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.

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:


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.

248 Comments on "Indonesian kids don’t know how stupid they are"

  1. 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.

  2. 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….:(

  3. 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.

  4. 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

    • @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.

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

    • Please, Sir! Your comment make Indonesian as the worse in English too!

  5. 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.

    • 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!

    • This is late, but the premise is ridiculous. Let’s say everything happens accordingly. Does it make our nation smarter?
      Why not just admit our country is stupid as stupid can be. At least the faster we acknowledge that the sooner we can work to fix it.

  6. 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?

    • 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?

    • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

    • Afrisia Naufal | February 9, 2014 at 6:31 am |

      I’m Indonesian Student, I’m at the first grade of high school “sekolah negeri” and we’re in the new curiculum 2013 our education system is really fuck up (I’m sorry for the word) all we’re care is getting a good grades and how we follow the rules. At the exam we only memorize a things that probably won’t aply to be our future, I asked my parents to move me study abord but they don’t have much money. They teach us how to be hypocrite to be honest, I’m sorry, but we have to act ceritain way so teacher fall in love to us then they can give us more grades. They don’t care about how smart you are, they only care if you make them love you. My friends tell me that I’m stupid because I’m such rebell, didn’t do my homeworks, my exam always at the bottom. But I always told them being smart isn’t by number it’s how you to undersand things you’ve been learned how to be good human beings, what we’re get from memorize this kinda of things by the time you’ll forget. But they don’t understand, they’re like a robot they do what suppoused to do instead of exploring the new things in this life.

      • Actually, although i don’t want to say this, but this is the fact that happen to my country, Indonesia. As a college student, i get some subject in character education which taught me how to solve daily problem, how to learn science based on character, then how to learn english (there’s a subject about english character too), and about how to…… others. But, in status quo, what i’d learn just how to memorize what lectures taught us, then wrote it in the exam. And the student who get under A was the worst. Exactly, i’m agree with afrisia states about ‘how make teacher love us’ because i believe that the only way i can get big mark the work in a big pace. Imagine this, WORK! Our education system make everybody think how to get big mark then work. Even my family said that i have not to get any course or organization besides study, even if it is something that i love like art. I really aware of this such a kind when i’m study transcendence, where i feel really not free, i can’t sleep well because i have to finish my task, if not then i’ll get worst in my score. This education system make i really like a cow which everyday have to be hit to force it work. And i’m sure that Indonesia case’s of corruption and other ‘stupid’ are caused by this bad education system. Rather than talk about ‘how stupid’ again, why not if we talk about how to solve this problem. I believe if you all guys have much idea which i can shared to my country even if it must be in level by level. So, what are you thinking of?

        Sorry for my english if there are so any mistaken

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

    • From what I know, the tests in Math and Science were delivered in Indonesian, thus negating the chances of them being unable to understand the questions due to language barrier.

  9. indonesiankid | December 6, 2013 at 5:10 am |

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

    • 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

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

  11. 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.

    • 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.

  12. 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…

  13. 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.

  14. 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..

  15. 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..

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. itu ngasih pertanyaanya ke anak2 pake bahasa apa?

  19. Muhammad Ardhin | December 6, 2013 at 9:49 am |

    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

    • Indonesian kids | February 10, 2014 at 4:12 am |

      You are the proof that Indonesian are not smart, and I’m as an Indonesian are ashamed of you. Obviously in big city where the people are more better off, there is a lot of smart people. Indonesia’s student constantly wins science award, SO WHAT? 1-5 people even 1 big city does not represent Indonesia as a whole. What you need to understand is that this survey take the general education in all Indonesia. This means from religious nuts in Aceh, the unfortunate Papua students, the Bali’s Hindu population and everybody else is randomly selected. And the result does not surprise me in anyway. I met a lot of seriously dumb people during my trip around Indonesia, more so if they are in rural village where they go to madrassah instead of a school. It is a sad picture. The only way to improve this is for you to accept the fact first, and then put some actions to fix this problem. I know I will donate and maybe create some project to build some proper school in rural area.

