The Indonesian Education System

education system of indonesia

Did you know that Indonesia has the 4th largest education system in the world? Indonesia has over 50 million students, 3 million teachers, and over 250,000 schools spread across the country.


And the numbers don’t stop there, it keeps growing every year! With the diverse, complex, and multicultural community Indonesia has, it is obvious to say that Indonesia’s education system is immense.

Education in Indonesia is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.


Most of the schools are supervised by the Ministry of Education and Culture, while the Islamic schools (known as madrasah) are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.


All Indonesian citizens must undertake twelve years of compulsory education, which consists of 6 years in elementary school, 3 years in junior high school, and another 3 years in senior high school.

Schools in Indonesia are run by either the government (negeri), or private (swasta).


Most of Indonesia’s public schools and public universities are government-sponsored, whereas private schools are usually referred as the “national plus” schools.


It is a term for private schools that exceeds the curriculum requirements set by the Ministry of Education.


It usually uses an international-based curriculum such as the Cambridge curriculum instead of the national one, or use another language besides Bahasa Indonesia as the language of instruction (usually English or Mandarin).


In religious schools (madrasah), the curriculum is set by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which includes Islamic teachings.

Levels of Education

Elementary School (Sekolah Dasar)

sekolah dasar indonesia

Indonesian children aged 6-12 attend elementary school (sekolah dasar; SD). In this level, Indonesians learn basic subjects such as science, math, language (foreign and Bahasa Indonesia), arts and crafts, religion, and civic education.


Students spend six years in primary school, though some schools offer an accelerated learning program in which students who perform well can complete the level in five years.

Junior High School (Sekolah Menegah Pertama)

sekolah menengah pertama indonesia

After SD, Indonesians move on to junior high (sekolah menegah pertama; SMP). Students spend three years at this level where they learn more complex subjects such as biology and world history.


Some schools offer an accelerated learning program in which students who perform well can complete the level in two years.

Senior High School (Sekolah Menengah Atas)

After graduating from SMP, Indonesian students continue to either senior high school (sekolah menegah atas; SMA), or vocational school (sekolah menengah kejuruan; SMK).


This level of educations also takes three years to complete, except for an accelerated learning program. Usually in senior high, students can choose their preferred major from three options: Natural Science, Social Science, or Language.  


Moreover, vocational school itself is divided in the following fields: technology and engineering, health, arts, crafts and tourism, information and communication technologies, agro-business and agro-technology, and business management.


Another path is to choose religious schools (madrasah), which not only includes general knowledge such as natural and social science, but also Islamic studies.

Higher Education

mahasiswa indonesia

There are four types of higher education institutions: universities, institutes, academies, and polytechnic.


Students can enroll into government (negeri) universities through the nationwide entrance examination (called SNMPTN and SBMPTN).


Private (swasta) universities are usually operated by foundations and have their own entrance examination.

Indonesia’s education has gone through a long history. Overall, it has made a great improvement over the past few decades.


Indonesian children are starting school at an earlier age and staying in school longer than they ever have before.


How is the education system in your country? Are they similar to Indonesia’s or are they totally different? We would like to know about your country’s education system!


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