracy eradication program that was the foundation material to prepare participants for the following packets. Books A21-A60 and A61-A 100 were rearranged, each in one level of difficulty, as they were the further application and more advanced modules of the literacy program.



The National Education System According to Law No. 2 of 1989

Based on Law No.2 of 1989, the role of the national education system is to attempt to form genuine Pancasila citizens as development agents of high quality with the ability to be independent and provide support for the development of Indonesian society, the nation and country. The development is realized through tough national resilience to boost national ability to prevent every teaching, understanding and ideology that runs counter to the principles of the Pancasila. National education system is a conscious efforts to prepare the Indonesian nation to defend its lifestyle and culture, increase its long-term survival ability and sustain development continuously from one generation to the next. The national education system is simultaneously a very important tool and objective in the struggle to achieve true independence and the objectives of the Indonesian country and nation.


The national education system should be able to provide a minimum level of education for every Indonesian citizen, so that every citizen regardless of background has the opportunity to obtain at least basic knowledge and ability, including the ability to read, write, and arithmetic, as well as to use the Indonesian national language. These are the minimum requirements needed by every citizen to be able to participate as active community members, and members of a nation, and country. Every Indonesian citizen has a right to obtain education either through in-school education or out-of-school education until the level suited to their ability. The national education system provides the broadest possible range of learning opportunities to every citizen regardless of gender or background. It is therefore illegal to discriminate on the grounds of gender, religion, ethnicity, race, social or economic background in the acceptance of new pupils


Law No. 2/1989 provides the foundation for one national education system, it emphasizes that the national education system be universally implemented in a complete and totally integrated manner. Universal means open to all people and valid throughout the country. Complete means to cover all channels, levels and types of education, and integrated means there are mutual supporting links between all types and levels of national education, and development efforts. Therefore, within the Law all units, channels, types and levels of education as well as implementation regulations are defined, including the objectives and expected output criteria of all types and levels of education.




The Educational Units

The educational unit conducts learning-teaching activities which are carried out in-school or out-of-school. The school education unit is a part of a staggered and sustainable, balanced education system, whereas out-of-school education units cover family, learning group, special courses, and other similar types of education. The distance learning education unit is education that takes place in an institution where implementation of teaching-learning activities does not have to occupy a certain building. The variety of education units enable every citizen to attend life-long education if they so desire.



The Educational Channels

Law No 2 of 1989 states that national education will be carried out through two channels, that is, in-school education and out-of-school education. The in-school education channel covers education carried out in school through learning-teaching activities that occur in the traditional manner in a staggered and sustainable ways. The out-of-school education channel covers education carried out in any non-traditional environment that does not require participants to attend lessons in a formally constructed, purpose-built environment. The out-of-school learning and teaching activities do not necessarily need to be staggered, sustained or balanced. Family education is a part of the out-of-school education channel conducted within the family which provides religious faith, social and moral values, and specific life skills.



The Educational Types

Educational types included in the in-school education channel consist of general, vocational, handicapped, official, religious, academic and professional education. General education focuses on expansion of knowledge and skill improvement of participants in line with the specialization that will be realized in the final stages of participation in the education system. Vocational education is education to prepare participants with relevant skills to work directly in certain fields. Handicapped education is education which is carried out especially for participants with physical and/or mental disorders. Government officials education is education for improving ability in the implementation of official duties for employees or those who aspire to work in a government ministry department or non-departmental/government institutions. Religious education is education to prepare participants to be able to assume a role in society that demands the mastery of special knowledge in regard to the respective religion. Academic education is aimed at fostering the mastery of knowledge and science among students, and professional education is aimed at producing professionals who can apply their specialties and knowledge to the development of the country, and society.


Types of education included in out-of-school education channel consist of: general, religious, occupational, officials, and vocational education. Out-of-school general education prioritizes expansion of knowledge, skill improvement and development of good attitude of the learners in learning certain fields. Religious education prepares students to play a role that requires the special mastery of the respective religions. Occupational education is education that attempts to increase knowledge, ability, and attitude of the learners to fulfil certain working requirements in their related working unit. Officials education is designed to improve abilities to carry out official duties, for employees or candidates to work in a government ministry or non-departmental government institutions. Vocational out-of-school education is education to prepare students to be able to work in certain fields.



The Educational Levels

Educational level refers to a stage in continuing education which is determined based on the level of development of the learning participant as well as the flexibility and the depth of learning materials.



Basic Education

According to Law No. 2/1989 and Government Regulation No. 28/1990, basic education is general education with a duration of 9 years, including 6 years in Primary School and three years in Lower Secondary School or equivalent educational level. Basic education aims to provide assets in the form of abilities to learning participants so they may develop their lives and lifestyles as individual members of society, citizens and human beings, as well as to prepare them to attend secondary education.