  20. Muhammad Ardhin | December 6, 2013 at 9:53 am |

    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

    • One school doesn’t proof anything.

    • 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.

      • Yes..I agree with joni. One time, I was in Amarasi Barat a sub-district of Kupang(it’s near from Kupang, the capital city of NTT) and my friend told me that many of student from SMA 1 even can not read when they’re passing the UN.

        This article maybe not particular represent of all students in Indonesia, but we have to realize that our education system realy uneven.

      • Harold Luke | May 9, 2016 at 5:51 am |

        You’re True Joni,I Agree With You.

    • Education system responsibility | February 11, 2014 at 12:47 pm |

      Indonesian students’ intelligence vary so much from Sabang to Merauke. Some of them are very smart, but unfortunately the rest are terribly bad in education. Cleverer students are usually found in Jakarta, Bali, Medan, etc, while the rest do not seem to be really good in academic.

      In my opinion, Indonesian Education System holds the key. The curriculum before KTSP 2004 was equal to, or more difficult than Cambridge A level curriculum. But, after 2004, Indonesian lessons were really easy. You can compare our newly printed books to our older relatives’ books of which the paper has turned yellowish.

      For example, High School (SMA) grade 3 Mathematics does not contain integral of logarithm, while Mathematics before KTSP 2004 taught that. It means that Indonesian education is dropping down. One thing is funny is that Indonesian new edition of books are much more thicker than old books which contain more knowledge.

      There are still many things to change relating to the education system, such as Mathematics and English in primary school. By removing those two essential lessons, we can easily predict how problematic Indonesian future is, unless they are changed.

  21. Elizabeth Pisani | December 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |

    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?

  22. 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…

    • Education system responsibility | February 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm |

      This is very true.
      There are many school subjects with teachers who force students to memorize useless things that even the teachers do not memorize.
      When I was in primary and secondary school, we have to recite the dates, name of places, name of people in history. PPKN also puts many unnecessary things (not all of them). I, of course, cheated to pass the exams without wasting my precious time.

      But, I still feel sorry for those who push their brains to memorize things that they will forget without even having the use of it just to earn the the title of clever boy/girl. To me they are just a bunch of people who live in illusion.

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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.

    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”

  26. depokpasserby | December 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm |

    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

  27. Stevanus Kristianto Nugroho | December 6, 2013 at 2:31 pm |

    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.

    • 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?

    • Well i usually never commented articles before..
      but come on stevanus, several of my friends got those medals too..
      BUT do you know where they ended up?They eventually left the country and studied abroad..Most of them went to Singapore and Australia to further their study and never thought of coming back to Indonesia..Guess why? Pathetic..:(

      PS: I am indonesian as well, but this article does reflect the condition of our country.

  28. Half-Foreigner | December 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

    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.

  29. 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 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.


    • soalnya orang2 indo kalo judulnya dikasi judul aman biasanya ogah baca. Sekalinya kasi judul kontorversial biasanya yang dibahas judulnya doang bukan isinya..(:

      yah gapapa deh bahagia,bahagia melarat toh juga ga bakal ngerubah inodnesia toh ya ? (:

  30. 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?

  31. Fadli Hermawan | December 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm |

    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.

  32. 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

  33. 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 !

  34. stupid indonesian kid #1 | December 6, 2013 at 5:59 pm |

    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?

  35. stupid indonesian kid #1 | December 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

    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?)

  36. Interested observer | December 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm |

    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.

    • 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.

  37. 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 | December 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

      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.

      • 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.

  38. 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.

    • 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!

  39. 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).

  40. stupid is a hard word.

  41. 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.

  42. 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 | December 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

      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?)

  43. Just curious if the question changed from

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


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


  44. 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!!

  45. Juwitha yg lg Muak Banget | December 7, 2013 at 2:33 am |

    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

  46. 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.

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

  48. 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.

  49. 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…

    • 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 🙂

  50. 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…

  51. Jimmy Sitorus | December 7, 2013 at 5:38 am |

    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!

