Friday, April 3, 2015

A Critical Review of Decentralising Education in Indonesia

A Critical Review of Decentralising Education in Indonesia;
An article by Stein Kristiansen and Pratikno

By: Agung Wasono


Decentralising Education in Indonesia is an article published in 2006 by Stein Kristiansen and Pratikno. Kristiansen and Pratikno begin their article by giving the picture of Indonesia’s decentralisation reform which began in 2001 as an impact of multidimensional crisis in Indonesia in 1997 and 1998. In this article, Kristiansen and Pratikno (2006) explore the impact of the decentralisation era in Indonesia, especially on the quality of primary and secondary education.[1] The article argues that the decentralisation of the education sector from central government to local governments (Kabupaten/Kota) was not successful in solving the problem of Indonesia’s education. There are three ultimate findings as conclusions of the article; the first is the lack of transparency and accountability of administration and services, the second is the increase of household expenditures on education, and the third is increasing inequalities and disparities on education among local governments (Kristiansen and Pratikno 2006).

In my evaluation, due to changes to the legal framework on local government since 2004, the findings presented in Kristiansen and Pratikno’s article are no longer suitable for reference on policy making. This paper will review the article especially concentrating on issues surrounding methodology, legal framework, and findings.


Kristiansen and Pratikno’s (2006) article is written based on research conducted in four districts of Indonesia, namely Bantul, Mataram, Kutai Kartanegara, and Ngada. The selection of these districts is based on variety of income per capita and level of urbanisation. Focus group discussions with representatives from Member of Parliaments, government officials, school employees, member of CSOs/NGOs, and ordinary parents are conducted in three out of four districts (Bantul, Mataram, and Kutai Kartanegara). The researchers also conducted survey in 538 selected households within the selected villages and sub-villages using random a sampling method. The survey was conducted between July 2003 and March 2004. In addition, they also use data from BPS (Central Bureau of Statistics) from the national, provincial, and district levels.

As the article shows, on administrative and services, and based on data from BPS and District and Local Planning Agency (Bappeda) in 2003, the education sector takes the biggest share of the total district budget range from 9.8% to 45.5%.  Moreover, the local government budget is usually used to gain support from society such as allocation of 2 billion rupiah (222.000 USD) per village per year as a “bottom up” program. The authors suggest that there is a distinct lack of administrative support and services in these areas, providing as evidence the fact that the central government does not have a mandate to audit the use of money by local governments (Kristiansen and Pratikno 2006). They argue that this encourages corrupt behaviour among civil servants and politicians at the district levels and affect the quality of education provided by local governments. To increase the quality of education at the district level, local governments have established several prestige schools to reach an international standard. However, these schools can only be accessed by the rich and elite of Indonesian society (Kristiansen and Pratikno 2006).

The authors also conducted a survey amongst parents in order to understand the perception of parents on the quality of schooling provided in their area. It can be seen from the survey results that 81% of parents report that the quality of education has improved since the decentralisation era, with only 4% of parents reporting that the quality has decreased.

Kristiansen and Pratikino (2006) also point out that according to Sparrow (2004), based on data issued by Susenas[2]  the average of total expenditures per student in the year 1998 (before the decentralisation) was 115.000 rupiah (11 USD) for Elementary School, 332.000 (32 USD) rupiah for Junior High School, and 639.000 (62 USD) rupiah for Senior High School. The authors then used these figures to make comparisons with the present household expenditures in their respective research locations. Based on their findings in 4 local governments in household expenditures, they found that the average expenditure per child per year in 2006 was 1.031.400 rupiah (115 USD), or 6 times higher than 1998.

Finally, the article concludes that: (1) The implementation of decentralisation of education in Indonesia has led to poor transparency and accountability, (2) The quality of education is higher today than three years ago, (3) The household expenditures on education are increasing as much as 6 times than it was 3 years ago, and (4) Participation rates in the remote and rural areas are lower than in other study areas. Moreover, to follow up the conclusion, the article also suggests three policy recommendations, including: (1) That an increase in central government funding should be followed by an increase in vertical accountability, (2) The need of political education of society at local levels, especially citizen rights and responsibilities, (3) the need for increased public funding to make schooling accessible and available for all in order to avoid social and geographical gaps.

