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In late 2011, epidemiologist, writer and adventurer Elizabeth Pisani granted herself a sabbatical from the day job and set off to rediscover Indonesia, a country she has wandered, loved and been baffled by for decades. She was on the road and the high seas for a year, covering dozens of islands in 27 provinces. This site records photos and musings from that journey and beyond. See more about the project


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Indonesian kids don't know how stupid they are

Spotted on a classroom wall in South Sulawesi

Spotted on a classroom wall in South Sulawesi

Four cars have different engine capacites:

Alpha: 1.79
Bolte: 1.796
Castel: 1.82
Dezal: 1.783

Which of the cars has the smallest engine capacity?

It’s not a trick question. But over 75 percent of 15 year-old school children in Indonesia do not have the mathematical skills to answer it correctly.

Every three years, Indonesia’s education system goes through the ritual humiliation of the PISA tests, comparing the performance of 15 year-olds in 65 countries in reading, maths and science. Indonesia has more teachers per student than most much richer countries, and an amendment to the constitution guarantees that 20 percent of the national budget is spent on education. And yet the 2012 PISA results, released this week, show that Indonesia ranked at the bottom of the heap in maths and science, and did only marginally better in reading.

A full 42% of 15 year-old Indonesians in school don’t reach the lowest defined level for maths, meaning they can’t “perform actions that are almost always obvious, and follow immediately from given stimuli”. Three out of four do not reach level 2 in maths, meaning that they are not capable of making literal interpretations of the results of simply presented data, such as reading values off a bar chart. Just 0.3% of Indonesian students managed to score at level 5, the second highest grade, compared with 55% in Shanghai. Here’s the full table of results (xls),in alphabetical order, though it’s easier to find Indonesia if you look at the ranked chart below, because you just have to go straight to the bottom.
PISA_2012_Science_rankings

In science, a quarter of Indonesian students did not reach the bottom level of proficiency, and a further 42% were mired at level 1 (for those who can’t do the maths, that means two out of three kids are unable to draw conclusions based on simple investigations — full excel table here). Though every other country that was at Indonesia’s dismal level in the 2009 round has pulled its socks up significantly, the performance of Indonesian students in science has actually fallen since three years ago. We can’t yet blame this on the new policy, instituted recently by all those well-educated people in the Ministry of Education, to remove science from the primary school curriculum. No Indonesian managed to score at level 5 in science.

In reading, they are doing better. A whole 45% of students have managed to demonstrate “a baseline level of proficiency… that will enable them to participate effectively and productively in life” (though of course that leaves over half that have not attained this dizzy goal). Level 5 was reached by 0.1% (full excel table here).

Not one Indonesian student managed to reach the highest level, level 6, in any of the three test subjects.

There’s one table that turns everything upside down, putting Indonesian kids right on top: the proportion who report being happy in school. Over 95% of Indonesians say they are happy in school, compared with 85% in top-performing Shanghai and just 60% in South Korea, which also comes close to the top in maths and science (excel data here). I wondered if they might be happy because so little was demanded of them, and made a little graph comparing happiness in school with maths scores. Here it is:

Happiness_vs_Maths_scores_PISA_2012

It does seem that in general, less competent kids feel happier in school. And there’s nothing wrong with being happy. But it worries me that Indonesian children do not even realise how badly the school system is failing them. Though the overwhelming majority have not, by the age of 15, acquired even the basic skills needed to function in modern society, they think they’re all set for the future. Some 95% report that they have learned things that have prepared them for their future jobs, and almost three quarters think that school has prepared them adequately for adult life. Fewer than one in ten think that school has been a waste of time.

Which makes me wonder what kind of future Indonesia will have.
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Edit: January 8th, 2014 – This post received many, many comments. Comments on this site are closed. This post is reproduced at http://www.indonesiaetc.com/indonesian-kids-dont-know-how-stupid-they-are. You can see all the old comments there. You can also leave a new comment about this post (in English or Indonesian) over there.

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141 comments to Indonesian kids don’t know how stupid they are

  • Daniele

    Dear Mrs. Pisani, that is a great article. I dare to interpret the introductory picture, and see much (religious) “ideology”, going at detrimental of education. In Kerala, India, catholic school have done a good job and their goal is not to “convert” but to educate. So intelligence seems to be the first prerequisite…. Best.

  • Flora

    Hi Eli ! This is shocking for a worried mom like. My son’s class was selected to be one of the classes to try out 2013 curricullum to. The new thing in this curricullum is that there are much less hours on math and science. I am SO VERY worried about the future of Indonesian children. the top super duper rich kids go abroad, the kid from average family like mine – stay in country and try out best to educate the kids. but the largest poor families….:(

  • Berton

    It is a very sad news to know the Indonesian kids were the most stupid in Maths. Indeed, when I was elementry to jinior high school, I mastered my subject materials without having clear understanding of what I learnt. But nowadays with a lot of progress from the new, changed curricula, the kids should have understood more than my era. I hope this newest curriculum that focus more only 4 subjects will make them much better from this result of the above survey.

    Tearchers and distctict education officers, pls read this article and treat the students radically, in positive ways.

  • andih

    Hii

    Thank for reporting your finding on Indonesian’s education. I also not sure about our achievement of education in PKH (conditional cash transfer programs).

    I have you can send me the article, therefore we can discuss it deeper to make better policy on education.

    Andi H
    Head of Poverty and Welfare
    State Secretary
    Jakarta

    • bruce

      @Andi, From what I saw during the time I lived in Indonesia, students were expected to memorize rather than understand what they were learning and how it applied to their lives. In North America we would learn only a little bit, and then learn how to apply it, and then learn a little bit more and learn how to apply it, and student ability and understanding improved.

      Rich kids that pay for their high marks and private schools that inflate their marks to improve their reputation are much of the problem. Under Suharto, the only knowledge the majority of students gained in school was civics and their personal religion.

      I just returned from Indonesia after 16 years trying to explore traditional life and would have loved to help develop a GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT Indo-centric English program.

      Indonesian Immigration is making it very hard for those of us who love Indonesia to stay–there used to be 9 busy expat teachers at my school, and now there’s only 1. . . . I’m sure you could find LOTS of expats that would be thrilled with an opportunity to help develop a suitable Indonesian curriculum that included western methodologies. But I myself was never able to find that route.

      English-fluent Indonesians that remain in Indonesia are not interested in teaching. . . . they want English to guarantee them a good job and remain in control of the unskilled workers that make them rich.

    • Patricia

      Coming from a “Head of Poverty & Welfare”, your comment is ridiculous.

  • Rizal

    So, why does China only measure student in Shanghai and not in Kashgar? If Indonesia only measure the student in Jakarta or Yogyakarta, then I would think the results will be different. The reality is there is a big gap between Jakarta and Papua, just like between Shanghai and Xinjiang. Comparing Indonesia and Shanghai may be problematic.

    • Broto

      Great point! I also was looking for over-all China data. However, even IF China could drop to last (I don’t think so), still Indonesia’s scores will be VERY bad. They do not change, just the ranking. We all want the scores of Indonesia to improve, to improve the future of Indonesia, and to improve the future of the next graduates!

  • Comparing Indonesia with Singapore, or Malaysia, or some other small-population countries, that’s not only an unfair comparison, but also wrong and misleading. Singapore’s population is less than a fifth of that in Jakarta. Comparing Singapore to West Jakarta might be a good one, or Malaysia to greater Jakarta.

    This report, eventhough worrisome, is sometimes contradictive with how indonesian students dominate science olympiads for years. Indonesian education system is certainly not best in the world, and Indonesia has lots and huge challenges and difficulties in developing education sector, but generalizing that Indonesian kids are ‘stupid’ (im quoting the tittle) is very misleading and dangerous. Not only foreigners will skip Indonesia as edu destination, but also ‘promoting those score-better countries’ for indonesians to send their kids to study to.

    Tricky, isnt it?

    • JakartaBoy

      akhyaree, whenever people compare Indonesia to Singapore or Malaysia, someone gets up and says “It’s not fair to compare, those countries are smaller.” So, what you are saying is that you could get a better education system in Indonesia by dividing the country into, say, 100 small, independent countries? Each with its own education and health system? Hmm, good luck.

      And how would you explain the fact that Indonesia’s educational system compares extremely badly with India’s, when India is actually BIGGER than Indonesia?

    • JakartaBoy

      Incidentally, akhyaree, your statement that “Singapore’s population is less than a fifth of that in Jakarta” is seriously wrong. Singapore has a population of slightly more than five million. It’s a bit hard to estimate Jakarta’s population, it depends on where you draw the lines (Do you count Bogor and Bekasi or not?). Even so, 25 million would be about double the largest estimate. The official estimate is somewhere around 10 million, or double.

      Maybe we could set that as one of the questions on the next PISA test?

    • Rivan

      akhyaree, it’s not really that tricky, actually.

      Indonesia’s “domination” in science olympiads is not a reflection of our education system; it’s a reflection of Indonesia’s excellent talent scouting system and a feature of big number statistics. We have about 50 million students in primary and secondary education. About 10 million of them are in senior secondary. So we have a pool of 10 million kids from which we pick twenty who excell in math and science. 20 out of 10 million. So all we have to do is pick the farthest point to the right of the normal distribution curve–the best 0.00002%. Statistically speaking, those at the top 0.00002% will very likely excell no matter how crappy the education they receive at school.

      And enough of this whining over it’s unfair to compare Indonesia with S’pore or why China only includes Shanghai in the test. You know what, forget about comparing us to other countries entirely (which by extension of logic we shouldn’t make reference to science olympiads, either). Focus on what the test says about the learning outcomes of OUR students on AVERAGE. 75% of our 15 year-olds can’t even tell if 1.783 is smaller than 1.79. THAT’s what we need to worry about.

      • And to say that Indonesia “dominates” the science competitions would be incorrect as well. Lots of people misunderstand this due to how the medals are awarded at the mathematics or physics competitions. While in news we heard about Indonesian snapping medals, the reality is there are hundreds other medalists from other countries. The medals are awarded based on scores attained. So if you hit certain score, you’d get gold medal, slightly lower you’d get silver medal, and then after that would be bronze. Gold medalists are not necessarily the champion; there are dozens of gold medalist in each IPhO, and probably hundreds of gold medalists in each IMO. While attaining those gold medals are impressive nonetheless, it is nowhere near ‘dominating’ the competitions, not even among ASEAN countries; Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam have generally done better than us.

    • Selly

      While I agree to your point that this report seemed to ignore the fact that a lot of Indonesian students dominate science competition, I think this is not an unfair comparison. This report shows that although Indonesian students excels in competition, Indonesia’s education system still have a big gap between groups of the students. The questions in national exams nowadays seems to be too easy, and even with that standard, there are still lots of students who failed to pass it while others excels brilliantly, getting perfect scores. I think Indonesia needs a better education system to improve its students’ education level evenly, rather than lowering the exam standard just to make the exams easier to pass.

    • Glenn

      What about comparing Indonesia to China? Would that be fair?

    • Deni

      Statistically, it is a very unfair and misleading argument to just state the small amount out of the significance of the research. To debate against this, one should alter the thinking into neutral state and face the reality of what is really going on. From what I have seen and experienced through my education since elementary until now in the 7th term of Undergraduate program in the university, there are many contributing factors that can be additionally researched later on for the conclusion of the research. The sources would be highly involve the participation of the government itself in controlling the social welfare of Indonesia, which mainly consists of the education system throughout the country.

