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Indonesia Education Facts


In Indonesia, there is a twelve-year compulsory schooling for all children from the age of seven. In reality, almost every fifth student leaves school after the first six years. The drop-off is mainly among poor children in the countryside.

The proportion of children starting in the six-year compulsory school has increased from 40 percent in the 1960s to 92 percent in the 2016/2017 school year. The proportion of pupils who move on to the first of two three-year supplementary stages has increased from 13 percent in 1968 to 77 percent in the 2014/2015 school year.

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Elementary school should be free of charge, but parents often pay for books and school uniforms, for example. According to the constitution, 20 percent of the state budget must go to education, but most years the government has not lived up to that requirement. Teaching is of varying quality; cities like Jakarta have many good schools, while education is poorer elsewhere, where there is a shortage of educated teachers.

There are both state and Muslim and Christian schools. More than 80 percent of children in the six-year primary school attend state schools. In the Muslim schools (madrasah), students are taught Arabic, while studying the Qur’an and Islamic law (Sharia). The Christian schools have a good reputation and many Muslim children therefore attend. Indonesian is the language of instruction, but in the three lowest grades, local languages ​​are often used.

There are around 3,300 state or private higher education institutions of varying quality. Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta is considered the country’s premier university. Roughly one in four pupils who finish high school starts some form of higher education according to the UN agency Unesco. Some young Indonesians choose to study abroad. Indonesia suffers from a shortage of highly educated labor, especially in technical professions.

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Proportion of children starting primary school

91.9 percent (2017)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

16 (2017)

Reading and writing skills

95.4 percent (2016)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

20.5 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

20.5 percent (2015)



IS-faithful Jad behind new suicide act

November 13

A suicide bomber belonging to the IS faithful group Jad kills one person and injures six other people in an attack on a police station in Medan on Sumatra. About 45 people are arrested in the police chase on suspected perpetrators, while the two men who made the bomb belt are killed by police as they resist arrest. Many of the arrested belong to Jad.


Prabowo Subianto becomes new Minister of Defense

October 23

President Widodo surprises many when he presents his new government with 38 ministers; his political arch-rival, retired General Prabowo Subianto, becomes the new Minister of Defense. Subianto, who accused the Widodo government of massive fraud in the election, is suspected of human rights violations while serving as general in connection with President Suharto’s fall in 1998. Amnesty International calls the designation “a dark day for human rights”. Among the ministers is also noticed Sri Mulyani Indrawati, former CEO of the World Bank, who will remain as Finance Minister. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi also retains his post. Among the ministers are also entrepreneurs and media moguls. Security Minister Wiranto, who is being rehabilitated following an assassination attempt, is not among the new ministers.

Controversial laws of corruption are adopted

October 17

Parliament adopts a law that protesters around the country consider weakening the authorities’ efforts to fight corruption; The law means that the country’s reputed anti-corruption authority KPK must be supervised by a newly established board. KPK’s ability to intercept suspects is also limited. At least three people have been killed in the demonstrations that have been going on in Indonesia since a controversial legislative package was presented to Parliament (see September 2019). The vote on the legislative proposals has been postponed by President Widodo.

Attempt to murder a powerful minister

October 10

Indonesia’s influential security minister Wiranto faces a murder attempt when he gets out of his car in Pandeglang on Java. A married couple, who are both members of the banned IS-faith network Jad, stabs the general in the stomach twice. Wiranto is taken to hospital for immediate surgery and then reported to be on the road of improvement. As Minister of Security, Wiranto has great influence over both foreign and defense policy. He is popular with some Indonesians but also controversial for his background as Army Chief under President Suharto. Among other things, he has been accused of bearing ultimate responsibility for the grave human rights violations committed by the military during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor (see East Timor, modern history). The Jad network was, among other things, behind a series of attacks against churches in Surabaya (see May 2018).

Tens of thousands leave Papua

October 7

About 16,000 residents have fled the city of Wamena and its environs since the violence broke out there (see September 2019), the military announces. At the same time, the Air Force has evacuated some 11,400 people, mainly Indonesian migrants from other parts of the country, from the area.


The wave of protests is growing, two deaths are being investigated

September 27th

President Widodo appoints an investigation into two deaths that occurred during the wave of protests sweeping across the country since contentious legislative proposals were presented to Parliament (see September 20, 2019). The dead are partly a 19-year-old engineering student who died on September 26 from head injuries he suffered in connection with a riot with police in Kendari city of Sulawesi, and another demonstrator who was shot dead with sharp ammunition in the same city. The police refuse to use sharp ammunition against the protesters.

Big protests against legislative proposals

September 26th

The street protests against the proposed legislative changes (see September 20, 2019) are escalating and spreading throughout the country. They are fast growing to become one of the largest demonstrations in the country since the fall of Suharto in 1998. The protests also target legislative changes that are feared to limit the anti-corruption authority KPK’s activities. A student is reported to have been killed in connection with protests in Sulawesi and hundreds of people around the country are injured, including in confrontations with police. Amnesty International criticizes police for “massive violence”.

