Rebuilding Academic Mobility Between Indonesia and the United States
By WES Staff
Home to 250,000 people, Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and third largest democracy, while also being the largest majority-Muslim country in the world. Given these facts, and considering that Indonesia’s economy has been growing at a healthy 6 to 6.5 percent over the last five years in an era of global economic uncertainty, the country is of particular strategic importance to the United States.
The current U.S. administration, therefore, has made cooperation with Indonesia one of its foreign-policy priorities, and educational collaboration is a cornerstone of that engagement plan, with a particular emphasis being placed on reversing a declining trend in academic mobility between the two countries.
In anticipation of increased and rejuvenated academic mobility and cooperation between the United States and Indonesia, World Education Services, through the Knowledge Resource Exchange, recently offered a free webinar on evaluating the academic credentials of Indonesian students. In this article we offer a hardcopy companion.
The scale of the decline in Indonesian enrollments in the United States has been fairly precipitous over the last decade. After a period of steady growth in the 1980s and 1990s, peaking in 1997/98 at 13,282 students, Indonesian student numbers have tailed off steadily with especially large declines seen in the three years following the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. According to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2011: Report on International Educational Exchange, enrollments in 2010/11 were the same as they were in 2009/10 at just under 7,000, ranking Indonesia as the 19th leading place of origin for students coming to the United States. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. students in Indonesia studying for academic credit in 2009/10 was just 221 (up 25% from 2008/09), according to the same report.
Cost, distance and lingering fears about visa denials in the post-9/11 era have all contributed to making the United States less attractive as a study destination for Indonesian students, especially in the face of increased competition from regional competitor destinations, such as Australia, Hong Kong/China, Malaysia and New Zealand. Currently, Indonesia is the second largest source country for Malaysian colleges and universities and third largest source country for Australia.
Study abroad in Indonesia among U.S. students has been negatively impacted by concerns about sectarian violence, the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and previous U.S. Department of State travel warnings.
Despite the decline in academic exchange between the two countries, there is reason to believe that a reversal in both directions is imminent. This is primarily due to an initiative launched by President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2010 to double the number of Indonesians studying at U.S. institutions by 2014 to 15,000, and to significantly increase educational opportunities in Indonesia for U.S. students. The goals were set under the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, a long-term commitment to broadening, deepening, and elevating bilateral relations between the United States and Indonesia, with a priority placed on higher-education cooperation.
In the interests of meeting the goal of increasing academic mobility between the two nations, a “Joint U.S.-Indonesia Council for Higher Education Partnership” was formed to allow institutions of education to work in coordination with the two governments. The Council, which was endorsed by both presidents at their 2010 meeting, has been established to advise the U.S. academic community about U.S. or Indonesian government funds that are, or which may become, available. In addition, it is working with U.S. institutions of higher education and other Council participants to develop solutions that will lower the cost of a U.S. education for Indonesians, and make studying abroad in Indonesia more attractive to Americans.
Under the governmental Partnership agreement, a plan of action was agreed to by the two governments, with priorities including: Study abroad for students from both countries, joint degree programs, university partnerships and mutual recognition of academic degrees and certificates, and a strengthening of cooperation in science, technology and innovation.
The Council believes that government and current private efforts will achieve 3,000-4,000 of the aimed increase in Indonesian student numbers. Therefore, it points to the need for engineering a way of enabling the remaining 3,000-4,000 by the end of 2015. This, it says, “will include innovative ways to lower the cost of a U.S. education, guarantee student loans by governments, achieve a higher percentage of Indonesians in international student enrollments on U.S. campuses, better prepare Indonesians for U.S. study, and better market U.S. educational institutions in Indonesia.”
The Institute for International Education is leading another effort, funded by the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), that in April of last year saw leaders from six U.S. colleges and universities and six Indonesian universities meet in Indonesia to take part in a workshop and study tour focused on strengthening higher education ties between the two countries. The tour was part of the U.S.-Indonesia Partnership Program, a two-year initiative sponsored by the (ECA) to increase the number of U.S. students who study abroad in Indonesia. A follow-up workshop was held in Washington D.C. in February of this year.