      In psychological term, every individual, especially children in their primary levels, need a very careful guidance from their closest people (e.g. parents, friends, etc) to direct them against what should be allowed to be done and what should not be allowed. The ignorance of this suggestion can be fatal since the reliance of approval against their actions are completely paid by null attention from the ones who are responsible for taking care of such understandings. When this happens, the continuing results would have been occurred in their school activities where the awareness level of adults in observing the interactions of the children would be highly insignificant to affect the children’s decisions in their minds.

      Social groups are the most influencing parts for human minds as we are considered as social beings that rely heavily on others. A complexity of interactions would happen when a bond of trust has been made amongst the individuals. It is then very likely possible that every statement, including suggestion, advices, and recommendations coming from every individual of the social group would be more preferred than the others. This is what would happen when parents didn’t pay a careful attention on their children, overly assuming about how kids don’t think well as adults do, but that assumption is actually a main problem of everything that has happened. Kids become more trusting to their friends rather than trusting what their parents said. “Don’t study, it’s boring. Why are you studying? It’ll make you dumb. Trust me, I’m your friend.” The key point in here is the importance of prioritizing the advices and words coming from those who are really care about us, that is, generally, our parents, rather than our friends or social groups. It is already natural that such thinking cannot be forced instantly when mistakes have been done in the past.

      Therefore, the only remedy for this problem, is the emerging new thoughts for the future families and the teachers to think that children, at their young age of infinite possibilities for thoughts, should be carefully guided and paid fully on their attentions of knowledge, since it is the only determinant of what they are going to be in the future.

  • I don’t usually comment on articles like this (I prefer to observe), but when I do, that speaks a lot.

    To Mr. Andi H commenting above, whoever claimed yourself as a staff of a government division (State Secretary)..
    Please, your failed English and comprehension is the very example of how broken the system in our country is right now. How you got the job in the first place with such lack of skills (basic skills by the way) baffled me.
    That, and you’re supposed to be one of the people responsible to take care of the country’s poor people and their welfare? Yeah right.

  • Its a shame really that Indonesian get so low result in the math test.

    However, out of curiosity, i did my own acid test in our school using the 6 example question in small class of 12 students ( our class contain only 12/class)

    the result is really far different from the result from PISA, where we got
    Level 1 : 10/12
    Level 2 : 10/12
    Level 3 : 11/12
    Level 4 :4/12
    Level 5 : 3/12
    Level 6 : 1/12

    when we discuss the problem, the main difficulty is english, Math is not the real problem
    their mistakes are more on understanding the questions,
    I wonder whether the test is using english or Indonesian language?

  • indonesiankid

    Totally agree with @akhyaree. You cannot generalize all Indonesian kids are stupid, maybe this Elizabeth Pisani the author is a fucking moron.

    • tiara

      don’t call yourself as indonesiankid if you couldn’t keep your mouth, share your comment with a good language or you just prove the author is right, your anger must be delivered with a good state that prove the author is wrong

  • Bunk

    High pass threshold for exams + painfully easy exams = 99.7% pass rate in the UN, with students scoring on average 70%+. Dirgahayu Indonesia!

  • Scotty

    Fascinating. I got straight A’s in high school math in Australia, however when I started university in Indonesia, I had the worst math in the class. The math which I had covered in Australia didn’t go past basic algebra, whereas the IPS students starting university with me already had matrix algebra and pre-calc, and some of the IPS students had strong calc. So while the average 15 year-old may be struggling, it would not seem to follow that the average university entrant is particularly handicapped.

    • Rivan

      And that, Scotty, is because the Indonesian education system acts like a giant strainer and the overwhelming majority of the population falls through the crack. We currently have a universal primary education system, but they slowly dropping out of the system until only less that half of those kids graduate senior high. Of those, who do graduate senior high, only half continues to university level. If you went to a good university in Indo, then you most likely met with the creme de la creme of that already privileged group. Your friends in college were not “the average university entrant;” they were those who got through a lifetime of screening process. Again, this is big number statistics. When you have a student population of 50 million, there’s bound to be several hundred thousands who are, by virtue of statistics, very, very good.

  • ouda

    What about if the stupid person is the one who asked the questions?
    The title of this article is so feudalistic with colonial point of view, a kind of derogatory…

  • Sam

    I also agree it’s not really a fair comparison. Why only Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macao in mainland China which are compared? Where are the other PRC’s districts? Are they not included because they will lower the score of PRC’s?
    To be fair, should we compare Shanghai with Jakarta. I think the result won’t be that distinct.

    But, let this report warn us about our problematic education systems. I guess that the main problem is in the distribution. Children outside big cities, especially those in remote areas and eastern Indonesia, are far from high-qualified schools and teachers.

    I also quite unsure about the quality of Indonesia’s new curriculum (2013 curriculum). I think it doesn’t solve the main problem, it will giving less basic knowledge to the students instead.

  • I agree with Akhyaree. Thank you for the information, will be very beneficial for Indonesians. But, Indonesia is a large archipelago, with big population. Moreover, Indonesians just have their freedom in 1945, comparing to most of the country in the chart. It’s not an excuse, but to compare Indonesia with the other is not fair either. And, IMO, adding the term “stupid” for this fact is not fair either..

  • I agree to the perspective of Akhyaree, that national achievements and competitive values does NOT necessarily weight upon the Math Score or best in physics. Indonesia as a nation has been a resilient nation, the people have proved its important roles in its regional as well as international playground on some areas.

    It is indeed that such statistics should be an alarming stage that folks in the government & educational sector shall further take serious measures. On another note, every Indonesian has the same weight of shared responsibility to ensure that their contribution regardless of social strata and role in the society to continue educating their closest circle so the statistics shall never remain the same over time and take this into consideration of respective active engagement for community-based corrective action.

    Educating the nation is NOT entirely all government’s job – it is ours, as well. I have seen many and increasingly more younger generation got engaged into community based activities that support improvement measures, from such “Taman Bacaan, Akademi Berbagi, Indonesia Mengajar, and so forth..”

    Not all countries are created equally, Indonesia has numerous priorities as national education has been one of the agenda. At the same time quality of our leadership and policy determine much of our national educational achievements. Rather than nagging all the time, the question to ask now is: “What do I do or what have I done to change the situation..??”

    Those kids may not realize this as no one cared enough to point out the right or correct way..
    Those kids may not be aware what went wrong when the quality of education made available to them were second best..

    Perhaps those kids did not realize that the national policy were made at unequal competition between the state sponsored schools against the private ones..

    Perhaps the subsidies should be better managed all these years to ensure that the national educational system were to be as competitive they can be to sustain global penetration of western and/or private education schools operating in Indonesia under the name of ‘equal competition’.

    Above mentioned are not meant to argue the fact that we have an existing alarming situation, but as Indonesians – let us unite and do something to change this for better rather than becoming overly critical.

    Have I been empowering the larger crowd…? – The legacy of each Indonesian are subject to question by the succeeding one..

  • boed

    Kindly share:
    (a) the research methodology, sampling method, and sample size for each country (esp. Indonesia), please.
    (b) the research design to eliminate contextual biases (e.g. the use of ‘.’ instead of ‘,’ etc)
    (c) the result of the validity and reliability tests of the instruments.

    The report is less than useful unless all the above concerns had been addressed properly. And we, readers, are very keen to know about it, since I can’t find it in the website.

    B oe d
    Yogyakarta

  • Evy

    For many this report might seem unreal as some have compared it with the olympiade medals we keep receiving. The wool over their eyes is olympiade pargicipants are special kids trainef outside of the ordinary. The common kids only know at the most, 1/10 of what the olympiade participants. The condition is really worrying, alas report like this seems to fall on deaf ears.

  • edy

    itu ngasih pertanyaanya ke anak2 pake bahasa apa?

  • Muhammad Ardhin

    This is a fucking retarded article

    Indonesian kids are smart, especially in terms of maths and science
    When I was a kid, I went to an International School in Malaysia, Sri Utama International School
    The students in that school came from all parts of the world. I have many African friends, Indian friends, and even American and European Friends. I don’t have to mention Asian though

    Back then, there are also many Indonesian students, from many parts of Indonesia. And you know what? The Indonesians ALWAYS ranked top 5, and we are especially brilliant in maths, compared to other students. This phenomena can be observed across all primary school level in my old school

    In other words, fuck you, you are making us Indonesian feel stupid and bad

  • Muhammad Ardhin

    This is a very bad and full-of-lies article

    Indonesian kids are smart, especially in terms of maths and science
    When I was a kid, I went to an International School in Malaysia, Sri Utama International School
    The students in that school came from all parts of the world. I have many African friends, even American and European Friends. I don’t have to mention Asian though

    Back then, there are also many Indonesian students, from many parts of Indonesia. And you know what? The Indonesians ALWAYS ranked top 5, and we are especially brilliant in maths, compared to other students. This phenomena can be observed across all primary school level in my old school

    In other words, you are making us Indonesian feel stupid and bad

    • sabrina

      One school doesn’t proof anything.

    • Joni

      Muhammad Ardhin, you should go to Papua and look how the schools at there look like. Papua, NTT, Maluku are also part of Indonesia. Even if couldn’t go there due to distance, just look at the countryside near Jakarta: Karawang, Subang, Banten & Garut. These are facts, don’t be too naive to think all Indonesians smart. Look at how stupid the politicians are managing our country. Look at how poverty, terrorism, criminality, and unemployment is rising. Too many retards in Indonesia.

      I think it’s only you who feel that this article makes you look stupid. For me, this article confirms the fact of how the government and parents aren’t doing well in raising the young generations.

      PS: I’m Indonesian & I agree with this article.

  • Elizabeth Pisani

    I’m glad to see such an interesting discussion. A couple of responses:
    China does not participate nationally: there are samples reported separately for Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei. Though I agree with those who point out that ranking is not really the point. The point is that overall, Indonesia’s school system is currently failing to equip children with the basic mathematical and scientific skills they need to excel in the modern world.

    Yes,the situation is much worse in rural Eastern Indonesia than in Java or the Kota Propinsi nationwide. I have written about this before here and here.

    PISA tests are performed in the language of instruction, i.e. Bahasa Indonesia, and are indeed adapted to local norms, e.g. using 1,79 rather than 1.79 where that is the common national usage.

    The full technical manual for the 2012 round has not yet been published, but sampling and other methods are comparable with the previous round, 2009, which is described in detail in the documents available here.

    Anyone who wants to check out their assumptions can access the whole dataset.

    A couple of interesting findings I didn’t mention in my post: Indonesia scores quite well on measures of gender equity, and it is one of the few countries where children at state schools marginally out-perform students at schools that are classified as private. [Interpretation: even though the school system is crap, at least it is more or less evenly crap.] At first I found that surprising; some of the better-resourced private schools in Indonesia are turning out first rate students. Perhaps it is related to the fact that many schools run by religious foundations who place less emphasis on maths and science are also private?

