Indonesian demographic dividend threatens prolonged COVID-19 school closures

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Ni Luh Nel, 13, helps her grandmother after dropping out of school during the pandemic of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, on September 11, 2021. This photo was taken on September 11, 2021. Reuters / Wayne Skulda No resale. no collection

September 17, 2021

Tom Allard and Wayang Skalda

JAKARTA/DENPASAAR (Reuters) – Ni Kadek Suriyani was looking to start his second year of middle school last year before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Then her parents lost their jobs and were forced to help her live on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali.

“I had time to sell tissues at traffic lights,” recalled a 13-year-old woman in a black Metallica T-shirt at the headquarters of the local charity Bally Street Moms, which is currently sponsoring her research. ..

According to experts, many of Indonesia’s 68 million students have been devastated by the economic shock of the pandemic and school closures for more than a year.

It could also undermine Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s plan to make it the top five global economies by 2045, driven by a skilled workforce.

Noah Yaro, a World Bank education expert and co-author of a report released on Friday, told Reuters: “Indonesia had a major learning crisis before the pandemic. That is our model. Shows that it has gone bad. ”

“Children are learning far less than is necessary for a competitive, globalized economy.”

Emphasizing the transition from poor educational outcomes in Indonesia to catastrophic outcomes, a World Bank report released on Friday found that more than 80% of 15-year-olds had a minimum reading level, which is recognized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. was identified by an epidemic. . I calculated it to be below.

This is a sharp increase from the 70% of students who failed to reach the basic literacy benchmark in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) examination, with Indonesia at the bottom of the 77 participating countries. is located at 8%.

According to the World Bank, the average Indonesian student had received only 7.8 years of effective education before the pandemic and despite being in school for more than 12 years. By July this year, it had fallen to 6.9 years, according to the World Bank’s most optimistic model.

According to the report, if the ability to learn is lost during the pandemic, students will earn at least $253 billion in their lifetime.

The Indonesian Ministry of Education acknowledged that the school closures “have had a significant impact on children’s learning outcomes.”

“This is a global phenomenon, not just Indonesia,” it said in a statement. “We are now encouraging schools to engage in limited face-to-face learning so that they can return to school, interact with teachers and friends, and rebuild their spirit of learning.”

demographic curse

Schools in Indonesia were closed for 55 weeks as of August 4, compared to 25 weeks in Vietnam, 37 weeks in Japan and 57 weeks in the Philippines, according to World Bank data. Many schools in Indonesia remain closed and others remain open for a limited period of time.

When the school closed, Indonesia developed a mandatory and simplified curriculum and established online lessons with Internet credits to allow families to pay for distance learning. Educational television and radio programs have strengthened distance learning.

However, according to a survey by the World Bank, the average student studies only 2.2-2.7 hours per day. Less than half of students took lessons online, but more than 90% received assignments, often sent by teachers via messaging apps.

Researchers and social activists told Reuters that missions are often rudimentary at best.

Indonesia is widely reported on the Internet, but access to online lessons suffers from patching, said researcher Florischa Ayu Tresnatri of the Jakarta-based SMERU Institute. He added that many families only have a basic smartphone and parents often need it for work.

According to experts, the absence of teachers and the constant cost of tuition and supplies were other reasons why students struggled to learn during the pandemic or dropped out of class altogether.

Tresnatri said the learning deficit is related to the future prosperity of primary school students and Indonesia.

“I was able to read the text before the pandemic, but after the pandemic I tested the same text again and couldn’t read it,” she said. “I have the same problem with writing.”

Indonesia has one of the youngest populations in the world. By 2035, 64% will be of working age, giving Indonesia a natural economic advantage.

But many run the risk that the Indonesian government is not well-educated to be part of a highly skilled workforce that wants a modern, top-notch economy, Tresnatri says. ..

“The demographic dividend we were proudly claiming is that if we don’t do something to mitigate this learning loss, it will be a demographic dividend,” she said.

radical changes

Indonesia has effectively more than doubled its education spending over the past two decades. The World Bank said in a 2020 survey that while more students were enrolled in secondary school, the country’s average PISA scores improved slightly over the same period.

The skills certification program more than doubled teacher salaries a decade ago, but “it had no effect on students’ learning outcomes,” Yarrow said. According to a 2019 survey, around 25% of teachers did not attend classes on certain days.

Yarrow said these fundamental issues need to be addressed urgently by targeting poor performing districts and improving teacher training and recruitment.

“This is not only to regain what was lost during the pandemic, but it is also to really improve pre-pandemic learning outcomes.”

(Reporting by Tom Allard of Jakarta and Wayang Skalda of Denpasar. Additional reporting by Augustine Beau da Costa, edited by Lincoln Feast.)

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