The Indonesian education system is based on a 12-year school structure (6+3+3) followed by four years at the undergraduate level and two years at the master’s level for students pursuing non-vocational studies.
Education is compulsory for the first nine years (primary and junior secondary), and Islamic education is offered at all levels. The language of instruction is Bahasa Indonesia, but local regional languages may be used in the first three years of primary school. The school year runs from mid-July to mid-June on a semester system.
The Department of National Education (Departemen Pendidikan Nasional [Depdiknas]) has oversight of secondary, vocational and higher education, including state and private religious schools, or madrasah, which must adopt core curriculum developed by the department.
The Department of Home Affairs (Departemen Dalam Negeri) oversees primary education and the religious components of Islamic curricula at religious schools.
Primary Education (sekolah dasar)
Primary schooling begins at the age of six for most children and is compulsory for all. The six-year curriculum includes: Civics and religious education, moral education, Indonesian history, Bahasa Indonesia (national language), mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, and art.
Students graduate with the Certificate of Graduation (Surat Tanda Kelulusan – STK) after taking a school-administered final examination.
Junior Secondary Education (Sekolah Menengah Pertama – SMP)
Junior secondary schooling is three years in length (grades 6-9) and the curriculum includes: Pancasila (civics), religious education, Bahasa Indonesia, English language, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, economics, geography, history, art, and physical education.
Students graduate with the Certificate of Completion of Junior Secondary Education (Surat Tanda Tamat Belajar: Sekolah Menengah Pertama – STTB: SMP or Ijazah: SMP), which is issued by the school attended. In addition, the Certificate of Graduation (Surat Keterangan Hasil Ujian Nasional – SKHUN) is issued to students who pass the National Examination (Ujian [Akhir] Nasional – UN/UAN) set by the Department of National Education. Students are tested in mathematics, English and Bahasa Indonesia, the results for which are indicated on the certificate.
Upper Secondary Education (Sekolah Menengah Atas – SMA)
Upper secondary education is three years in length (grades 9-12), with the first-year curriculum being more generalist than the last two. Students join either the general academic or vocational stream upon entry into upper secondary.
From the second year of the general academic upper secondary stream, students specialize in one of three discipline groups, while also continuing to study core subjects:
- Natural Sciences
- Social Sciences
The stream or discipline chosen by students will generally determine the field of study that they apply for at the higher-education level, should they chose to further their studies, although the emphasis on specialization has been lessened over the last decade.
|Subjects and Hours per Week|
|Grade 10: General Education||Grade 11 and 12: Specialize in 1 of 3 streams|
Secondary School Exams
Secondary school examinations are administered by individual schools and held before the National Examinations. Grades from the final year of study are shown separately on the student’s school report.
To pass the examinations an overall average of 6 is required (4.26 minimum for individual subjects). The exception is for key schools, where the minimum pass mark is 6 in each subject.
National Examinations (Seleksi Penerimaan Mahasiswa Baru – SPMB)
The National Examinations are centrally administered by the Ministry of National Education and take place on the same day at all public universities across the country. To pass the exams, an overall average of 6 is required (4.26 minimum for individual subjects). Students are tested in the following streams:
- Natural Science (mathematics, Bahasa Indonesia and English)
- Social Science (Bahasa Indonesia, English and economics)
- Language (Bahasa Indonesia, English and another foreign language)
The Secondary School Certificate of Completion (Ljazah, or Surat Tanda Tamat Belajar Sekolah Menengah Atas – STTB: SMA) details scores from the final school exams and guarantees that the student has completed secondary school. This document is issued by the school attended.
The Certificate of Graduation (Surat Keterangan Hasil Ujian Nasional – SKHUN) is issued to students who pass the National Examinations. This document is required for admission to higher education, and is issued by the Department of National Education.
Upper Secondary Grading Scale
|10 Point Grading Scale||WES Conversion of Grades|
Admission to Higher Education
- Secondary School Certificate of Graduation (and, by default, the Certificate of Completion).