  • thatguy

    I usually don’t care about commenting on ANYTHING but as an indonesian I feel the need of saying something. Probably no one gonna care anyway eventually. I studied until year 12 in indonesia. We were forced to cramp 14 subjects in our head and expected to pass everything… so an interest into one or two subjects and only study those subject is a guarantee fail… so what did i do? I memorised everything and cheat the one that i think just way to hard to memorise – it is mandatory for us to remember all math, chemistry and physic formula, and i thought that this is not helping anyone to be smarter (and no calculator – all has to be calculated manually). Dont get me wrong, i was rank one in my class of 45 people…. and believe me all those 9/10 mark didn’t make any of the knowledge stick after the prom… I pity my artistic friends that were talented in art and music… some of them couldn’t even finish high school…. and society judge them as if they were useless… another aftermath from our educational standard. Oh, another thing parents here in indonesia also not encouraging (not all of course)… for instance, i liked math, but practical math not calculus type math… i didn’t like science (mostly because i have to memorize formula)… my parents were ok for me to go to non science year 12… but not other parents… we have people that hated the subject and not qualified in the science class but forced by the society to take the science class because is highly prestigious, and guess what… most of them didn’t even go to a science major in their uni… what a waste of time and potential really…

    now i’m a parent… and my friend’s children already enrolled in preschool at a tender age of 2 because they all say school these days have become even harder so they gotta start young… well good luck indonesia, seriously we don’t change we are going to be a country full of matematician that can’t use math to make a better indonesia…

  • Figaro

    I believe it is due to the bad education system instead of the quality of the children them self. In fact, for the last decades Indonesian students have dominated the Science Olympics. Some of them came from the remote rural area and were considered to be “very stupid” before enrolling the Science Olympics training center.

  • Pradipta

    Thank you for doing research on our (Indonesia) education system issue. I believe you as the author conduct the study design according all the rule given. I personally wanna say that the title is a little bit too provocative that people tend to feel irritated regardless of the article content. If what you wrote in the article is true (which i actually doubt were we really that stupid) than my country do have serious issue in education system and I’d be really grateful if you did find solution to the issue in addition to do observational study only. Thank you

  • hanif

    I’m wondering, why the table shows Hong Kong, Shanghai, Macau to represent China as a country. Chinese education is crap as well, but it looks so damn great if we look at only at those cities.
    http://www.thechinaexpat.com/whats-wrong-with-chinas-secondary-education-system/

    Indonesia has very large area with 17,500 islands. If China is allowed to “send” 3 cities to represent the nation, why Indonesia isn’t? It’s not fair, is it. Why Indonesia cannot be represented by its metropolitan cities where students receive much much better education.

    Or may be, the table is “made in China”

  • depokpasserby

    Just leave child’s from other countries to study here in Indonesian, they’ll know why u call us stupid with that Data u’re given to us

  • Stevanus Kristianto Nugroho

    Are you forgot who always got a gold medal in a international Olympiad of Science? Even though it is Astronomy or Physics, but they are really good at Math. And in Math Olympic too, they always succeed to got a medal.

    • Matt B

      You realize that significant numbers of Europeans, North Americans, and Japanese do not participate in these olympiads. The smartest students from these areas are immediately picked up by universities, or the private and public sectors. Why would those students want an award when they can go immediately into the best programs worldwide or start working for the best companies/government agencies?

  • Half-Foreigner

    As a current medical student who has been receiving education in the US, Germany and Indonesia, I really could understand what the author is trying to say. The keyword on these studies is “average”.

    In the reality, Indonesia is so centralized so that we cannot assume the image of Indonesia’s educational system as good as those of Jogjakarta, Bandung or Jakarta. There are still millions of kids who can’t even read in Papua, Sulawesi, Ambon or Kalimantan. Although other factors (for example : understanding English) could also play a great role in the result of the test. Maybe the kids in villages do know that 1.82 is greater than 1.783, but they didn’t understand what was asked in the question.

    In the other hand, the educational system in the U.S. is also flawed. If any of you has taken the SAT (standard admission test) for U.S. universities, you’ll know what I am talking about. SAT should be taken by high school students who want to pursue the education in the university level. According to Americans, the math is the hardest part of it. But I personally think the math is so easy. Even my niece, who is currently still in a primary school in Jakarta, can answer all of the questions correctly.

    And also in Germany, which is above average in the diagram above. Even in math exams, they are allowed to use calculators, which in Indonesia is not the case. I know it doesn’t say anything about educational system. But if 2 students take the exact same exam and only one of them is allowed to use calculators, it would be like a marathon race with a motorcycle.

    In my opinion, it is still a legit study though. But one should see how logical the interpretation is.

  • Aduh sayang sekali bahasanya kok how stupid they are.. Apa karena anak-anak Indonesia tidak banyak yang bisa memahami bahasa Inggris, jadi dibilang stupid juga tidak apa-apa? T_T

    Artikelnya sebenernya menarik. Saya juga baca beberapa artikel di detik.com mengenai test PISA ini beberapa waktu yang lalu. Saya sempat memikirkan kemamuan akademis anak-anak saya dan googling pengen tahu seperti apa testnya.

    Tapi setelah membaca halaman ini, saya jadi bersyukur saya-ketika-masih-anak2 dan anak-anak saya termasuk yang ‘stupid’, daripada pintar matematika, pintar sains, dan memiliki kemampuan berbahasa yang baik, tapi memilih kata ‘stupid’ untuk mendeskripsikan orang lain.

    Yah setidaknya, menurut PISA, Indonesia merupakan negara peringkat pertama siswa yang paling bahagia di sekolah. http://m.detik.com/news/read/2013/12/04/164750/2432609/10/ini-5-negara-yang-siswanya-paling-bahagia-di-sekolah-indonesia-nomor-1

    #lostfocusgara-garajudul

  • trespasser

    Hello people. I think it doesn’t matter whether or not China is a country with the best education system. The point is that we have been given a warning that our education system is ‘not-so-good’, so why don’t we reflect and introspect about our education system?

  • Fadli Hermawan

    I understand this survey was just to show comparison between students’ proficiency in mathematics around the countries. Indonesia was the lowest (I’m surprised too, contradictive with another survey which said that Indonesia’s students is the happiest), so we think that there is something wrong with Indonesia’s education system (maybe, specifically in teaching mathematics?). But, to conclude that Indonesian kids are generally stupid just based on this survey… I think it’s relative. Who knows that they are better in other subjects? Can you see from the data above that Finland’s students ranked 8 for proficiency in mathematics? If you read some articles, Finland is the best country for their education system.

  • Y.T

    If u wanna make something so called OBSERVATION in indonesia, then u must pick samples in ALL the cities around… If u just took it from the rural area, how can u assume that it can be representative? U can always check the students of indonesia who went aboard for studies and see how they do in math and science in their respective university/college/school and u may even be more astonished with the results, that i can promise

  • derott

    hello people, i think the question is so very easy to answered by every stupid people in this world, so indonesian kids not so stupid enough to answer it correctly, haha they are just kidding, and i think they are smarter than you with your dumb question, regards !

  • stupid indonesian kid #1

    Based on your article, you generalized Indonesian kids’ intelligence by their abilities to solve math problems, aren’t you just that kind of old-fashioned person who judge kids’ intelligence only by their academic skills? Do you want Indonesian kids to solve loads of math or science problems and become robots in the future? Come on.. What we see in the future is all about innovations, what we really need is to develop our creativity.. and since the earth became a worse place day by day, we all need to utilize more common sense and tolerance.

    I found your article very irony. You seemed like you did not want Indonesian kids to apply much religious ideology in their academic studies, meanwhile you forgot about a simple thing called ‘common sense’ (well, in my opinion, ppl who don’t believe in religious so much would always go with common sense). What PISA tried to question the Indonesian kids actually is not a Math question, it is purely basic common sense. I can say I’m VERY STUPID in Math and I could be that INDONESIAN STUPID KID (I am always that one student who got the least score of Math in class). But please note that I could answer that PISA question above.

    However, what’s the fuss with being judged as smart or stupid anyway, if those MATHEMATICALLY STUPID KIDS can live to help others, NOT ONLY to live to get good grades academically then end up working in big companies and get loads of money only for themselves?

  • stupid indonesian kid #1

    Well it could be the education system! I enjoyed studying Math in class ONLY if the teachers are not such as*holes. TOO BAD most of my Math teachers were SO INTIMIDATING, they seemed like they’re GENIUS by giving their students very hard questions. They were happy psychos when they are giving hard times to students. And when they found a smarta** kid who could do the math.. they would keep on supporting that kid and FORGET about the mathematically stupid kids (aren’t they so genius they couldn’t even decide which student needs their supports?)

  • Interested observer

    Dear Indonesians,
    Stop playing the victim card. This country is flawed and the education system is awful. Most of my uni students can’t do basic math or form an original thought. Your society forces kids into a narrow-minded box. God help them when ASEAN opens up in 2015. Indonesia should get used to being a loser.

    • MathKiller

      Mr. Interested Observer,
      If you are in the Usa. Then I suggest you look at how stupid your american students are jn math class. wow. whoo. whee. I’m and Indonesian, and jn the other colleges and universities, students that were “STUPID” dominated the top 1% of the class. Maybe you should notice by now, but ASEAN is a collection of the brightest countries in the world. They will be fighting on equal footing. Maybe you might want a front seat row and bite on your nails if the Indonesians aren’t the “LOSERS” you think they are. Good day to you sir.

  • Patricia

    While I like the points presented in the article, I don’t like how the author presents the wrapping. “Stupid”? Oh fuck no, Indonesian kids are NOT stupid. In fact, I can say that many Indonesians are supposed to be smart, especially if you take the nutrition consumptions of the general population (from our traditional ingredients) into account. There is a clear fine line between between Stupid and Uneducated, girlfriend, and yeah I’m calling the author out ’cause reading the headline really ticks me off. Please choose your words carefully and don’t make us feel worse than we already do.

    On the other hand, this article really opens up the reality of inequality that our education system poses. I’m not even going to complain about the government not doing their job because someone really has to bang their heads (or lack thereof) to their million-dollar office desks to make them realize how… evil their doings have been.

    And I hope this article, sans the misleading title, serves as many Indonesians like me who went abroad to pursue education. Please, please remember that your country needs you. I know that for some of us it’s hard to even think of giving back to the country (we Chinese descendants are not exactly cared about) but you can help make Indonesia a better place for your families and people around you. I believe my beloved Indonesia will have a good future, and I hope all of us Indonesians can be a part of it.

    • Elizabeth Pisani

      Patricia, your response makes me very proud. You are right, of course, to call me out on the title (many others have done the same, and they are all quite right to). I was being deliberately provocative because I was angered that this reminder of the failings of Indonesia’s educational system was being so roundly ignored. I happen to be in the UK at the moment and there was blanket coverage of what the PISA results said about the melt-down in our educational system. In Indonesia, with results that are so much more worrying: total silence. If all that it takes for people to take some notice is to run the risk of being thought (and called) a moron, it seems like a small price to pay.

      Of COURSE I do not think Indonesian children are stupid. But I do think they are being very, very badly failed by a system which treats teaching jobs as an opportunity to dole out patronage, which sets standards so very low, which demands so little of children, and which fails to nurture their creativity and problem-solving capacities in any way. I am disappointed, too, that parents and taxpayers don’t demand more of the system. The situation in the remoter parts of the country, from Pulau Banyak to Enarotali, is ghastly. I have more than once visited schools teeming with children, where not one teacher has bothered to turn up. You are right, your country NEEDS you, and the hundreds of thousands of other bright energetic young people who have managed to educate themselves despite the failings of the system. It needs you first and foremost to demand more of the system, and to contribute to meeting that demand.

      • Patricia

        Hey there, Ms. Pisani! Thanks for replying to my comment and clarifying the title (and please forgive me for the profanities; will never be writing half-asleep again). You had a good point when you said the results are ignored. This kind of thing deserves some national coverage. Are people really not bothered by this? Because I was quite furious. I went to a private school as may have been expected, but I heard stories about the public schools from their students, and I have to say… God please help our govt.