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

    • Elizabeth Pisani | December 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm |

      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.

  53. 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 | December 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm |


      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.

  54. 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)

  55. 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”.

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

  56. 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.

  57. 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

  58. 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..

  59. 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

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

  61. 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 | December 8, 2013 at 2:42 pm |

      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)

  62. Point of view | December 8, 2013 at 1:36 am |

    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?

  63. 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.

  64. 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!

  65. Somebody should send this article to Mr. Nuh ASAP. 😀

  66. a voice from indonesian student | December 8, 2013 at 9:02 am |

    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 | December 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

      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…

  67. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  68. 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.

  69. indonesianstudent | December 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm |

    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?

    • ” 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.

    • you know what? all the problem is the title. do you like called stupid? cause i’m not

  70. Azalia Faozanudin | December 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm |

    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.

    • 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.

    • Tomi Gunawan | February 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm |

      Saya selalu geli kalau baca komentar yang bilang math and science bukan segala2nya.. Kalau mau jadi negara maju ya harus bisa berinovasi.. hal mendasar dari inovasi dan teknologi ya ilmu matematika termasuk semua ilmu turunannya (kimia, fisika, arsitektur, IT, dsb)…

      Emang ada negara yang maju dari ekspor komoditi agraris? Kalaupun ada, pasti prosesnya sendiri berbasis capital-intensive dan bukannya labor-intensive…Mana yang lebih baik? Ekspor beras 1jt ton buat import 1 pesawat terbang atau ekspor pesawat terbang buat import 1 jt ton beras?

      Buka mata dan buka telinga..sistem pendidikan kita memang parah..jangan lagi kita mencari-cari alasan

  71. 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..


    • 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.

  72. 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 | December 9, 2013 at 7:44 am |

      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?

  73. 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.

    • … and people won’t read this article with that simply title, be a provocative is good, c’mon ..

  74. Jakarta expat | December 9, 2013 at 8:41 am |

    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.

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

    Great article.

  76. 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.

  77. great 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

  78. 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).

  79. 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 🙂

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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.

  83. 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)

    • Please read all the goddamn comments before you post!! It’s already explain why and how!!

  84. 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.

  85. 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”

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

    • Elizabeth Pisani | December 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm |

      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” 🙂

  87. “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. 🙂

  88. Imansyah Guru Kampar | December 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

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

  89. 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.

  90. 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” 😉

  91. 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.

  92. hendi setiawan | December 14, 2013 at 8:29 am |

    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.

  93. unhappy indonesian | December 15, 2013 at 3:39 am |

    waaw. most of the comments made me so ashamed that i wish i weren’t an indonesian 😀 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!!

  94. 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.

  95. Why bother comparing? | December 18, 2013 at 9:38 am |

    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.

  96. Inyiak Balang | December 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm |

    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.

  97. 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.

  98. 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.


    • Elizabeth Pisani | January 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm |

      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.

  99. Hello Elizabeth

    Thanks very much for bringing the results of the PISA study to the attention to a quantity of mainly Indonesian nationals.

    Whether they were appalled or agreed with your conclusions. Whether they used profanity or condemned the use of profanity in their comments. All of commentators at least processed the information you provided and used the shields of Olympiad performance or personal success to avoid personal cognitive dissonance when coming to terms with the meaning of the fact that they have been lied to by their leaders.

    Elizabeth, you have just provided just a little more straw to help break the camel’s back. At some point, and this occurs regularly in Indonesia, the complacency will turn to anger. When this occurs I just hope that the right people and institutions will be targeted.

  100. I accidentally got in to this article with a very provocative tittle, and it looks like many here feel it is unfair to compare indonesia to hk or shanghai.
    Well actually china did participate as a nation just that they did not announce the result especially to the international media, however for the 2009 result they did announce it in china

    I studied mandarin for a year in china, which means my chinese is not sufficient enough to translate the whole article, so let us just focus on the pictures there
    Reading score, shanghai 556 china 486
    Math, shanghai 600 china 550
    Physics, shanghai 575 china 524.