Critique / Analysis

With regard to legal framework, the article is written based on Law 22/1999 on Regional Government. Thereby, one of the findings is that the district government does not have any obligation to report the use of money to the central government, as the local heads are elected by local parliaments and should only responsible to them. In 2004, however, this law was revised into Law 32/2004 on Local Government with several changes such as: local governments are audited by central government through BPK (Supreme Audit Institutions) and it is also regulated trough Law 17/2003 on State Finance (Dwiputrianti 2011, p. 85-87).  The other change is on the election of local heads. Starting from 2004, they are elected by the people through local elections (National Election Commission, 2004). The statements in the article which published in 2006 are invalid due to recent development. The implementation of these changes in Law are not addressed by Kristiansen and Pratikno and leading to inaccurate conclusion and recommendations.

On methodology, Kristiansen and Pratikno (2006) state in the article that there are only four districts selected as survey locations. The selection of the districts is based on variety of income per capita, but the four provinces selected are located in rural area and three of them are considered as low income per capita in 2008 compared to other provinces (BPS 2009). Therefore, Kristiansen and Pratikno’s argument can be said to be valid largely for rural areas. For the sake of accuracy and representation, it would have been better if the authors had selected from among a wide range of districts – there are 440 districts in 33 provinces in Indonesia - which have huge differences on social, economics, culture, and geographic background.

Furthermore, according to surveys conducted in 6 countries in Asia - namely Indonesia, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines - decentralisation in Indonesia was a “big bang” compared to other countries in which the process has been much slower (World Bank 2005). Another survey conducted in 50 districts in Indonesia found that the ability of local governments to use their budget differs widely (World Bank 2011). Some local governments use their budget in education effectively than others. The survey also found that the main challenge in implementing good governance in education is in remote areas (World Bank 2011). Therefore, the idea put forward by Kristiansen and Pratikno that all local governments are ineffectively using their education budget is not accurate.

The article also compares national average expenditures on education in 1999 to average expenditures on education in only four selected districts in 2004. Instead of using average expenditure in four districts, it would have been better and more accurate if the researchers also used the data on national average expenditure on education in 2004.

Finally, one of the research’s findings is the high commitment of local government to allocate budget for education or more than 30%. However, result of the Indonesia Governance Index shows that the total budget allocated for education is still below 20% (Gismar et. al 2012).


This critical review has evaluated an evidence-based article “Decentralising Education in Indonesia” by Kristiansen and Pratikno. The methodology uses in the article is interesting especially on the questionnaire survey to parents and focus group discussion with the multi stakeholders approach to gain the qualitative data. But, the number of districts use in the research is too small in order to get comprehensive and reliable quantitative data. The legal framework used in the article is also out of date. It would have been better if before publishing the article in 2006, the authors had reviewed it and made the necessary changes based on the current situation. By using more districts as samples and the most recent legal framework, the conclusions and recommendations would have been better, accurate, and more useful. ***


Central Bureau of Statistic, 2009, Trends of the Selected Socio-Economic Indicators of Indonesia: October 2009, BPS, Jakarta.

Dwiputrianti, S 2011, ‘Effectiveness of Public Sector Audit Reports in Indonesia: Preceding and Following Audit Reform’, PhD Thesis, Australian National University.

Gismar, AM, Loekman, Hidayat, Harjanto, Suharmawijaya, Sulistyo, Aritonang 2013, Towards A Well-Informed Society and Responsive Government: Executive Report Indonesia Governance Index 2012, Kemitraan, Jakarta.  

World Bank 2014, Local Governance and Education Performance in Indonesia: Surveying the Quality of Local Education Governance in 50 Districts, World Bank, Bangkok.

National Election Commission, UU No. 32 Tahun 2004 Tentang Pemerintahan Daerah (Law 32/2004 on Local Government), KPU-RI, Jakarta

World Bank 2005, Performance of Local Governments Key to Service Delivery In East Asia, Coventry.

[1] The Indonesian Education System is divided into 3 stages: Primary level for grade 1 to 9, Secondary level for grade 10 to 12, and the higher level or university. Children are allowed to enrol at primary education at age 7.
[2] Susenas is National Economics Census conducted by BPS (Central Bureau Statistics).