        And guys, if you’re going to argue with the article, at least be concerned of what the results are saying first – that some of our nation’s kids are THAT uneducated.

  • Could you explain the techniques that been used by PISA?? At first it is unfair to compare with China that represented by Shanghai. It is like Jakarta in Indonesia which its education far better than Papua. Why they didn’t take sample in northwestern of China??

    Besides that the question is not relevant with our culture. Engine capacity with strange kind of car?? please don’t kidding me. Why the question didn’t adapt with local culture??

    I think the statistic method on this research is totally biased.

    • janne

      There are cars in Indonesia, you know ! And motorbikes ,farm machinery and so on. if you think Indoneisan culture doesnt involve this you are completely out of step! You are using INTERNET!!!

      TWO THINGS strike me here- no one has looked at the issue of teachers pay- terrible- so no incentives to push children forward-overcrowded, ill euqipped classrooms- these serve to underpin the failing syetem as well.

      The annoyance of being compared to china raises issues of many Indonesians racists attitude towards the Chinese- whether they are Indonsian chinese or not.

      There is ignorance in many of the responses which i would take as astrong signal of a flawed system as students/respondees don’t know how to think or make critical judgements inferences and so lookto the titl only- rather than the meat on the bones. Read tghe article- not just the title!

  • Irsal

    Don’t worry too much. Lacking of math and science skills means you have more chance to become a successful CEO:).
    “My experience and that of many of my friends and colleagues who have tried recruiting Singaporeans in this income bracket does not bear this out.

    “The other weak area is reasoning and critical thinking skills… Many Singaporeans looked great on paper but had great difficulty with case interviews where one needs to think on one’s feet. …………………… here even someone who has trouble stringing together two sentences sees himself as a marketing manager in a multinational corporation (MNC).

    http://www.singapolitics.sg/views/do-sporean-workers-deserve-their-wages

  • neishu

    stupid is a hard word.

  • Chris Hoy

    Just to give input, I believe its the wrong idea to title this article as “Indonesian kids don’t know how stupid they are” Its more of an issue that the government should put forth more attention on education. Instead of stupid it more appropriate to say ignorant. Im half Indonesian and it does not limit my capacity for education. Whoever titled this article based on the residual plot as well as other statistics is morally ignorant.

  • nisa

    Is this a valid research? When did the reasearch take place? Where and how did you manage to do your research? By giving questionaire? What research methode did you use? Do you know how many 15 y.o. kids live in Jakarta only and how many 15y.o. live in Indonesia? Do you know your minimum sample? Once again, is this a valid research? Thanks

    • Elizabeth Pisani

      The PISA surveys are carried out every three years by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The links I embedded in the post will take you to detailed descriptions of the methodology, as well as the results. Read the technical reports and judge for yourself whether the research is valid. (Atau perlu di kasih suap terus?)

  • Just curious if the question changed from

    Alpha: 1.79
    Bolte: 1.796
    Castel: 1.82
    Dezal: 1.783

    to

    Alpha: 1,79
    Bolte: 1,796
    Castel: 1,82
    Dezal: 1,783

    :)

  • Netti

    Stupid and westing my energy reading this article. We are not the best but we are NOT fucking stupid people. By the way, Ilmu is not Science, Ilmu is knowledge. Be careful using the word “STUPID”. Its harsh!!

  • Juwitha yg lg Muak Banget

    maaf, Indonesia ini sangat kaya, orgnya pun sangat pintar di segala bidang bahkan dlm hal penipuan sangat ahli, tp tidak semua, yg bodoh jg tdk smua, yg muak juga g smua.. sangking beragamnya bahkan bahasapun beragam..
    pelajari budaya baru mengerti (* contoh: perhatikan kalimat ini “saya ingin menyatu dengan kalian” memiliki arti sangat jauh berbeda bagi salah satu suku d papua, jk tdk tahu budaya mrk mk kalimat ini berakibat fatal!)
    semua, apapun itu pastiy ad + n -
    skolah terbentur kurikulum, ad nilay dasar 60 SD, 40 SMP, 20 SMA ini kebijakan aneh, tiap tahun peraturan brubah, guru pusing, ortu bingung palagi siswa? guru g kompeten asal dtrima krn pny ijasah S1, S2 dll padahal punya ijasah belum tentu MAMPU MENGAJAR apalagi MENDIDIK.. blum lagi campur tangan ortu k skolah (pjg critanya klo tahu scr detil)
    ini smua kek lingkaran setan yg trus berputar..
    kembali k individu masing2 apakah mampu bertahan n kluar dr lingkaran tsb dg slalu tetap menjaga kewaspadaannya..
    hal yg BAIK d ambil n dKEMBANGKAN yg buruk d buang n d lupakan..
    jika mampu untuk terus konsisten spt itu setiap individunya, gw yakin INDONESIA ku akan jadi NEGARA No 1 di dunia..
    memang tidak mudah namun butuh pengorbanan n perjuangan dan butuh diawali
    saya memulai dr diri sendiri, mempengaruhi lingkungan sekitar, meski kecil tanpa arti tp msh ad setitik harapan indah entah kapan itu..
    yg salah sudah diingatkan namun byk yg msh bebal ini realita..
    kita g mampu mengubah org lain jd kita ubah diri kita msg2
    yg mau maju monggo majulah n berkembanglah
    contoh yg baik2 dan berikan contoh yg baik2
    jadikan hal2 buruk itu sbagai pemicu kita tuk lebih baik lagi bukannya saling menyalahkan
    survey yg jelek itu ayo kita do sumthin’ better jdkan pelajaran berharga wad kita lbh baik tiap harinya..
    negara China negara miskin di dunia dulunya, mrk jg berjuang cukup lama untuk bangkit n tdk mudah..
    Indonesiapun Saya YAKIN Bisa! entah kapan..
    sy tetap berharap smogha para ‘TIKUS’ cpt sadar! Pendidikan jg dbuat ‘Bisnis’ pribadi
    memang ad yg salah dg sistem kita, sy tahu itu namun g mampu mengubah mereka yg diatas, sy hny mampu mengubah diri sendiri, mendidik kluarga sendiri n lingkungan sekitar tuk jd lbh baik tanpa menyalahkan sistem
    memang muak namun mo gimana lagi? tetap hrs diawali..
    mohon maaf jika ad kata yg salah

    Don’t compare your life to others
    And Don’t judge them
    You have no idea what their journey is all about

  • I tried to answer some of the Math-test myself, and surprisingly found them tricky for a junior high school test. Some of the questions I realized I found the answer beyond formal education at school but rather taken from my own experience like the folding paper, selling item and discount, etc. Yes, these are tricky questions… hahaha. It reminds me of UMPTN test back at senior high school (different level of difficulties), simple question with tricky answer and several possibilities of how-to-find-the-answer.

    I hope that you can share the translated version of this PISA Test, and let the teachers do this test for their students and let them find the result and have their own thought about what have they taught at class.

  • Hari

    NOW – what are we going to do about it! Any solution ????

  • Bangun

    At first, i was offended by the title, but the more i read the more it makes sense. Generally speaking, it is not weird that Indonesians in rural areas which came from household with income less than $400/month (which most of indonesian is) scored that bad in this test. Can you imagine, if you born in a middle low class family, would you bother to study hard or instead you just finding ways to earn extra income to feed your family ? Not mentioning the catastrophic failure of education system, which makes most of the high school graduates in Indonesia don’t even know what is the purpose of their study. I was born and raised in Indonesia, i earned both of my high school diploma and undergraduate degree in public school. I do realized that even the best public school in Indonesia does not have standardized system (even they have it they don’t actually use it). All i’m trying to say is that statistically speaking, the inequality in Indonesia seems increasing as the economy growing, and the most worrying part is this inequality has become a multidimensional problem which not only in economic sector but also in education. (just checked the increasing gini coefficient if you guys don’t believe me)

    As most of the people in this discussion came from middle upper to affluent class (at least you guys afford to learn english or even studying abroad), it is not fair to say that those Indonesians that received good education in international or expensive private school (> Rp 500k/month) are representing Indonesia as a whole. At last, the one who suffered is those who can not afford good education as well as those who does not possess the way of thinking that education is the best investment a man can have. I hope this article can remind all of us to care more and share more to Indonesia as we are the people who might have the power to change this.

  • rhinoprit

    cant do math = stupid? i think this article is created by narrow minded person. every human have positives and negatives, some people better at math, some people better at art, some people better at personality. How can you judge people from mathematic skill? This article is a crap…

    • Angie

      The author and many of us feel that basic maths skill is necessary.

      I beg to differ that “stupid” in this context is not solely judged based on the maths skill, but also science and reading skills.

      It is really difficult to have an objective judgment towards art because it really depends on one’s taste and preference. There is NO “right” or “wrong” answer when it comes to art.

      On the other side of the coin, maths is what you call in Indonesian as “ilmu pasti”, which gives you a fixed correct answer. Hence it is much convenient to put in comparison to judge one’s skill.

      Also, “better at personality” is probably not referred as “smart”, but “wise”. There are different terms that we need to have of clear definition of. It is as directly to intelligence as academics; it is closer to moral values. Hence, in my humblest opinion, it is slightly out of topic.

      Ultimately, I believe this article is intended to serve as a “wake up call” for Indonesians. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve our academics and hence intelligence level. Rather than trying to find excuses, I suggest that we search for the solutions. Thank you :)

  • baghol

    Some of the details that would be interesting to share:
    - if you are able to provide the breakdown by city? Then we may be able to understand the gap between Indonesian with other country better.
    - the curriculum structure from each country compared with PISA set of questions

    I believe this can tell us few reasons if any specific city in Indonesia is able to perform as good as Shanghai or Singapore. Some good schools i believe provide the knowledge beyond curriculum set by government.
    Then may be someone can work out solutions on how to tweak curriculum to bridge this gap…

  • Jimmy Sitorus

    Geez, even European kids are stupid, I have two working here in the factory. I agree that educational system in Indonesia is not matching the needs of the modern world, and there’s gap in between central areas and those in the outskirt, but hey, to design and work-out a ‘perfect educational system’ for every kids in the country that has been corrupted in almost every aspects of life for more than 3 decades by a leader so fucked-up (but yet so supported by the Western cockroaches countries!)is no easy task! And it’s already showing a good track, compared to my era (1980-1993). And I strongly believe that there’s a grand scheme that is put in place to “prevent” a good effective educational system for Indonesian youngsters by the Western powers: what do you think would happen if ALL Indonesia kids are smart, clever and politically aware that their country is SOOOOOO RICH but yet SOOOOOO FUCKED-UP by all the great powers that we are nothing but ‘source of materials’ and ‘market for everything, from CocaCola to educational-concept’, thus stand-up, all say, ‘FUCK YOU, NO MORE!’? What do you think would happen? Indonesia is to be the biggest powerful nation that can dictate its will towards other foreign powers? Most probably, yes! What do you think would happen if suddenly all Papuan kids are smart, effective and politically aware that the Americans have been using their gold-mountain for so long and give them shit in return? What do you think would happen? @Jakartaboy: fuck you,man! Wake the fuck up!

  • rhinoprit

    lol, you delete my comment.. you dare to write but afraid to take consequences of what you said. irresponsible writer… phoooeee…

    • Elizabeth Pisani

      Nggak mampu membaca? Atau pemalas, kali? A Your earlier message was posted, not deleted. I have approved every comment that expresses disagreement with me, deleting only the handful which are directly insulting to other commentators.