    For both math and physics chinese students scored above the oedc average.
    But the reading score was lower

    This is the result for 2009 not 2012. I hope to see the overall chinese score for 2012 as well, but since the article itself is from 2011 while the test itself was done in 2009, i guess i have to wait till next year (hopefully)

  101. This kind of provocative but take the positive as part of encouragement for all of us as Indonesian. They are not that stupid as this articles with using stupid matrix and unfair comparison.
    Indonesian student are mostly learning even hard. My kids currently studying in Australia, their curriculum are so far different comparing to Indonesia. Indonesia much further in math or other.
    You may need to take my point that mostly of Indonesian student always and always be championship in Olympic for student they are ahead in Math etc.
    come on be positive please.

  102. Hi Mrs. Pisani,
    Your report strikes me badly. Is Pisa test developed by yourself? Seems there is association of that by your name.
    1. I am wondering what your background is. What degree do you have currently? Your article title is too cheap to get people attention and for such a person who hold higher degree in education level. The higher degree you have, normally the deeper message you will share to people to make their life better and not by judging what has been happening in an education system of a country or how failures they are.
    2. What triggers you to do this test? Do you get sponsored financially or politically from other party? Who are they? I am a bit suspicious in this area. I don’t see clear messages you are trying to convey with this report/article whether you are trying to contribute to build a better world where Indonesia is part of it or actually with your decent degree (if you can share with me what level it is) you just want to see and campaign to the world how bad Indonesia is, the system is, anything in it is? But why? What are your noble thoughts and objectives by publishing the statistical data that probably lots of questions in methodology, variances, or constraints?
    3. Your statistical data seems to be convincing. Hod did you get the sample? Did you get helps from our schools activist either NGO or government to help you? If not, how could you get contact to your respondent because if you are aware of Indonesia, we have 5 big islands spreads across, plus around 10 smaller islands, and another more than 16 thousands island across Indonesia. We have hundreds dialects for communications. We have Bahasa Indonesia as national language so that people in Indonesia can communicate one to another. In addition, we encourage people to use their own dialects as it is a priceless traditions that we need to preserve. Hence, if you gave test in Bahasa Indonesia (assuming it has been translated well from your language or English) but the kids are using their own dialects, it is obvious you will have different results, isn’t it. I can’t imagine if you use english straightly for communication. Perhaps you have translators, who are they? Are they sworn translators, tour guide, or else? Right and decent processes reflects the right and decent results.
    4. Culturally Indonesian people are shy, not straightforward, smiling face, friendly, lots to mention about it. And Indonesian kids especially in distant or remote villages are double of mentioned above traits. I am wondering how your approach to interact with them in this activity.
    5. Do you know numbers of Indonesian students lately winning science olympics and year by year the numbers show the incremental trends? Do you know farming methods, Batik painting, culinary/foods industry, art and craft, and many others to mention are built and developed traditionally in Indonesia? Most of them are exported to the world probably to your country as well. And this is coming from the Indonesian kids that probably never know or pass your PISA test or whatsoever but they are willing to share the beauty of Indonesia through their noble minds, authenticity, their religion, and willing to contribute for a whole better world. In this case, I need to know your definition of stupid. If Indonesian kids are happy, not passing your PISA test, and based on your data are the lowest in your PISA test but they keep on inventing new ways to improve the irrigation system for their rice fields, new methods in farming, new variances of food, herbal medicine, arts and crafts, is stupid still valid for them?
    6. I don’t claim Indonesian education systems are in the high rank or better than other countries. However, we keep in improving the systems, finding best ways to solve the problems, keep preserving our richness in culture and traditions, and for sure we will never let our kids being forced to pass the test that probably not fit to them either at present time or future.