The basic education unit that implements the six year educational program consists of two major divisions, i.e. general primary school and primary school for the handicapped. The basic education unit that implements the three year educational program after the six year program is either general lower secondary school or lower secondary school for the handicapped. Apart from these schools, there are also primary education units which are based on Moslem religion and organized by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. These schools are known as Madrasah lbtidaiyah which is the equivalent of primary school and Madrasah Tsanawiyah, equivalent of lower secondary school.


As a general education institution, primary education is obliged to contain at least the following subjects in the curriculum: Pancasila education, religious education, citizenship, Indonesian language, reading and writing, mathematics (including arithmetic), introduction to science and technology, geography, national and general history, art and craft, physical and health education, drawing, and English language. The mentioned courses are not the formal title of the subjects, but rather the field of study, the basic material presented to form personality and ability instilled and developed through basic education. More than one field of study may be united to become one subject, or conversely, one field of study may be dispersed across more than one subject matter.


According to Law no. 2/1989 article 39, which is further clarified by Minister of Education and Culture’s Decree No. 060/U/1993 of 1993, the primary education curriculum contains 10 subjects, as follows: (1) Pancasila and citizenship education; (2) religious education; (3) Indonesian language (including reading and writing); (4) mathematics (including arithmetic); (5) natural science (science and technology introduction); (6) social sciences (including geography, national and general history); (7) art (including drawing); (8) physical and health education; (9) English language and; (10) local content (a number of assorted subjects).

[Education Levels]


Secondary Education

Secondary education is education that is organized for graduates of basic education. Types of secondary education cover the broad fields of general, vocational, religious, officials, and special education. General secondary education focuses on knowledge expansion and skills improvement of students, and preparing students for further education. Vocational secondary education focuses on the development of skills that apply to a certain specific occupation, and preparing students for employment as well as developing professional attitude. Religious secondary education focuses on the mastery of the teaching of the respective religions. Officials secondary education focuses on ability improvement to support the implementation of official duties for government officials or potential government officials. Finally, special secondary education is carried out for students with physical and/or mental disorders


General secondary education is undertaken in general secondary schools and Madrasah Aliyah (Islamic secondary schools). The objectives of general secondary education are to: (1) increase the knowledge of students so that they may progress to higher education levels and to develop themselves in line with advances of knowledge, technology and art, and (2) increase the ability of students to become contributing members of society, through developing useful mutual relationships with their social, cultural and natural surroundings. To achieve such objectives, the teaching program is organized into two stages, consisting of: the general teaching program which is applied in class I and II, and special teaching programs (more specific in nature) which begin to be implemented in class III in accordance with the ability and interests of the individual students.


Vocational secondary education is carried out in vocational secondary schools, which are schools that run educational programs adjusted to employment needs for certain occupations. The secondary vocational education program consists of six groups, namely: (1) the Agricultural and Forestry Group, (2) the Technological and Industrial Group, (3) the Business and Management Group, (4) the Social Welfare Group, (5) the Tourism Group, and (6) the Art and Crafts Group.


The educational activity implementation in vocational education units is based on the valid national curriculum, a curriculum that is adjusted to environmental needs and conditions, and the specific characteristics of the related educational units. The secondary vocational curriculum is organized into general and vocational programs. The general program consists of a number of subjects which are considered the normal minimum requirements for students of this level, and are compulsory for all students in the framework of forming the character of the wholesome Indonesians. This program consists of the following subject matters: Pancasila and Citizenship Education; Religious Education; Indonesian Language and Literature; Physical and Health Education; and National and General History. The vocational program consists of basic vocational subjects and vocational skill development topics. The function of basic vocational education is to instill the ability to develop and adapt in line with the development of science, technology and arts in relation to the respective study program. The function of vocational skills development is to form productive ability which can be practically applied to employment in the respective occupations.

[Education Levels]


Higher education

Higher education is the continuation of secondary education through the in-school education channel. This channel consists of two divisions, academic and professional education. Academic education is directed particularly toward mastery of technological science and/or arts in the academic sense, whereas professional education is directed more toward the preparation of certain applied skills useful in the workforce.


The higher education implementation unit is the higher education institution. Such educational units can be in the form of academies, polytechnics, tertiary school institutes, or universities. Academies are higher education institutions that carry out professional education in one or a part of certain branch of knowledge, technology or arts. Polytechnics are higher education institutions which undertake professional education in a number of special fields. Tertiary schools are higher education institutions which carry out academic and/or professional education in only one specific discipline. Institutes are higher education institutions that consist of a number of departments which undertake academic and/or professional education in one group of similar scientific disciplines. Universities are higher education institutions that consist of a number of departments which undertake academic and/or professional education in many scientific technological, or arts disciplines.