  • nimas

    well, you got the attention of Indonesian by calling them stupid :) First of all, if PISA test took

    sample from every province (or proportionally distributed area) in Indonesia, I kind of believe in this

    result.we all know the students in big cities such as Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surabaya are not equal with

    those in eastern and poorer province Indonesia. The science and math olimpiade winner come from these

    big cities. They’re far smarter, because they have better vision of future, they educate themselves

    more, they take course after school (because of the bad educational system in Indonesia, sometimes

    studying in school is not enough). When I was still in high school, I took a look at SAT and a test

    from Germany to enter university ( I forget the name), and they were way easier than what we got here

    (SNMPTN, UM UGM, SIMAK UI,etc), I believe many students in these big cities could pass that thest with

    good score without any difficulty (maybe just the language), But, in eastern and poorer province, or

    district, the students don’t have that kind of luxury, their vision of the future, their motivation to

    study, and their priorities is not education.Education is not the first of government priorities.

    They’re not stupid, they’re not well-educated. In Papua, many students can’t even read in 6th grade.

    So, if the PISA took sample from various province (or proportionally distributed area) in Indonesia,I

    believe this is the same kind of result we’ll get. I takes time and a lot of efforts to bring every

    Indonesian student in every province to the same level, but it’s not impossible if more of Indonesian

    concern to this issue. we can’t always blame the government, we know they all got fucked up brain and

    moral, we just should act more to help Indonesia. :) and thanks to the author for the provocative

    title, you got what you want. I’m sorry if my comment is posted twice, because I got a bad signal here :|

    • indonesianstudent

      touche!

      at last, a sensible comment to picture the education system!

      When I was in high school (jakarta), there was a girl. She was transferred from public school to our private catholic school. She was on top 10 of her class in the public school (out of 40s or 50s students). In my consideration, education of my high school institution was a crap. But by the end of the year, this girl from public high school graded 27th out of 27 students. It’s still in the same city but she couldn’t even solve simple linear equation.

  • Well, all I can say is that you can always depends on Indonesian to point out the most insignificant and irrelevant point out of everything. And this skill, Miss Pisani, is the proof of how ‘SMART’ we Indonesian ;-)

    Forget about the fact that ‘AVERAGE’ Indonesian student fail to make comparison between number. Forget about how PISA test (yeah, most of us here is to lazy to even search about it) is done and how even a country like US takes the result seriously. Forget about the fact that it is more of a criticism against the provider of the national education system. But the most important thing for most commentator here is DON’T YOU DARE TO COMPARE INDONESIAN WHATEVER WITH OTHER COUNTRY WHATEVER, WE’RE SPECIAL NATION IN THIS WORLD AND PETTY THING LIKE MATH SHOULD NOT BE A BASE TO COMPARE INDONESIA AGAINST OTHER COUNTRY (you’ll see later that most heaven population will made up of Indonesian people, and GOD approves our way of living)

  • Anonymous

    The number of Indonesians who didn’t bother to read (and comprehend) the blog post and previous comments before posting comments here serves as nothing but proof that Indonesian kids are not the only ones who don’t know how stupid they are, but their adult counterparts as well.

    Don’t get me wrong. Like Elizabeth, I never think Indonesians are stupid. I am just trying to point out that posting comments without first trying to understand what people are saying may somehow leave the impression that you are “stupid”.

    Peace,
    A foreign student who loves Indonesia and considers herself part of Indonesia

  • ER

    Saying that indonesian kids are stupid is rather harsh. it’s a matter of what they have learned and not.

    I am Indonesian, I spent grade 1 to 9 in an Indonesian school and grade 10 to 12 in Australia. Back in Jakarta I can tell you that i am SO bad at maths. But when I transfered to Australia, I was put in an advanced class – based on my skills. what i noticed was, schools in indonesia dont let their students use calculators. but it was quite the opposite at my australian school. the calculator was used frequently. also eventhough it was an enhanced class, the lessons we learnt was quite easy. even with the calculator, the local kids struggled.

    the next year (grade 11), I decided not to continue with the advance class (as i didnt need it for my intended uni course). I went down a level, and ofcourse the problems were easier. with much simpler problems, i still found the local students finding it hard to solve the problems eventhough calculators were used even more frequently and we were allowed to use cheat books or summary books on tests (it’s where we put all the formulas, examples and what not). at one point i thought to myself, “man, i thought I was dumb”. the problems that were being taught, i have learnt in grade 8 in indonesia – without using calculators nor summary books.

    once a gain it’s a matter of what is being taught and not. it doesnt necessarily mean that we are stupid. Maths dont have determine anything.

    i agree with the education system in indonesia being messed up. but honestly, we dont need more maths and science. students should have the rights to choose what they want to study starting year 11, taking subjects that will prepare them for what they want to do after they graduate high school.

  • Angie

    I strongly agree with this article. I have been studying in Singapore for 3 years / since I graduated from junior high school in Indonesia. Therefore, I make a comparison between the education system in Indonesia and Singapore.

    In Indonesia, I need not need to study to pass and excel academically in school. Please take note, my school was a prestigious Catholic school in Bandung, so the standard should be above the average. The national exam was painfully easy. Each subject only posed 40 multiple choice questions, you actually have 25% chance to get it right, without even trying. The questions asked were extremely similar to what we had been given as tutorials in class. I even heard that in the other schools, the invigilators were giving the answer key. As a result, the passing rate was tremendously high i.e. >90%.

    Meanwhile, in Singapore, I need to put extra effort to barely pass every subjects. Some of you may think that it is because of the language barrier because the first language in Singapore is English. It was, at first. But after some time, I can see that the root cause is that mostly the exams pose essay questions. Even if you are blessed with a remarkable memory capacity, you need some sets of skill to answer the questions accurately. THIS is what the majority of Indonesians lack.

    The downside of the education system in Singapore is that the level of competitiveness is really high, bringing about the high level of stress. Hence, I hope that all of us can have a balance i.e. maintaining the level of academic excellence without forsaking the welfare of the students.

    However, I stay firm with my view that Indonesia is lagging far behind where we are supposed to be. I know that Indonesian kids are NOT stupid. We need the financial and moral support to do our best and a better education system uhum and capable nation leaders uhum

  • aldoheda

    Hai kalian saudaraku Inonesian, kalo baca berita ditelaah dulu maksudnya, tulisan ini kayanya bukan utk jatuhin negara kita.. sadar dong, kalian dan anak2 kalian emang cerdas. Tapi ayolah buka mata sedikit.. berapa banyak anak2 kita yg belum cerdas, jgn emosi doangisanya! Gmn anak bisa pinter kalo kt yg tua jg ga bijak dan kurang nalar.. ga smua org cerdas bahkan bule2 dan cina2 di luar sana, tapi kita emang brani bilang negara kita ini yang lebih pintar dari negara lain?? Yaudah lah ranking terakhir artinya kita masih harus saha utk negara kita ini biar pada pinter bukan cm ngomong doang di sini..

  • Deni

    Elizabeth, I really like your research and the OECD contributions to the global community about their country statistics are tremendous acts of doing. I hope that the unnecessary insults of what have been recurring in the previous comments will not let your spirit to continue observe what Indonesia’s educational condition has gone through. As a motivated University student in Economics and Statistics in the Faculty of Economics – University of Indonesia, I respect fully on your research and I hope that you could understand for everything that has been posted here are the actual results that you can see and compare to your research.

    From what I’ve looked in this entire page full of various comments, some or even more of it are simply ignoring or probably not understanding the essence or the main statement of your article description. In my point of view, I take the word ‘stupid’ on your title as something that should be firstly reflected on our minds and taken into considerations before stating the proper responses. Researches can never be wrong because it is always based on true facts. That is what I have learned in my Econometrics class from my amazing lecturer and that is why I am probably the most likely to feel exactly what you have gone through in your research, Elizabeth.

    But I need you to not be provoked by our nation’s uncontrollable emotions. Because all of it are mostly due to the enormous problems we have to face everyday. Correction, take it as governmental problems. Since the regime of our second president, ethics and rational thinking are decreasing significantly throughout the years due to the generalization of bribery of corruption made by the president himself. It has been carried out since then along with the ignorance to the people’s desire for good livings in every province. According to the Poverty Division of World Bank in Indonesia, poverty and inequality growth has kept on increasing every year, not to mention other problems aside from those two. And that is why, I need you to understand that not many of us can gain the luxury of high knowledge and understandings for amazing researches like what you have done but some, although maybe few, still understand and feel what you want to share with the article and the results of the research. Sensitivity on our behaviors is probably affected by the limited access in some of us to prove that we are worthy to become a great nation. Our pride and recognition towards Indonesia as a great country is as formidable as a mountain and that statement has been always interpreted wrongfully by the wrong doings of the government which makes us even more powerless to gain freedom to express what is inside each of us. I wish that every negative thing that flows from this research of yours can be forgiven. I really thank you again for the sharing of this to all of us.

    Hopefully that you can still carry out the further researches on Indonesia’s education and I would be very gladly to see the progresses that you would make

  • budi.adi

    hi daniele, catholic school in india may not seem to have the mission to convert, but still their main mission is to convert

  • evan

    1. they’re not stupid. It’s just that the education system is getting worse. Uneducated will be better for expressing this matter.
    2. change the question. Use , instead of . as decimal places. In Indonesia . means thousand.

    • indonesianstudent

      you didn’t read the comment throughoutly, man. The author already stated that they changed the language into Bahasa Indonesia and even the decimal symbol unto “,”.

      I will quote an Indonesian educator here

      “Jangan mengutuk kegelapan. Sekarang saatnya menyalakan lilin” –Anies Baswedan

      Education is not only responsibility of the institution. It is your responsibility as well as a part of society and a parents (Assuming you have or will have children)

  • Point of view

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25205112

    Here is broad overview of the Pisa test summarises the issues raised in the blog. I am teacher in one so called cheating international private schools in Jakarta and a cockroach westerner who is responsible for all of Indonesia’s problems because of my birth geography and the involvement of my government before I was born in helping to prop up and support Suharto regime? People really need to check what they write as one way to look stupid and sound stupid is to fill blogs up with simplistic, stereotypes and devisive racist comments that just expose their personal insecurities to the world. The reality is academic success in PISA tests does not correlate to the success of a state and again how do you measure that success. Is it wealth, power or being in existence the longest. No one has looked at the Pisa to compare which contries are for example in a certain climate zones. Which were colonised or by who, how many people live in urban and rural settings by percentage. That fact the westerning numbering system make under standing place value more difficult than in Chinese could have impact on academic sauces in Maths? There are many possible variables. Although I am sure that how much teachers are paid and the value society puts on the profession and the professional development of teachers is important. The recent changes to curriculum here are not going to help improve the Pisa scores but a similar process of simplifying the curriculum for perceived economic advtange and an unhealthy mix of the whimsical uneducated views of popularist politicians leading the learning agenda is happening in other countries. The UK being a prime example.

    What is not mentioned in the article is student creativity and the lack of it. A students that can answer questions in test numerate in their heads is not always going to be a successful adult in the 21st century? The high performing education systems in the Pisa tests are creating students that suffer in university and the work place because they have not learnt to think creatively or inventivley. In the 21st century knowledge is not power anymore, not with the information reveloution in one click you can find more knowledge then your brain could ever store and calculate any equation in seconds. The power in the 21st century will be the ability and skills of adults to synthisise and process knowledge to select, evaluate it and apply it’s to deal with increasing complexity. Robinson, Bloom it’s all be written down by the experts. You tube Sir Ken Robinson lectures and you will have your view of academic tests turned upside down. They are not the future of education! The current academics system we use ismrootly deeply In the industrial reveloution and economic model of the likes of Adam Smith. They were designed to educate factory workers that is why they are working so well in manufacturing economies like China. They are 200 years old and for world that is virtually unrecognisable today.

