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Jakarta Post

Not even mediocre? Indonesian students score low in math, reading, science: PISA report

  • Karina M. Tehusijarana
    Karina M. Tehusijarana

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 4, 2019   /   04:11 pm
Not even mediocre? Indonesian students score low in math, reading, science: PISA report Initiative: Junior high school students discuss the curriculum in class. (Courtesy of Rutgers WPF Indonesia/-)

A new OECD report shows that Indonesian students score among the lowest in science, reading and mathematics among their peers living in 79 countries and economies.

Indonesian schoolchildren rank below their fellows in most other Southeast Asian countries participating in the test, the report shows.

The triennial 2018 OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report ─ which measures the ability of 15-year-olds in the three categories ─ shows a drop in the performance of Indonesian students in all three areas assessed.

According to the report, the Indonesian students’ mean reading performance score of 371 in 2018 marks a 21-point decrease from the 2015 score and puts Indonesians far below the OECD average of 487.

In mathematics, meanwhile, the study gives Indonesian students a score of 379, a 7-point decrease from 2015, while the mean science score decreased slightly, dropping to 396 points from 403 achieved in 2015. Both scores were also significantly below the OECD average of 489.

In summary, out of 79 assessed countries and economies, Indonesia ranked 73rd in mathematics, 74th in reading and 71st in science.

With such poor scores, Southeast Asia’s largest economy has fallen behind the four other ASEAN member states – Singapore, which scored second-highest (after China) in the three subjects, as well as Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.

Indonesian students only scored higher than their peers in the Philippines, who scored lowest among the 79 countries surveyed in reading and second-lowest in mathematics and science, according to the OECD.

While the trend of the results was either stagnant or downward, the OECD in its PISA 2018 country note for Indonesia said that "these results must be seen in the context of the vast strides that Indonesia has made in increasing enrolment."

When Indonesia first participated in PISA in 2001, the sample covered only 46 percent of 15-year-olds, while in the 2018 report, the PISA sample covered 85 percent of 15-year-olds in the country.

“It is often the case that the strongest students remain in education, and that students who were not in education and were brought into the school system are weaker than those who were already included.”

The OECD went on to say that if there had been no improvement in Indonesia’s education system, “the inclusion of more students would be expected to lower mean performance and the performance distribution.”

“In that light, in maintaining education standards over its participation in PISA, Indonesia has been able to raise the quality of its education system," the report said. 

Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim said the results were "valuable input for evaluating and improving the quality of education in Indonesia."

"We have to have the courage to change and improve. In accordance with the President's directive to create great human resources, we will continue to try and make breakthroughs," he said in a statement on Tuesday. (kmt)