- National University Entrance Exam (Seleksi Penerimaan Mahasiswa Baru) for entry to public universities.
- Private universities have their own entrance examinations.
- Polytechnics (politeknik) and academies (akademi) set their own entrance exams, which are open to students with a Secondary School Certificate of Graduation.
Competition to study at public universities is very high, and subsequently the admissions examinations are highly competitive. These tests tend to favor students with the means to take preparatory classes.
In 2010, 447,000 students sat for the National University Entrance Examination, with just 80,000 seats available. By law, 60 percent of freshman seats are reserved for top-scoring candidates on the admissions examination. The remaining 40 percent of the seats are distributed according to individual admissions criteria/exams set by each university. Many public universities give priority to students from their province or district.
According to the Directorate of General Higher Education, in 2009 there were 3,016 institutions of higher education in Indonesia, an increase of 28 percent from 2005 when there were 2,428 institutions.
Types of Institutions
- Universities (private and public). Oversight and recognition through the Department of National Education. In 2009, there were 460 universities.
- IKIPS (Institutes and Teacher Training Institutes), which rank as universities with full degree-granting status, but across a specialized field of studies. In 2009, there were 54 institutes.
- Islamic Institutes. These have the same rank as universities but under the auspices of the Department of Religious Affairs.
- Colleges, or Advanced Schools, (Sekolah Tinggi) offer academic and professional university-level education in one particular discipline. In 2009, there were 1,306 colleges
- Single-Faculty Academies offering diploma/certificate technician-level courses only. In 2009, there were 1,034 academies.
- Polytechnics are attached to universities and provide sub-degree junior technician training. In 2009, there were 162 polytechnics.
Diplomas and Degrees
- The Diploma (Diploma I – Diploma IV) requires one to four years of full time study, or 40-160 credits depending on program length. The title of the Diploma (I-IV) generally indicates, in years, the length of the program. The D-II award is offered mainly in education, while the D-III award is the most common and is offered across a broad spectrum of disciplines. D-II and D-III programs are typically offered at polytechnics. The D-I and D-IV are offered in a limited number of fields, and the D-IV (or Sarjana Sains Terapan – SST) is considered a degree-level program equivalent to a bachelor of applied science.
- The Bachelor’s Degree (Sarjana) requires 4-5 years of full time study, or 144-160 credits, with courses in the student’s major beginning in the first year. Longer programs are typically in professional fields such as medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, and allow awardees the right to practice, although extra requirements may be needed in health fields.
- The Master’s Degree (Magister) requires 2 years of full time study, or 36-50 credits, and the completion of a thesis.
- The Doctor of Philosophy (Doktor) requires a minimum of 3 years or 48-53 credits, and the defense of a dissertation.
The National Accreditation Agency for Higher Education (Badan Akreditasi Nasional Perguruan Tingi, BAN-PT) is responsible for performing program quality assurance audits in both the public and private sectors. Programs are rated on a scale of A to D, with programs rated A or B accredited for five years and those rated a C for three years. Those rated D have five years to improve or face risk of closure.
A searchable directory of accredited programs and their ratings is available through the BAN-PT website. In the search fields of the directory ‘Tinggi’ refers to the name of the institution and ‘Studi’ the name of the program.
Higher Education Grading Scale
|A-E Grading Scale||WES Conversion of Grade|
|A (Superior, Excellent, Very Good)||A|
WES Document Requirements
WES requires that a copy of the graduation certificate (Surat Tanda Tamat Belajar Sekolah Menengah Atas, Surat Tanda Tamat Belajar Sekolah Menengah Umum) indicating all exams taken and grades obtained be sent to WES directly from the secondary school attended.
WES requires a photocopy of the degree certificates or diplomas issued by the institutions attended, in addition to the academic transcripts indicating all subjects taken and grades obtained. The transcript must be sent directly to WES by the institutions attended. For completed doctoral programs, a letter confirming the awarding of the degree is required to be sent directly to WES by the institutions attended.
If official documents are issued in Bahasa Indonesia, WES requires a precise word for word English translation.