The educational units referred to as academies and polytechnics run diploma programs as a part of professional education. Higher education units in the form of tertiary schools, institutes and universities run academic and/or professional education courses in the form of graduate and post-graduate programs. Post-graduate programs are in the form of Magister’s and Doctor’s degrees. Professional education is in the form of a diploma program that offers 4 levels of study from diploma I through to diploma 4. Diploma programs can be continued to a higher level known as Specialist 1 or 2 level, if students meet the entry requirements.

[Education Levels]


Special Education

Special education is formed to meet the educational needs of those who suffer from physical and/or mental disorders. Special education is aimed at instilling skills that help the people who suffer physical, mental, behavioral or social problems, to more readily adapt to society. This is done through the development of skills, attitudes, and knowledge that enable students to develop work skills, skills to help them interact with their social, cultural, and natural environments, and/or pursue further education.

The different types of disorders that are catered for in special education include (1) partial or complete sight impairment (blindness), (2) partial or complete deafness, (3) physical disabilities such as crippled limbs or disfigured limbs which result in impaired mobility or senses, (4) mental or behavioral disabilities such as retardation, which cause assimilation difficulties in normal schools, the family environment or society. Students may be handicapped in both physical and mental disabilities.


The form of special educational units as regulated by Law No. 2 of 1989 are special kindergarten schools, with a duration of 3 years; special primary schools with a duration of at least 6 years; special lower secondary schools with a duration of at least 3 years; and special upper secondary schools, also with a duration of at least 3 years.

[Education Levels]


Pre-School Education

Based on Law No. 2/1989, Article 12 verse (2), apart from the educational levels dealt with above, there is also an educational unit known as pre-school education. The objective of pre-school education is to stimulate the physical and intellectual growth and development of children outside the family environment before entering primary school or out-of-school educational programs. The focus of education is on the development of attitude, knowledge, skills and creative abilities, so that children may adapt to their environment quicker and easier, and for their further growth and development. However, attendance at pre-school education is not a prerequisite or requirement for entry into primary school.


The forms of pre-school education include Kindergartens, Play Groups and Child Care Centers. Kindergartens are classed as in-school education facilities while play groups and child care centers are included under the banner of out-of-school education. Apart from these units, there are also special Islamic pre-schools which are of the same status as kindergartens. These schools are called Bustanul Atfal and Raudlatui Atfal, and are organized by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.


Kindergartens are run for children aged 4 to 6 years with a one or two year education duration. Children’s welfare in play groups and child care centers is the responsibility of the Minister of Social Affairs, while the educational aspects are organized by the Minister of Education and Culture (Government Regulation No. 27 of 1990, Article 5).


Pre-school educational units in the form of play groups and child care centers may be attended by children under the-age of 3 years. The content of the pre-school educational program for kindergartens as run through the in-school channel must include Pancasila morals education, religion, discipline, language ability, thinking exercises, creativity, social skills, feelings and emotions, manual skills and physical fitness and health.

[Education Levels


Out-of-School Education

Out-of-school education are educational activities carried out outside of the formal school system. Out-of-school education is not necessarily organized into levels or stages and continuous. The characteristic that differentiates out-of-school education from school education is its flexibility which includes flexible course duration and study times, no participant age limits, and flexible course content, implementation and assessment procedures.


The out-of-school education unit covers family education learning group, special courses like computer, and other similar educational units. Family education is designed to promote religious awareness, cultural values, moral values and special home and social skills.


The major objectives of out-of-school education are to: (1) serve the needs of the learners so that they may grow and develop as rapidly as possible, and develop self worth and improve the quality of their lifestyle throughout life; (2) organize learning activities to help learners to gain skills, attitudes and knowledge needed for their development, for work as a livelihood, or continue on to higher levels of education; and (3) meet the societal demand for education that cannot be fulfilled by the formal education channel alone.


The forms of out-of-school education include courses, learning groups and others such as play groups, and child care centers and similar educational units. The courses are run for education participants as assets to develop themselves, to find a livelihood and/or continue on to higher levels of education. The learning groups that are organized by the Government consist of the Learning Group Packet A, and the Learning Group Packet B. The Learning Group Packet A provides material for the learners to achieve primary school qualifications, and the Learning Group Packet B provides material for lower secondary qualifications. Other out-of-school units such as child care centers and play groups are organized by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Culture in a cooperative arrangement.

[Education Levels]