    By the way, you said you have lived in Indonesia longer than any other country, how long is it? Continuously or you go back and forth? Which part of islands, cities, villages, kampung, dusun (Indonesian terms if you are aware of it) that you lived in? And if you have lived that long in Indonesia and interacted with so many kids in Indonesia, is this your only best contribution and supports to them by publishing an article titled: Indonesian kids don’t know how stupid they are.

    I feel sad and downhearted Mrs. Pisani. I believe you can do much better for us especially for our kids.

    Mrs. Pisani, I’d love to help you helping us, Indonesian kids, by creating a whole better world together.


  103. they’re happy and proud to be a largest muslim in the world, and dont care about other things. so no need to be surprised…

  104. Ah, elizabeth, you are pretending so much with Indonesia, you is one of few western moron that feel raciscm and on fear when Asian Nation now heading on their prosperity and move forward..

  105. roberto hosea | January 27, 2014 at 4:02 am |

    sad but true…

  106. Dear Pisani,

    could you please tell us how your sampling method was ?
    from which part of Indonesian did you took the samples ?
    did you also learn the economical background of their families ?
    i suppose you are not as stupid as your samples by using such a shallow word, is it just for publication pusposes, for your foreign people ??

    i am an engineer and have worked overseas, but unfortunately i always meet western people that has low capability in maths, cant get the result of simple calculation without using a calculator, i even have met with a PhD that doesnt even know the range of pH…

    Do you also know that many of our youngster manage to win the overseas physic and math competition..?

    having said those things, i believe indonesian kids is not that stupid as you said..

    stupid, NO..
    lack of access to education, YES..

    and that, IS A DIFFERENT THING…

  107. I hope my students here start to realize it instead of angry about this article. Thanks for stabbing us right on the heart.

  108. More like, Indonesian kids dont know how stupid their parents are.

  109. Ga pa pa bodoh matematika, yg penting lolos budipekertinya. Gapapa bodoh fisika, yg penting jempolan di bidang lainnya. Kalo melangkah berdasarkan apa yang orang lain bilang maka kita tidak akan pernah kemana-mana.

    • Tomi Gunawan | February 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm |

      Ya mana bisa begitu Pak/Bu… Kalau negara mau maju ya harus ada inovasi.. Akar dr inovasi ya ilmu matematika termasuk semua turunan ilmu matematika lainnya (fisika, kimia, arsitek, insinyur, geologi, dsb).

      Budipekerti memang penting, tapi klo cuma budi pekerti aja ga bawa bangsa ini kemana2, ujung2nya cuma jadi pengamat di TV, debat dan mengkritik tanpa output dan solusi..

      Emang anda mau selamanya bangsa ini cm nanam padi ama mancing ikan? Mau berapa ton beras ama ikan yang diekspor cuma untuk beli 1 pesawat ?? Masih mending kalo nanam padinya make mesin canggih dan traktor, kalau masih pake kerbau ama cangkul, mau sampai kapan?

  110. Being happy in school? Oh please, I might as well study at home by myself. And it’s not just me, most of my friends are all on the same boat.

    Those who enjoy being in school are probably the clubbing kids, doing useless activities. Clubs and after school activities should be taken for self improvement, but most of these guys take them as an excuse for not attending classes (even though it should be ‘after school’ activities).

    Though, frankly speaking, how can you enjoy a class where all the teachers do are talking to the whiteboard, giving a tiny little piece of lessons out of the actual proportion, and for the worst of the worst award, giving ‘tuition’ which instead of giving supplementary lessons, are actually giving out the test papers. No wonder students are accustomed to cheat the tests.

    My alma mater middle school in Jakarta wasn’t like that. The teachers were responsive, educative, and responsible (well it got international classes after all). I don’t know about other schools in Jakarta but my point is, everyday, a lot of students suffer the inability to get better education from those lousy thing called school, just like me.

    Btw, I’m currently studying in a ‘prestigious’ high school in Bekasi, West Java.