The violence in Papua is escalating

September 24th

The wave of violence that erupted in Papua in mid-August seems to escalate. At least 22 people are killed when a crowd sets fire to a public building in the town of Wamena. According to authorities, people are burned to death inside the building. The violent riots were triggered by racism directed at Papuans, but the unrest also has elements of separatism, as groups fighting for a free Papua are also out on the streets. According to the authorities, the majority of victims in the fire in Wamena are not Papuans, but immigrants from elsewhere in the country. In Jayapura, three civilians and one soldier are killed when security forces clash with stone-throwing teens. The soldier must have been killed with a knife while the protesters must have been shot to death with rubber-coated bullets. Thousands of civilians, including many women and children,

It is proposed that sex outside marriage be illegal

September 20

A controversial bill is presented to Parliament for a vote, but President Widodo postpones the vote and asks members to think about the appropriateness of the proposal. The bill means that sex outside of marriage is criminalized and can give up to one year in prison. Being cohabiting without being married becomes illegal and punishable by up to six months in prison, if the proposal is adopted. In addition, it will be illegal to insult the president, the vice president, religions, government institutions and symbols such as the flag and the national anthem. It is also punishable with up to four years in prison to perform an abortion unless there are serious medical reasons or if the woman becomes pregnant through rape. In several places in Indonesia, people are protesting against the bill.


Widodo wants to move the capital

August 26th

The Widodo government proposes to Parliament that the capital of Indonesia be moved from Jakarta to eastern Kalimantan (on the island of Borneo). The reason for the move is that the giant city of Jakarta has serious problems with congestion, pollution, traffic chaos and that the ground level is falling rapidly as the city is built on wetland. The new capital will be built near the current cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda. According to Widodo, the area is both strategically located and protected from natural disasters. If Parliament approves the move, it means that the country’s power center will disappear from Java, where over half the population lives and where economic and political power has traditionally been gathered. However, Jakarta will remain the country’s economic and trade center. Construction of the new city is scheduled to begin in 2020 and around 1.5 million civil servants will start moving. The total cost is estimated at $ 33 billion. With suburbs, Jakarta is estimated to have around 30 million inhabitants.

New violence in Papua

21th of August

About 5,000 people take part in violent protests in the city of Timika in Papua. Unrest also erupts in the towns of Sorong and Fakfak. Around 1,200 extra soldiers and police are deployed in the area. Protesters throw stones, vandalize shops and homes and set fire to a local market, while police respond with tear gas and dozens of arrests. A number of police officers and protesters are injured but no deaths are reported.

Crawling in Papua

August 18th

Clashes erupt when thousands of people walk the streets of the city of Manokwari in Western Papua to protest the arrest of 43 Papuan university students temporarily and interrogated in Surabaya on Independence Day for tearing down the Indonesian flag. The provincial parliament is set on fire and severely damaged. Shops and vehicles were also set on fire. Three police officers are injured in the unrest. It is unknown if any protesters are injured.

The economy is slowing down

5 August

Quarterly reports show that the country’s economic growth rate is slowing down as a result of the US-China trade war. Indonesia is getting worse pay for export goods such as coal and palm oil. The downturn is a challenge for President Widodo, who has promised major infrastructure investments that require money in the Treasury. Widodo failed to fulfill a promise of 7% annual growth during its first term of office 2014–2019.


Claws in Jakarta

May 21

Thousands of supporters for defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto go out in peaceful demonstrations in Jakarta in protest of Joko Widodo’s election victory. During the evening the protest actions become violent, cars are burned and the police are attacked with firefighters. Since Subianto had previously warned of riots on Widodo being declared a winner, around 30,000 riot police have been called out on the capital’s streets, and they are now meeting the protesters with tear gas. According to Jakarta’s governor, six people are killed and around 200 are injured. The police cannot confirm the information and it is also not known how the people died.

President Widodo re-elected

May 21

President Widodo remains in office for another term. It is clear when the electoral authority reports the official result of the presidential election held on April 17. Widodo receives 55.5 percent of the vote compared to 44.5 percent for Prabowo Subianto. Widodo’s strongest holdings are Bali and East Java, while Prabowo Subianto receives the most votes in the conservative provinces of Aceh and West Java. Prabowo Subianto appeals against the election result, which he believes is based on electoral fraud.


Small changes in Parliament

April 17

The result of the parliamentary elections shows small changes compared to the 2014 election. PDI-P remains the largest, followed by Golkar and Gerindra. Golkar backs slightly while PDI-P and Gerindra increase a bit. DP also backs, as do Muslim PPPs. Muslim PKB and PKS are increasing. PAN goes slightly backwards while the Nasdem party increases significantly. Hanura leaves the lower house.

Indonesia goes for election

April 17

Indonesia is holding its presidential and parliamentary elections for the first time on the same day. Elections are also conducted for governor and mayor posts as well as for provincial governments and local parishes. A total of 193 million eligible voters can choose from a total of 245,000 candidates. It takes at least a month to compile the public results, when everything from canoes to elephants will be used to gather ballot papers in the most isolated districts. In the important presidential elections, as in the 2014 elections, President Widodo and retired General Prabowo Subianto meet. In the opinion polls, Widodo has a clear lead. Prabowo Subianto accuses the electoral authority of massive and systematic electoral fraud in favor of Widodo. The electoral authority admits that the enormous electoral process has some shortcomings, mainly in the distribution of election materials,


Trade agreement with Australia

4th of March

Indonesia and Australia sign a bilateral trade agreement, which means that Australia will gradually abolish all import duties for Indonesian goods and Indonesia gradually removes 94 percent of its customs duties. The agreement is expected to increase trade between the two countries: Australia hopes to export more beef and sheep products, while Indonesia wants to sell more cars, textiles, timber, electronics and medical equipment to the neighboring country. In 2017, trade between the two countries amounted to just under $ 12 billion.

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