    Educationalists in China, Singapore, S Korea all admit to this problem and are trying to diversify their education systems, to a certain extent this was a problem in Japan. They understand that once Asian salaries match the west the manufacturing will move to Aficia and they will have to be creative to survive, hopefully after that if their is a planet left to live on we will have reached what Marx predicted so long ago and have nice peaceful from capitalism. Currently despite academic success and economic growth these nations are not creating anything new their success is based mostly and providing cheaper copied products? The US and I am not an American or a particualar fan is still currently leading the world with new tech the irony is that the west invented this economic system and the education system we are measuring. Which leads onto the The big issue in the PISA rankings is why are the so called most ‘developed’ countries doing so badly? what is it about 15 year olds in the west that is stopping them from succeeding in academic exams maybe the west is in decline, maybe the student are decadent and spoilt. Or maybe they already see that the current education system is a dinosaur and it’s is meaningless to them.

    There is no denying that Indonesian children are happy that is very important and should not be under estimated they are also in my experience well behaved and moral students. But my argument would to use these result to push debate of what the education could be here but do not as is often the mistake of expats and wealthy Indonesian assume that the Singapore model will work and apply here. This country is so much more than it’s neighbours hence there is always a negative comment on a blog like this towards Indonesia and Indonesians .Your neighbours are so so scared of what you could become. Stand tall and forge your own path. Indonesia has particular challenges that are not faced by other ASEAN states and over comming these will shape the education system in Indonesia. Stupid is word that should never be associated with children or education it is the adults who are to blame not them it us that have made them that way. There are also many forms of intelligence, passing tests is skill that can be taught but how useful is it going to be for an adult working in Indonesia in 2050?

  • I think we don’t judge for stupidity,They are (Kids) still growing up,and learning from experience,and many facts.Mathematic skill is not the key become smart.Looks at baby They can learning our language time by time. many ways become smart.

  • the title is so rude, i don’t accept the word “stupid” maybe yes we are less inteligent but does’nt mean were stupid! like my self even i’m a little bit slow learner but my hardwork always prove that i’m capable of doing whatever I want.

    you can’t label us to be “stupid” just cause you compare with others, you can’t make us spirit down by provoking us to be resigned about our capability.

    I ‘m from a place in Indonesia that issue says is the second most lower in education, but when i moved to Jakarta i found that truely I’m capable to compete to others there!
    I met a lot of people like you in the past, people that always trying to let down my mental and my motivation, saying im so stupid or whatever, but the truth is i dont care! im still the best among others!

  • Baweanng

    Somebody should send this article to Mr. Nuh ASAP. :D

  • a voice from indonesian student

    well, i’m a student of 11 grade and i’m sorry if my english is bad. but i just want to tell all of you that Indonesian student is smart enoug. as i read and heard a lot of information that tits like 85% of indonesian student were studied in other countries like australia,germany,etc. and you know what? most of them are applying a scholarship, so that means…. a lot of students you gave a test to on those ‘most smart country student’ was an Indonesia. fyi, there’s a lot of company, fashion company or maybe movie company in US and French are indonesian.
    So, i would like to tell all of you especially our parents that math isn’t only a barometer how smart your kids was. we were born as a genius for our own way. and once again indonesian people was very kind for giving many country oil,gold,etc with a cheaper prices because we’re richer and smarter than people around the world sees us.

    • indonesianstudent

      I am sorry to say this. But your word ‘tits’ from the second line means (1) titmouse; (2) a woman’s breast or nipple; (3) the infliction of an injury or insult in return for one that one has suffered. I couldn’t understand the meaning of the word based on the context. And you mentioned your bad English. Why not posting in Bahasa Indonesia?

      You didn’t read all the comments like several adults on the comments above and that makes me sad because you call your self a student and yet you didn’t spare a minutes of two to read the comments before commenting yourself. And by the way, we’re not kind for “giving oil, gold, etc with cheaper prices because we’re richer and smarter than people around the world sees us”. We are exploited and we should be grieving because instead of exploiting our resources to afford better education and health system, we let the fortune goes to the companies. Don’t be an ignorant. And when you stated that “fyi, there’s a lot of company, fashion company or maybe movie company in US and French are indonesian”, you weren’t even sure because you said maybe. Your comment is even out of context! (Which sadly drives me away from the context as well).

      I am sorry for posting this but realizing that the comment was written by a 17th years old and yet it sounds hopeless makes me extremely sad…

  • Adel

    Dear Ms. Elizabeth Pisani..
    Mohon maaf saya mungkin bukan orang yang berasal dari bidang pendidikan, dan juga tidak berprofesi sebagai epidemiologist lebih lagi sebagai seorang peneliti, tetapi saya berharap dengan kompetensi saya sebagai lulusan S1 salah satu universitas di Indonesia yang sudah pernah mendapatkan kuliah mengenai ilmu statistik serta studi pembuktian, saya diperbolehkan untuk mengkritisi beberapa hal yang saya temukan mengenai artikel ini.

    1. Judul : Sebenarnya, apa sih yang dimaksud dengan kata “bodoh”? Apa saja indikator sehingga kita bisa menentukan bahwa seseorang itu “bodoh”? Apakah betul “Anak Indonesia” memenuhi indikator tersebut sehingga layak dipanggil “bodoh”? Siapa yang dikatakan bodoh di sini? “Anak Indonesia” yang mana? Anak Indonesia yang bertempat tinggal di suatu daerah kecil saja? dari beberapa daerah? Dari daerah pinggiran atau perkotaan? Atau seluruh Anak Indonesia?

    Mohon maaf, bila saya terkesan menyudutkan dalam hal ini, karena sebagai seorang lulusan universitas yang berbasis riset, saya sejujurnya sedikit geram ketika membaca judul artikel ini.
    Apakah artikel ini merupakan artikel yang berbasis riset? Atau cuma semacam ARTIKEL TABLOID GOSIP yang sengaja diberi judul demikian untuk menarik perhatian pembaca?
    Kalau jawabannya adalah untuk menarik perhatian pembaca, maaf saja penyajian judul dan generalisasi yang anda gunakan sudah menyinggung perasaan beberapa masyarakat Indonesia. Mungkin akan lebih bijaksana jika menggunakan judul yang lebih halus dan tidak begitu mengeneralisir.

    2. Konten Artikel : Menurut saya artikel yang anda posting cukup menarik, meskipun DALAM ARTIKEL tersebut tidak disebutkan secara spesifik dan jelas mengenai pengambilan sampel data penelitian. Hal tersebut penting untuk diungkapkan karena berhubungan dengan beberapa faktor seperti kondisi demografis, tingkat ekonomi, etc dari daerah yang diambil sebagai sampel. Tentunya studi yang diambil dari satu daerah yang mengalami GAP/kesenjangan yang cukup besar dengan daerah lainnya di Indonesia (Indonesia cukup luas) tidak bisa langsung dianggap memrepresentasikan Indonesia secara keseluruhan. Tetapi, saya betul-betul menghargai penelitian ini, hanya saja masih kritis apakah memang data tersebut betul-betul sudah mewakili indonesia secara keseluruhan?

    Selebihnya mengenai sistem pendidikan, saya tidak berani berkomentar, berhubung bukan zona saya. Dan saya pun mengharapkan teman-teman yang membaca artikel yang tidak memiliki kompetensi untuk menjawab/mengkritisi mengenai sistem pendidikan di Indonesia, mohon berpikir baik-baik sebelum memposting komentar. Karena saya juga yakin sebenarnya penulis artikel ini tidak melakukan penelitian semata untuk menjadikan image Indonesia menjadi hancur, tetapi semata untuk mengungkapkan masih adanya kekurangan dalam sistem pendidikan di Indonesia. (Well, Saya berharap begitu).

    Terima kasih banyak.

    • yuwana

      Coba deh main2 ke sekolah swasta yang gak terlalu terkenal,yang lapangannya gak ketutupan parkiran mobil mewah, yang ada di dalam perkampungan di JAKARTA, gak perlu liat statistik apalagi ngitung2 itu buat merasa miris soal pendidikan indonesia, anda masih beruntung bisa lulus dari UI, mungkin saat ini ada siswa di sekolah2 itu yang DO atau bahkan OD, masalah pendidikan di sekolah2 tersebut sangat kompleks dan parahnya sekolah seperti ini adalah mayoritas, bukan karena siswa mereka “bodoh” tapi mereka “malas” jadi nilai mereka turun, karena turun trus dibilang “bodoh”, ini terjadi karena banyak hal: bisa stress dirumah, lebih suka gadget/internet, bahkan ada yang lebih suka “exist”dalam segala hal selain exist/hadir di kelas.
      saya seorang guru SMA, saya mengakui kekurangan dari murid2 saya, dan saya lebih merasa lega jika ada yang mau memikirkan masalah pendidikan di Indonesia.

      • Adel

        Hai, Yuwana.. Agak lucu baca komennya apalagi yang menyebutkan soal lulus dari UI?? Sebenarnya tidak perlu dibahas lebih jauh tapi sy jadi tergelitik juga untuk komentar balik.. Mau lulusan dari UI maupun Universitas Swasta/Negeri yang ada di Indonesia lainnya pun mahasiswa-nya juga pada sadar kok mmg banyak sekolah di Indonesia itu pendidikannya belum bagus2 amat. Dan banyak yang merasa kecewa jg termasuk saya.

        Dan kalau saya secara pribadi cukup senang kok artikel ini ada, menarik, provokatif, cuma kurang detil saja di artikelnya.. Apa mmg informasi yang diberikan kita telan bulat-bulat begitu saja tanpa dikritisi terlebih dahulu?? Apa orang-orang yang mengomentari mengenai cara pengambilan sampel, tempat pengambilan sampel, desain penelitian dan lain-lain adalah orang-orang yang mau menjatuhkan artikel ini?? BELUM TENTU. Kalau saya, secara pribadi memang ingin mengetahui bukan untuk menjatuhkan. Beberapa orang seperti anda mungkin tidak mau mempelajari suatu informasi sepenuhnya (puas dengan info setengah-setengah), tetapi banyak kok orang lain yang mau mempelajari informasi secara seluruhnya langsung dari penulisnya. Untuk lebih jelasnya kenapa harus tau, salah satu dari sekian banyak alasan adalah karena dari cara dan tempat pengambilan sampel, kita bisa korelasikan hasilnya dengan faktor-faktor tertentu yang ada pada daerah tersebut, apa saja. Tidak semua daerah punya kondisi yang persis sama, dan riset ini juga apa bisa diulang-ulang di berbagai lokasi di Indonesia yang sangat luas dan tentunya memerlukan biaya yang banyak sekali. Banyak yang bisa diketahui dari lokasi pengambilan sampel. Hal ini yang membuat banyak org bertanya, karena jika dijawab hasilnya sangat-sangat informatif dan berharga sekali. Berhubung saya sudah buka chartnya wong ga ada kok lokasi pengambilannya, baca artikelnya baik2 jg ga ada?.. Jadi kenapa klo sy berkomentar soal itu? salah?? :)

        Kita belajar sama-sama. Hak orang-orang yang membaca untuk berkomentar (mau positif ataupun negatif, toh penulisnya tau kok pasti ada komentar yang pro dan kontra) ataupun bertanya.. Klo semua orang indonesia ga kritis seperti anda, tidak heran Indonesia jadi negara percontohan sistem pendidikan “coba-coba” melulu (korban negara asing). Selain sistem pendidikannya coba-coba (sy pernah alami, atau mungkin sedang mengalami), pelaksanaannya pun banyak yang ga bener, hasilnya juga jadi ga bener.. Komentar saya tidak sepenuhnya kontra kok, makanya akan lebih bijaksana bila anda baca komentar org baik-baik terlebih dahulu.. Wong saya juga sdh pernah merasakan sistem pendidikan di Indonesia yang buruk seperti apa kok.