  111. Serafina Aprillia | February 8, 2014 at 11:16 am |

    I’m afraid I’m one of the ‘failed’ generation of Indonesian students. for years in school I’ve been given up about math and science lessons that been taught there. so I took the choice to learn math and science by myself, and go to the Literature Department there.
    it’s not because I can’t, I think, but the curricullum and the teacher’s teaching mental and method really pissed me off. I can remember one of my teacher who I can say -cynically, for sure- never teach. she was just read everything based on what written on the text book, exactly the same. even my Physics high school teacher just asked us to resume all contents of our bilingual text book (I’ve been trapped in what people called SBI school) without pointed or explained the basic. if we don’t know about something, or can’t solve the assignments she gave, she’ll be mad of us and gave us 0 point.

  112. Those student can proof how stupid they are by winning gold medal IZHO, IMSO, ISPrO, IESO, etc..

    Also surprising that Indonesia student is more stupid than Malaysia, Chile who never get Gold Medal.

  113. Agung Adhiasto | February 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm |

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I can understand why people are getting upset with the result. I see that you have provided the link to the data set. Does the link also provide the design of the study? I would really love to understand how the study was carried out, for my own interest.

    What I would like to ask is, whether the study also came up with complete analysis, such as what contributes to the result? The result struck me the most because I always thought the curriculum these days have been much more advanced than that of during my school days.


  114. archstudent | February 8, 2014 at 1:28 pm |

    So guys, I think it will be more positive if we focus on the solution. Stop arguing who is the most stupid one and lets make something for our country, just start from the smallest thing. Discussing the best solution for this case will be more elegant than blaming each other. The wise one said “Lebih baik menyalakan lilin daripada mengutuki kegelapan.”

    Ayo bersatu Indonesia!

  115. I like the data and content presentation, however I’m quite offended with the header, It’s no secret, even among fellow Indonesians, that education is always a problem and that we are much behind compared to our neighbors Singapore and Malaysia. That said, using such provocative language for the header brings forth questions regarding the intent of the writer. Ms. Pisani, what are you trying to say? That Indonesian education system is not working well? This point is already widely accepted and don’t need your provocation to highlight. So.. what are you trying to say with this title?

    • *”The” Indonesian education system, *”doesn’t” need your provocation.
      Also inviting all the grammar nazis out there to come and shoot indiscriminately. Remember that English is not officially recognized in the country. At least some of us are trying. The best way to treat this is to enjoy the EngRish, which is very easy to decode if you understand Bahasa Indonesia. Indonesians appreciate constructive feedback, however blaming and shaming and naming seems to be the common tactic from the comments above.

  116. In Indonesia, the number of “one point seven” should be written as 1,7 not 1.7. They use comma (,) as a separator instead of dot (.). It’s a rule of math in Indonesia.

    They will not doubt to consider your question was wrong due to not using comma as a separator, and answer you with the funny feeling in their hearts. Then you call them as the stupid students.

    It seems that the Indonesian students tend to train their brains with music rather than math. And mostly 15-year-old-students have utilized the technology in their life, including the calculator.

    Anyway, I suggest you to promise them with the prize prior to test them. It maybe usefull to get the honest answer from them. And don’t ever ask a smoking student in the game center, unless such student is an Indonesian-chinese with eyeglasses, moreover with the thick one..

  117. Tomi Gunawan | February 8, 2014 at 6:06 pm |

    This article is very interesting. I dont pretty much care about the result of the test as it is subject to statistical discrepancy. Different methods “may” come with different result and trying to discuss on it deeper will only drive us farther away from the main problem, OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM IS SO POOR !! If you are an Indonesian, you should have realised this phenomenon from the last couple year when the national TV news reported about how some ridiculous questions are given to the elementary students, or how some unappropriate topics are printed in the textbook ?

    I’m now 25 and I have been aware on this issue even from 8 years ago when I was in senior high school. I, personally, as a student at that time realised how I wasted my time by learning too much subject yet only tiny amount of it which contribute to my job now. Even until today after I graduated from the University with cum laude, I’m not 100% to say that I’m produ and confident to compete with my peers as I realise that, with how our education system works, the cum laude title shows nothing but I’m a good memorizer. We have to admit that we are taught to MEMORIZE, not to UNDERSTAND. THE SYSTEM CREATES STUDENTS LACKING LOGIC AND CRITICAL REASONING. WE LEARN WITHOUT QUESTIONING WHY??

