Indonesia Expat
Education Observations Outreach

Educating Rita

Education (Source: The Moon Doggies)

What do expatriate parents in Indonesia spend most money on? Educating their children.

Educating your child through school and University will cost the average expatriate parent between USD 200,000–500,000 by the time your child is 21. And there is no guarantee that your child will benefit much by having the difference between these two sums spent on them.

The first thing to realize in reviewing the choice of school for your child is the absence of school performance tables for different ages to compare one school against another.

International schools, sometimes wrongly referred to as “national plus” schools, occupy a no-man’s land in terms of the official schooling system of the country. For a start, they target children of expatriates; few nationals qualify. Some International schools have Embassy support and tie themselves to the education system of a specific country and so language. Some adopt a specific philosophy of education such as Montessori or Green school. Most adopt a form of the British (includes Australian/NZ) and its Key Stages 1–4 or International Baccalaureate schooling and examinations systems. The essential difference between these two systems is the number of subjects and so degree of specialization the student needs when 17–18 years of age (grade 12).

Advanced or “A” level students usually do three or four subjects, often at Special “AS” level, while International Baccalaureate typically do six. This then ties into the entrance requirements for University education, with a greater degree of specialization needed for entry at many of the top Universities. Where the students do not have the required degree of specialization, they may be required to do a Foundation Year at University. So parents need to spend a bit more time than they might otherwise do on deciding what school system and individual school is most appropriate to their child’s education and future.

The fundamental question, then, is where is best for my child to do their education from the age of 14–16 (Grades eight–nine) onwards to University? Do I keep them here or send them away? And what type of University and in which country?

Thankfully, the choice of schools in Bali is limited by a few practical considerations.

Some questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on the best school for your child

Languages of instruction

There are four choices here-Indonesian, English, Chinese and French. All schools offer one of these languages as the main language of instruction, with the choice normally being between English and Indonesian, but there are also schools which teach predominantly in Chinese and French. Indonesian national schools also offer Balinese. The range of language subjects offered at International schools varies depending upon the size of the school. If your national language is not taught, then you can employ a teacher to provide instruction in this language.

Budget. How much can I afford to pay for his/her education over the next years?

There are four alternatives open to expatriates for educating their children in Indonesia, each with a different cost structure. International schools range in price from about US$8,000–16,000 per year, depending upon your child’s age. National plus schools, which are open to expatriate and Indonesian children alike, are cheaper, in the $4,000–10,000 range. They are entitled to receive part of their funding from the state. The cost at an Indonesian school varies depending upon whether it is a state school or a religious based school, like Catholic or Muslim. Interestingly, Catholic schools are required to teach each of the five national religions and are favoured by many Indonesian families over state schools. And, finally, there is home schooling.

Most expatriate parents do not consider the third option. Local Indonesian schooling is available to everyone and is the cheapest costing about USD 1,000 per year at a Catholic school. If you have a mixed Indonesian child, you should seriously consider it at least for a period (two–three years) as your child will fit in linguistically and culturally with other Indonesian children. And most parents would be surprised to find that it offers more subjects than an International school with a concentration on citizenship in the early school years—being a good global citizen. The language of instruction is Indonesian. They must also learn the local language, for kids in Bali this is Balinese.

The best time to get them into the local system is no later than the second year, SD 2, or age six-seven years. And be prepared to spend extra on them to get them up to the required level of Indonesian so they can understand what is going on in the classroom. If you don’t do this, the child will likely be required to repeat their first or second year as they adjust to learning the new language.

The method of instruction is old fashioned in national Indonesian schools, with the teacher in the front of the class and class sizes of up to forty kids, making discipline and attention more difficult.

Having said that, the schools give a rounded education in terms of the subjects covered, teaching thirteen subjects, typically including four languages, Indonesian, English, the local language, with many offering Chinese. Science and IT education tend to be weak as they typically lack sufficient facilities and up-to-date software packages.

Home schooling is a good schooling system for parents who can devote the time to their children. Most parents balance this with other teachers coming to their home to teach different subjects. There are many advantages to home schooling, but the biggest disadvantage is the time for the parents and the discovery element for the child.

Location: distance and time. How far do I want my child to travel every day?

Which schools are available to me within a given radius measured in terms of distance and time? For most living in the south of Bali, there are up to five schools that are within a time radius of 30 minutes from where they live. “A School Near You” lists seven of the thirteen International schools by region in south Bali. The schools shown are not a recommendation —just a presentational limit.

Schools in Bali

All available options should be explored by means of a visit during Open Days. This will allow you to decide what the best school for your child would be within a given radius.

The best thing that you can do for your child is to teach them how to learn and to make them responsible for their own learning

There are many ways we learn. Visually, verbally, through discussion, through experimentation or trial and error. Peer pressure is important. Seeing other kids doing something that you want to be able to do yourself. Repetition, too. Redoing something many times, in different ways, until we find the best way. This is the goal of training in sports—to becoming a competitive swimmer or other athlete.

Our brains are machines. Using all their parts is the best way to avoid Alzheimer’s. So teaching our children that in the modern world they should expect to continuously learn, teaching good ways for them to learn will be a great asset for them to have.

When to spend the most money

The older the child, the more you will need to spend. Especially if you send your child abroad to boarding school to prepare them for entrance to University.

What is the most important academic score in a child’s life?

Their “A” levels or Baccalaureate exams. It determines the quality of the University the young person gets into and the subjects they study there.

Some parent’s answers to different questions:

How important was (i) method and (ii) system/syllabus in your choice of school?
Very important, particularly for High School stage. So having a highly structured and clear method and syllabus were key. A drawback is lack of language choices, other than Indonesian. English language families miss out as they speak one common language at home and school so makes my children think they can’t do other languages.

How important was Indonesian language and Indonesian/Balinese culture?
Highly important. I want my children to understand and appreciate the culture and language as we are living in Indonesia. I want them to respect, appreciate and have the knowledge/confidence to easily interact with people of different cultures.

How important was cost in considering your choice of school?
Cost wasn’t so important. Excellent quality was.

Comments from parents on some of the International schools

“Australian International School (north Kuta) is a great school. Has a mixed Australian/Indonesian culture. My children really enjoy it.”

“Canggu Community School (north Kuta) offers a stable, standard education in line with the curriculum at home for my children’s age plus has a good sense of community—being linked as it is to the Canggu Club allows me work there and to see my children frequently at school and get to know other parents too, in a social setting, which I enjoy.”

“Bali International School (Sanur) Fantastic, in every way. What more can I say?”

“Dyatmika (Sanur, eastern edge of Denpasar) offers a great education, has a gentle, quiet environment, very strong leadership of the school; but for parents and kids there’s no suitable warung or suitable gathering place nearby.”

“Green School – a great experience. It is particularly valuable for children when younger —a once in a lifetime experience to study in open air classrooms, be exposed to highly experiential learning. It has a great sense of community—amazing campus.”

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