  • Malay Dude

    Comparing Indonesia and China (Shanghai) PISA score is a bad example due to the demographics of Shanghai residents – they tend to be richer and therefore afford better education than the rest of China.

    However, none of you have compared the results with Vietnam and Indonesia. Vietnam is poorer and also have a relatively large population. Yet they achieve better reseults. 8th overall in Science and rank better than USA, Britain and Australia.

  • indonesianstudent

    Wow. Read this article and the comments really wake me up! Usually I don’t care about commenting in online article. But since this one tickles some parts of my brain, I decided to contribute.

    I am a proud Indonesian and of Chinese descent. I went through pretty good education this far since the primary school in Ambon, Maluku until now. Currently I am studying at one of private university in Jakarta that is considered one of the best private institution in Indonesia. From my experience through different educations in 4 different cities in Indonesia (Ambon, Makassar, Surabaya, Jakarta), I saw an enormous gap between each cities. Even in the same cities, I saw the differences between one institution from the other. For example, I consider education I received in Surabaya is better than the one I received in Jakarta for some reason. But this article is right. The bright students, the Olympians (term used to refer people who competes in olympic games. I think I can apply this on the science Olympic as well) are 1 of millions in Indonesia. They are indeed smart. Too smart for their age. But they are rare. Even though we’ve seen Indonesia dominating the Science Olympic, there are not many of them compared to total students in Indonesia. And sometimes, when a teacher discovers such talents, they will groom the talent and kind of neglecting the other. I’m not playing a victim card. But the matter is, education is not a business of school only. Parents has to be supportive as well. I saw a lot of students who doesn’t care about the subjects just because “my father is rich so i don’t have to work” or “you’re not going to use calculus in the real life anyway”. we’ve heard about a lot of people in remote area who forbid their children to go to school just to help the parents in the field. People haven’t realize the importance of education. So how do we expect the kids to have sufficient skills when the society keeps telling them that it’s not important?

    I think the writer’s title for this article draws a lot of opposition because of the proud Indonesian out there. I don’t blame them, but it amuses me. Because most of people who commented didn’t even read the articles and the comments throughoutly. Maybe it’s a reflection of Indonesian education? That everyone is even to lazy to read? And attacking each other with profanity or sarcasm without really understanding the content of the reading?

    • ibnu

      ” And attacking each other with profanity or sarcasm without really understanding the content of the reading?”

      And what is your opinion of the title, dear Indonesiastudent? What do you say about that?
      I do not expect you for a proud Indonesian, but at least be fair.

  • Azalia Faozanudin

    Well, let’s just say, those ‘stupid’ thing in the head of the article is a lie. Basically, stupidity is not one you can judge based on their ability to do Maths and Science. I’m much offended here, since I am Indonesian’s student and I am being judged on how I can do Math and Science. That’s the worst. Their capacity in sports and Non-cognitive aspects seem like useless, in your point.

    Moreover, you are giving such explanation based on the analysis of the charts, I’m sorry but that’s not the right path for you to take on such conclusion. It is to say that you are (I’m truly sorry) more “stupid” than us (Indonesian’s students) by doing that.

    • yuwana

      yang saya tahu, matematika dan IPA biasanya digunakan sebagai “alat ukur” cara analisis persoalan (algoritma pemikiran), makanya matematika dan ipa juga biasanya muncul pas test IQ, jadi kata “stupid” disini mungkin berefensi pada low IQ, kalo buat penilaian non-cognitive ada EQ atau ESQ, beda lagi, masalahnya kemajuan negara/teknologi (ukuran negara maju) di ukur dari kemampuan IQ bukan lainnya.

  • NN

    Hahahaha.. seru baca comment-nya..
    Ini kalau ada yang comment tentang kenapa judulnya pake kata “stupid”, terus sistem ngambil penelitiannya dengan cara apa, sama indonesia ga bisa dong dibanding-bandingin sama apa lah, tolong, baca dulu comment comment sebelumnya, kayanya kasian aja si penulis, bales terus-terusan comment yang isinya mempertanyakan hal yang sama, heuu..

    respect

    • yuwana

      mungkin terlalu “stupid” buat baca comment2 sebelumnya, trus mempertanyakan sistem penelitiannya dengan cara apa padahal ini adalah artikel kritik, yang udah bagus aja dkritik biar jadi lebih bagus lagi, tapi ini malah cari2 alesan.

  • Romo

    I bet this author is an epidemiologist from a low-level qualitative research background. And may be don’t have a chance to learn quantitative methods in her study?? How can people like this become an epidemiologist. Oh GOD, this world is full of bullshits.
    The lack of understanding of the issues, and inability to draw conclusion and how to generalize results proved that. Your almamater must be very shame of you :(

    • Elizabeth Pisani

      Of the responses that rather prove my point, this one rates among my favourites. I can’t quite tell if Romo is referring to the author of the study (a very large team of quantative specialists from the OECD) or the author of the blog post (a researcher with a PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has published a book based on quantative epi described by the New England Journal of Medicine as “required reading”). In either case, perhaps the author of the comment “don’t have a chance to learn about” Google in his studies?

  • I think the correct tittle should be :
    ” Indonesia’s ministry of education put a blind eye on the failing education system ”

    I believe indonesian students are very potential if given the right education. I believe it is not wise to say the students are stupid. But from the SEO point of viw .. the tittle does sells.

  • Jakarta expat

    Elizabeth Pisani, thank you for writing this and provoking the discussion that should be happening in the silent Indonesian media. This is an important topic, and more courage to you. Perhaps you could post a version of the same article in Bahasa, so that more Indonesians will link to it (although it may be good to use a different title).

    I am an expat working as a finance director of a large local Indonesian company in Jakarta for the past few years. My experience confirms the problems the PISA results allude to. Many ordinary Indonesians just don’t seem to have basic skllls of mathematics and problem-solving that should be standard from primary school.

    Of course there are intelligent exceptions (mostly educated overseas). The point is that the large majority of Indonesian adults have a worryingly low level of fundamental mathematical and analytical skills, and a lack of discipline and problem-solving. It means business is slower and more difficult to conduct in Indonesia than other countries, and harder to enforce consistent quality when people don’t pay attention and don’t care about standards. It means productivity is low because of inefficiency, which means lower wages.

    If Indonesians aspire to higher pay and higher standards of living, then the training and quality of workforce must improve first. I implore Indonesians to set aside pride and focus on how to achieve better results. The future of your children depends on it.

  • Pawian

    this article brings me memories of Balinese shops where the shopping assistants were using calculators to add up things like: 5000+7000

    Great article.

  • Sagito

    I’m Indonesian. My son studied in Indonesia before we moved to Singapore. In primary 3 and now 4, he is in the best class in his school in Singapore’ mainstream primary school. Most of his classmates are taking tuition after school, but not him. He enjoys more in playing games or watching kids channel. Some of my Indonesian friends’ kids in Singapore has reported a good performance in school too. So please, if you want to highlight Indonesian education system, use a proper title. I can see you are smart enough. Unless you really mean it to get attention and high rating in your blog.

  • wakidjo

    great articles.it made me thinking when i was 15 years old,maybe i couldnt said a correct answer of that math too,but it didnt make me a loser,look at me know,i didnt became a fail people ..But you know the problem?because in Indonesia,an exam made student totally stressed,there’s much tension and an exam such like deqd-alive test. So please change the curriculum as a political-business affairs

  • Jessicca

    It kind of depends on where the research is conducted. I am an Indonesian student myself but I went to college in the United States. Most of my friends here reached college level maths after they take the placement exam even though they are still 16 years old which means that they just graduated middle school. Some of them are also smarter than older students who came from China, although they are probably not from Shanghai. If the research is done on international schools, the results would be better than the one’s from the national schools. Some of the Indonesian’s couldn’t hold their anger either when they see something like this, however not all of them are that rude. I’ve never really commented on articles like this, however I really don’t like how the author named the title because it brings the name of the whole Indonesia when you don’t even know where the information came from (which part of Indonesia is the test conducted and from what schools).

  • Agus

    Now I understand why an epidemiologist should be from medical background. If not, this is the result, an epidemiologist from writer background can exaggerate things, can not describe a phenomenon correctly and “cenderung merendahkan orang”. We should questions the education systems that allow epidemiology to be learnt by non medical people. It is really dangerous.
    Re: the article, stupid is inappropriate word to describe the situation. Only those who want to look smart call other people stupid. A stupid article from a stupid author :)

  • Madox

    indonesianstudent, I love your comment.
    statistic is good, but not 100% correct.
    cant you even use your heart, instead of stupid you can just say other words.
    when you put the word “Stupid”, people rarely read the article with a good head.
    they tend to be offended and not thinking clearly.
    i dont know what your goal with this article, if it is a better education for the future i personally would change that word “stupid”.
    but if it is to degrading people of indonesia, well done mate.
    thanks anyway.

  • yuwana

    as a high school’s teacher its very shame to read whole of this, but_to be honest_that was the fact, for exam: in my class (xi science) still lots of student use calc, even to calculate simple math multiply, almost every student at class has no passion to know what was they learn, if i give them homework, they just skip it and the system wont allow any teacher to give any discipline punishment.
    Some student which have a “good” score, don’t know what they learn or why they answer it (in test), its because they only memorize not understand it.
    Some of parents just don’t control how they kids learn at home, they have homework or not, or they understand or not, so i very appreciate for every parents who have time to considering it.
    i teach at state school, for private’s school its more horrible, education just like capitalism (expensive school = good; low rate = bad).
    I hope there’s any solution from indonesian goverment, since they always consider to change curriculum then come to any low rate school then asking what the problem.

  • Hi Eli, such a good article you wrote here. Usually I don’t care enough to comment an article on the web, but as an Indonesian state college student I feel the need to express my worries on the future of Indonesian education.

    Though most of Indonesian who commented here express their disagreement to the data you presented, I personally admit that Indonesian education system still need plenty of improvements. Our government change the “curriculum” once every few years, and by that they change not only the contents of the subjects, but also the system. I studied in state school for 12 years, from primary to high school, and I’ve experienced three different curricula. I felt that it’s more like the government’s been changing the system rather than improving it. Also, I felt that on each level of education, be it primary, middle or high school, students are taught only to successfully pass the level and continue their education to higher levels in best schools as it will boost the school’s popularity and prestige.

    What worries me the most (as I am a computer science major) is that the latest curriculum does not include IT as an independent subject. The minister of education stated that it “integrates” IT to each subject instead. It shows how the government sees IT only as a tool rather than as a branch of science, I fear that this will bring decline to IT development in Indonesia.

    In conclusion, I don’t think Indonesian kids are stupid, they’re just miseducated.