    Do we have to learn so many subject at the same time? Why dont we focus on several subjects which are very critical to equip the students to be competitive when they enter the labor force? I dont say that principal subject such as citizenship is not important, I just curious whether we need to spend 12 years to learn this kind of subject? Furthermore, there is also a plan from the gov to take out English subject from the curriculum for certain level and pushed the students to master the Bahasa Indonesia? Are you serious????

    Fortunately, I ended up with a reliable employer which has become my mentor and re-shaped my skills. Tough time of adaptation but at least I’m on the right track.

    For every parent out there, please kindly monitor what are “stuffed” inside your children’s head and keep them on the right track….

    • Elizabeth Pisani | February 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm |

      Thanks for this. You raise an interesting point: that it has effectively become the responsibility of employers to get the workforce up to scratch. This obviously increases the costs to employers, and makes Indonesia less competitive in a globalosing world. It is especially worrisome in the fact of the free movement of workers within ASEAN planned from next year.

    • totally agree…

      yet again..

      do you think by saying “How Stupid” can easily get people understand what your real message is ??

  118. Dear ms/mrs. Pisani

    I’m totally agree with what you try to tell in your article. PISA finding, and TIMSS & PIRLS also, show us how Indonesian Students lack of basic skills. That facts is very worrying. Unfortunately, as you know, only very few people in Indonesian education that aware of it. Many of them deny it. So, i know we can’t rely on them to make differences on our education. As Indonesian, to respond that finding and ignorance of our policy maker, I created a cause, that named Gerakan Anakbaca, that promote reading-literacy among indonesian child (check at, in bahasa). That cause is small and local (In East Kalimantan only at the time) but we have big dream in the future ahead.

    Reading your article make me very happy, because i know for sure, there is someone out there that very concern with our education, our future. I hope we can cooperate in the future for indonesian that we loved so much.

  119. Indonesian kids don’t know how stupid they are??

    definitely you should read this article

  120. Did u say STUPID for children who dont do well at math?
    Tell me what the def of stupid is!

  121. Hi Elizabeth,

    I found your article very intriguing and thus, I am also wondering if you have ever analyzed the PISA 2012 or previous PISA datasets yourself. I did and have been doing it for my PhD research until now, including learning about their sampling, scoring, and scaling techniques, and found that the socio-economic status of the participating students in PISA in Indonesia strongly explained why they could not perform as well as their cohorts in other countries. Although I completely understand that it is your right to write anything you believe in on your own blog, but I think it is rather dangerous to make a strong demeaning statement and assumptions without knowing how PISA were administered, scored (in order to come up with the scores, PISA only used results from few students in developed countries as the parameter estimates), and the participating students’ backgrounds. Yes, I do agree that the Indonesian government should do something about this, and I think they are taking any appropriate measure at the moment by implementing the new curriculum and improving teacher’s quality. Of course, it won’t be easy … as alleviating poverty or income gap will never be easy.


    Dwi Hardi
    UC Berkeley

  122. Aah, I arrived here from the article: I might expect a wave of comments coming soon.

    Yet another article talking about Indonesian problems. I’d just read and enjoy the show while doing my college tasks.

  123. The title of this article and its wonderful content is not as worrying -and also painfully confirming- as most of the comments from supposedly-Indonesians.

    I could be very wrong, but it appears that some of those ‘stupid happy kids’ in the past have grown into ‘sensitive defensive adults’.

    Thank you, Mrs. Pisani, for providing a simple literary contraption to help us catch a glimpse into a somewhat murky future of Indonesia.

  124. yes, now everybody know, we are stupid, let it be and see what will indonesia be in future.. hope the best for damn beloved contry


  125. A few days ago, I got an BBM message from a friend, he ordered me TOEFL certificate without needing to take the test.

