Working Paper


Indonesia Got Schooled: 15 Years of Rising Enrolment and Flat Learning Profiles


Image of Amanda Beatty

Amanda Beatty

RISE Indonesia

Mathematica Policy Research

Image of Emilie Berkhout

Emilie Berkhout

RISE Indonesia

Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD)

Image of Luhur Bima

Luhur Bima

RISE Indonesia

SMERU Research Institute

Image of Thomas Coen

Thomas Coen

RISE Indonesia

International Consultant - Indonesia CRT

Image of Menno Pradhan

Menno Pradhan

RISE Indonesia

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam

Image of Daniel Suryadarma

Daniel Suryadarma

Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI)

An updated version of this paper is now available open access under the title, "Schooling Progress, Learning Reversal: Indonesia’s Learning Profiles between 2000 and 2014." Please access and cite the journal version of this paper:

Beatty, A., Berkhout, E., Bima, L., Pradhan, M., and Suryadarma, D. 2021. Schooling progress, learning reversal: Indonesia’s learning profiles between 2000 and 2014, International Journal of Educational Development, Volume 85, 2021, 102436, ISSN 0738-0593, 

Indonesia has instituted wide-ranging educational reforms over the past twenty years, but recent international assessments of student learning indicate that these reforms may not have translated into learning gains—the country is performing comparatively poorly and worse than its regional neighbours. To examine the relationship between schooling completed and learning gains, and how that changed over time, we developed learning profiles using five rounds of data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS). We show that Indonesia has succeeded in achieving high levels of school enrolment and attainment, with particular gains concentrated in junior secondary and senior secondary school between 2000 and 2014. However, we also find a large gap between students’ mathematical ability and what they are supposed to know based on the education curriculum. Absolute learning levels as well as marginal learning levels are low, meaning that students are learning little as they are promoted from grade to grade. Even high school graduates struggle to correctly answer numeracy problems that they should have mastered in primary school. We also find that learning is decreasing slightly over time. We extend our analysis by identifying characteristics of children who are educationally left behind: children who are performing particularly poorly compared to their peers. Children with low numeracy levels are more likely to live in Eastern Indonesia, in rural areas, and be older and male. Our findings, albeit limited to a narrow set of test items, demonstrate the incredibly slow pace of learning occurring throughout Indonesia, and reiterate the importance of focusing system reforms on learning progress.