  • ibnu

    Four cars have different engine capacites:
    Alpha: 1.79 Bolte: 1.796 Castel: 1.82 Dezal: 1.783

    Which of the cars has the smallest engine capacity?
    It’s not a trick question. But over 75 percent of 15 year-old school children in Indonesia do not have the mathematical skills to answer it correctly.
    ————-

    How do you know that 15 year-old school children in Indonesia fail to answer this question because to them, maybe, “smallest engine capacities” is an unfamiliar term?
    Or simply did not know how to process numbers without a specific measurement unit after them?
    If PISA questions were translated into local language, how to ensure that their context is relevant and difficulty level remain the same to local students? Did they change Alpha, Bolte to Kijang and Xenia?

    These are few things that writer of this articles never bother too discuss further (too lazy?). Nor she bother to explore critics against PISA. Yes, it’s called google.

    But when it comes to drawing harsh conclusion about how stupid Indonesia kids are, she’s all for it, self-proclaiming at the end that “Hey!! The truth is I do this because I love Indonesia, etc etc”.

    So much for covering both sides of the story. (Btw, you never mentioned how you define “stupid”, is it ALWAYS math-related?)

    Let’s create questions in Bahasa Indonesia for PISA 2014, translate them into English for a change. Then see how we are doing objectively.

    I admit education system in Indonesia needs a lot of improvement, but it does not excuse how your biased article (and its title) sucks.

    Another sorry “indonesianist” writer.. (sigh)

  • Denni

    Amazing “marketing” technique you are using here, Mrs. Elizabeth. At first I was a bit furious after reading the title, but soon after I read why you wrote it (in one of your comments above) I immediately understand (still a bit upset, though. Pardon my pride). It is true that sometimes, in order to get attention from the govt or the responsible institution you need to make a provoking title. To be honest, if the title wasn’t as stellar as this, I wouldn’t even spare time to read it. Hopefully there are people from ministry of education who are as ticked as I was reading it.

    The article was great, and as a statistician I know first hand that Indonesia is still a very Java-centric country. There is a HUGE gap between big cities and rural areas in many aspects, including education. It is hard to swallow, but that’s the reality. I still think that religious teaching is important, though. I wouldn’t want my kid to grow up to be a jack*ss who doesn’t care about what’s right and what’s wrong, and think that he can do ANYTHING as long as it doesn’t break the law. I want him to be emphatic, compassionate, and considerate.

    I appreciate your effort in alarming our government about this issue. I sincerely hope that this research will lead to solution and feedback to improve Indonesia’s education in general.

  • Prihatin

    Maybe, you need make another article “Indonesian commentator don’t know/care how stupid they are”
    - Some of them just judge/comment based on the Tittle, not bother to read the whole article/search relevant information
    - Extremely “Wrong or Wrong it’s my country”
    - Some just can angry/shouting/caps-lock without can give any good reason/counter argument

    I agree with the article, i lucky to have good school, supporting family. But, i’m well aware that a lot of other student that not lucky as i am.

    Old says :
    “it better to be a stupid man that know/aware they are stupid, than be a stupid man that completely ignorant”
    “stupid/simple man always be happier than the smarter one”

  • The results of your research is unethical. please be wise do not show ” Epidemiologist don’t know how stupid they are” :)

    • Elizabeth Pisani

      I notice that this comment comes from someone at a government-funded research institution. Research can be unethical (though I don’t see anything unethical about asking 15 year-olds to answer maths questions). But as long as research is conducted ethically, the RESULTS can not be unethical. They may make you uncomfortable, perhaps, but that does not make them unethical. There’s not much point in doing research if we just close our eyes to any results that displease us, or label any such research “unethical”.

      • speechless…., I consider you don’t know what ethics is.

        • oh ya Elizabeth ini bukan masalah pribadi dan tidak berhubungan juga kalau saya penelti dari institusi pemerintah, mohon maaf jika anda tersinggung saya bilang laporan anda tidak etis (karena saya tahu pasti di dunia anda serangan paling menyakitkan jika disebut tidak etis) bagaimanapun juga sudah jelas cara berfikir kita berbeda. saya sangat tahu betapa anda adalah peneliti kaliber Internasional yang terhormat dan sudah lama menjadi konsultan di Indonesia termasuk banyak hal dan karya bagus yang anda buat. sekarang saya mengerti anda memberi judul berdasarkan insting jurnalis anda dan memasukan data ilmiah yang dimunculkan sesuai kebutuhan. ya anda berhasil memprovokasi orang untuk membaca hasil PISA. selamat berkarya dan jangan patah semangat ya pro dan kontra pasti selalu ada. tenang saja kan ada pepatah sebagai peneliti “anda boleh salah tapi anda tidak boleh bohong” :)

  • dee

    “stupid/simple man always be happier than the smarter one”. Nggak heran kan kalau emang siswa kita ‘bahagia’ meskipun matematikanya pas-pasan.
    Aku rasa artikel ini bagus banget kok sebagai wake up call bahwa emang ada yang salah banget dengan sistem pendidikan kita. Pelajar kita belajar terlalu banyak dalam hafalan, tetapi mereka tidak mendapat makna belajar itu sendiri. Guru sendiri mungkin juga sudah terlalu lama mengajar dengan sistem menuangkan air ke dalam teko kosong, sehingga pada akhirnya pelajar hanya menerima apa yang dikatakan guru tetapi kurang menjadi kreatif. Kita, misalnya, tidak pernah didorong untuk bertanya. Anak yang bertanya malah diledek teman-temannya. Anak yang melakukan kesalahan dipermalukan.
    Nggak cuma logika aja, kok. kreativitas, etika, semuanya bermasalah. Tetapi mau nggak kita semua (gak cuma pemerintah) membereskannya? Masalah pendidikan kaum muda nggak cuma tergantung sama pemerintah, lho. :)

  • Imansyah Guru Kampar

    I really disappointed with the reviews because it is very judgmental when the system is poor and students is also responsible

  • Syauqi

    i was a student in a top institute of technology in indonesia. and now i give lecture in a lower ranked institute. i experienced myself how the gap are so high. also, my friends tell me their experience when they undergone industrial training course, how other student from other universities can’t solve a very basic mechanical problems.

    i try harder to make my students understand the course. i have to repeat some basic course in junior high school to make them understand. they are not stupid, it’s the way they study that makes them like that.

  • yaelahbro

    If I see another comments shouting about “stupid is a harsh word, you bitch” or “the research is not fair, what kind of statistical sorcery is that?” one more time, i really believe that we Indonesians are really that dumb.
    Come on guys! Focus your anger to a more important punching bag: the dimwits who run our educational system.

    PS: mbak Elizabeth, yang benar itu “dikasih” bukan “di kasih” ;)

  • The happiness reporting thing….that could be a cultural thing. I’m not going to take that as a valid piece of data, other than anything that represents something cultural. You know, it’s not valid to say that that measurement correlates with anything else. It’s separate and any theory that correlates happiness with demonstrated math ability is completely unfounded scientifically. You can’t go around saying “the inept at math are more happy, see?” That’s complete utter bullshit because in one test, you’re measuring something empirical based on right and wrong answers that by definition, cannot have any cultural interpretation.
    Happiness on the other hand, is completely cultural, and if someone in power sits you down and asks you if you’re happy, depending on the culture, the person may NOT be happy, but will REPORT he/she is happy because it is culturally significant to do so. So, you may have cultural norms of false positives.
    Anyway, I hope you understand that point.
    I like and do admire the first, valid test: ie, can you do this math problem.
    However, the second part, no good, try again.

  • hendi setiawan

    Indonesia is large country. It’s unfair to compare “Indonesia” with “Shanghai-China”. Why don’t compare Shanghai with Jakarta or Bandung or Surabaya. You will find thousands smart kidss in Jakarta, Bandung or Surabaya?

    My understanding the kid’s capability in Math in Papua, NTT and some other islands might be lower than the kids in some provinces and cities, such as Java, Sumatera, Bali or Makassar, Medan, Denpasar, Bogor, Malang, Semarang, Padang, Palembang, Balikpapan, Manado etc.

    If you took the sample mostly in rural area especially in eastern part of Indonesia, probably the result is not good as if the sample took in western part of Indonesia. So the result of your survey must be depend on your sampling technique.

  • unhappy indonesian

    waaw. most of the comments made me so ashamed that i wish i weren’t an indonesian :D chill out, people!
    i think the point of measuring happiness level is an attempt to capture whether the education system is actually working for the students themselves. so in South Korea, for instance, they may have a hard time nowadays to work on why students are unhappy even though they are smart. hence we can say that South Korea’s education system may not be ideal either BECAUSE of that.
    as for us indonesians, the fact that the students are happy regardless of how the education system is failing them is the true wake up call which Mbak Elizabeth is trying to point out.
    yowis. we should be happy to know that there’s huge rooms for improvements, and we’d be happily working our way getting there. semangat!!

  • fel

    It is, once again, never about the title. Maybe some of us get offended by the title, but for me its a great way to make people read the article and pay attention to what’s actually happening in OUR country.

    Oh and to the kids out there who’d prefer to go to the mall, have an iphone, go on path and instagram all the time rather than studying, you ARE stupid. So please, educate yourselves. We’re talking about our country’s future here.

    Great job, Elizabeth Pisani.

  • Why bother comparing?

    This is a criticism. The point is to make something better out of it. If we believe that Indonesian students are NOT STUPID, then take this and throw it out in a trash bin. Otherwise all we have to do is to look into ourselves.

    Hopefully Indonesians can do better in moral fields.

  • Inyiak Balang

    This information should be treated as an early warning for Indonesian education system. Please all, do not shoot the messenger. Instead, I think its best to all of us to look at our self, our family, and our kids. If its true, fix it. If its not true, thanks to god and keep moving upward.

    I believe there is no such a stupid kid, only a lazy kid and bad parents/teachers.

  • Rayson

    20% of the Indonesian budget is allowance for student, indeed this is true. What you don’t know is that no matter how many budget to cover educational system in here, won’t change anything if the implementation isn’t going hoe it shoulf be. Still a lot of problem. And it is maybe because of too many people here in Indonesia, due to some phrase like”rich and intelectual couple think 50 times before they want a baby, wheter poor and uneducational couple don’t think before they start to make a baby”. So, what i want to say is that wouldn’t it be better not to argur about this article, but starting from now.. We teach rverything that we can teach to our young student. I believe myself, that if we give a good example, no matter what kind of job we havr now.. The young ones will follow. Thank you.

  • Dan

    I am from Sweden and working in Jakarta, Indonesia. I have been there now for 1 year and soon going back for another year. I have been travelling around the world but I am really surprised how stupid people are in Indonesia. To be honest, the longer I stay, the more people I met – the more stupid I think Indonesian people are. So about this article, I am not surprised because when its bad genetetics in one country – It could only be bad resluts. I am sorry to say but this is my experience.

    /Dan

    • Elizabeth Pisani

      I guess that having myself used a deliberately provocative title, I can not really censor others who wish to express opinions (as long as they do not attack individuals). But I am sorry to see this comment. I myself have returned to Indonesia many times over the last 25 years (in fact, I have lived in Indonesia for longer than in any other country). Of course I find many things frustrating — including a system which fails students and their families by producing persistently low standards in education. But I find them frustrating BECAUSE the majority of the tens of thousands of Indonesians I have met across all provinces and from very many walks of life are NOT stupid. Many are, however, trapped in and sometimes resigned to a system that does not nurture aspirations.

      The thing I find saddest of all is that someone who believes a country with the fantastic diversity of Indonesia is uniformly afflicted by “bad genetics” would choose to return to work there for a second year.

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