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Within the Indonesian education system, parents can send their children to public, private or international schools. Most expat parents living in Indonesia opt for international schools, although these are usually quite pricey.
Compulsory education in Indonesia begins at age seven and lasts a total of nine years. During this time, public schooling is offered at no cost. A minimum of one year of Indonesian language study is required if a child is to graduate from high school. However, no subject testing is completed in this language – merely achievement in basic proficiency is required.
Public schools in Indonesia
Public schools are administered by the local government and follow the Indonesian curriculum. In these schools, the teaching language used is Bahasa Indonesia and every subject is taught in the local language by local teachers. Other indigenous languages are still used in remote parts of the country.
The language barrier and inconsistent quality of public schools are the main reasons that expat children do not commonly attend public schools in Indonesia.
Private schools in Indonesia
Private schools generally offer a curriculum that both meets and exceeds the requirements of the local Indonesian curriculum, sometimes taught in combination with the International Baccalaureate (IB). Many of these schools also teach in English.
The majority of these schools cater to Indonesian students, with foreign students often making up only a small proportion of the school's student body. They do, however, accept expat children and these schools are a more affordable alternative to international schools for expats who work for companies that do not cover education fees.
International schools in Indonesia
Most expats in Indonesia send their children to international schools – these schools offer a foreign curriculum and are officially accredited by the relevant authorities in their home country. Tuition fees can be extremely high at international schools, with annual tuition rates varying depending on the school and the age of the child. Many international schools also charge a non-refundable annual capital fee.
In a bid to regulate the quality of education in Indonesia, the government has introduced legislation that no longer permits schools to use the word 'international' in their title. This is to prevent low-quality schools from using the term merely to charge high fees. Most international schools are now classified as Satuan Pendidikan Kerjasama (SPK) – this roughly translates as collaborative schools. SPK schools are required to teach Indonesian civics, religion and language. In addition, they must allow Indonesian students to attend and must employ local teachers to teach Indonesian subjects. Children at international schools are also now expected to take part in the national examinations that students at state schools undergo, in addition to the school's own examinations.
There are many options when it comes to international schools in Indonesia, with schools catering to expat students from a number of countries, including the UK, the US, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore. Alongside the home curriculum, many of these schools also offer the IB programme.
Special-needs education in Indonesia
In public education, Indonesia has two types of schools that cater to special-needs students: inclusive schools and extraordinary schools. Inclusive schools have a student body made up of both special needs and mainstream students, while extraordinary schools are dedicated to special-needs students only. Unless expat families already speak Indonesian fluently, most opt for private schooling for their children with special educational needs.
It's worth noting that some international schools are able to provide the specialised services such a student would require, depending on the severity of the condition. This is usually for an extra fee but can be a good option for expat families.
Tutors in Indonesia
Tutors are much used in Indonesia. For expat families, tutors can be a great help in giving expat children a leg up in adjusting to a new school, especially if an unfamiliar curriculum or new language is involved. Some expat families hire a tutor to help maintain a child's mother tongue, or to help them learn and refine Indonesian or English quickly.
The months leading up to final exams are a busy time for tutors, who are often hired to help students reach peak performance. Most tutors specialise in a particular subject but some are able to help across the board, especially when it comes to teaching general essay writing and study techniques.
►See International Schools in Jakarta for a list of international schools in the city
"My daughter settled much easier than I imagined she would. I think it helped that there were kids in the neighbourhood that adored her and that she attends the same school I teach at. We walk to school together every morning, and our routine is set in stone. I think having this routine from the very beginning helped her adjust quickly." Read more about Spanish-Swedish expat Lidia's experiences in Indonesia.
Are you an expat living in Indonesia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Indonesia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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