    A few days ago, I met my friend at school, he told me that there’s some teachers that can help you to remedy your scores from some lectures without needing to take the lectures again, all you have to do is to pay them.

    I’m 100% Indonesia, and I’m agree with this..
    There are so many retarded in this country.

  126. Totally 99.1% agree with the article except the title. Suggestion; “How Stupid Indonesian Education System Are: It makes the kid stupid

    I think the author acknowledge that not the “kid” as a person that are humanely stupid. It is because the government is corrupt and stupid. They don’t want Indonesian kids to be clever, so they can continue doing corruption.

  127. Well, I don’t know what to say.
    After reading this article and all the comments, I kind of understand what the author is trying to say. That our education system is messed up and fuc*ed up. It needs to be fixed and improved. The problem is, we Indonesian people depend too much on the government (we know many of them are just a bunch of lazy ass), when we ourselves don’t wanna do sh*t to help. Or maybe we can’t do anything at all ? Hah, like I’m one to say, cause I myself can’t do anything even though I know that my country is suffering.

  128. yeah,,, we know now, how stupid we are or more accurate is we know now how clever government to make indonesian kids as stupid as they want. so damn true, government now just know how to eradicate the corruptor than build a suitable curriculum for their kids. they only know how to copy another curriculum, add little revision and than use it.

  129. What a shameful for Indonesia. I think it is not only in Intelectual but also mentality.
    I don’t know how about the mentality kids in Indonesia compare to other countries.

  130. just a concern mom | February 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm |

    Saya komen bahasa indonesia aja spy semua ngerti..
    Kalau dikelompokin, komentator di sini ada bbrp jenis :
    1. Yg males baca komen , jadi buang2 waktu org yg nulis dan buang waktu saya yg baca karna ngulang2 pertanyaannya. Seperti debat kusir aja jadinya. Mereka ini org2 yg ga terbiasa dgn referensi. Jd mungkin skripsinya nyontek atau copas.
    2. Yg bisanya marah dulu aja karna ga terima dibilang stupid…jadi mungkin seperti seorang pengangguran alkoholik yg sensian dan ga bisa menerima kritik.
    3. Yg komenin pemerintah yg salah, atau kapitalis yg salah, atau mungkin hari ini mereka sakit perut gara2 makan bakso juga gara2 ulah zionis.
    4. Yg masuk kategori lainnya.

    Saya sendiri sudah menyadari ada yg salah dgn pendidikan kita. Ga malu2in sih, karna waktu saya bersekolah di Perancis, saya dikira anak professor padahal simple math spt itu udh saya pelajari sebelumnya di Indonesia dan saya ga pinter2 amat. Tapi ya saya cuman ngafalin doang, ga ngerti2 amat juga. (Itu yg salah dgn sistem kita).

    Pengalaman mendalam berikutnya adalah ketika saya ambil raport TK anak saya dan anak saya si komplain oleh bu gurunya gara2 ga bisa baca dgn lancar dan dibanding2kan dgn anak lain yg udh bisa tambah-kurang. Saya? Jelas ga terima, karna sesuai dgn buku “the best school”-nya thomas armstrong, TK itu belum saatnya buat belajar baca dan ngitung2. Tapi, ngapain saya berdebat dgn guru TK yg bukan sarjana dan cuma korban “sistem” juga.

    Tapi tunggu dulu sebelum jadi ngalor ngidul spt komen2 yg lain, saya mau balik lagi ke tujuan penulis bikin tulisan ini. Apakah untuk menyerang ego anda semua karna dibilang stupid/bodoh? Atau utk menyerang pemerintah dan sistemnya? Atau org tua yg ignorant?
    Saya serahkan ke pembaca aja…toh saya ga bisa mengontrol komen dan pikiran kalian juga.

    Buat saya sendiri ya saya jadikan PR. Dimulai dr anak saya sendiri, berikutnya saya juga ikut aktif dalam mendidik generasi muda lainnya melalui program2 lingkungan hidup dan pendidikan. (Saya pekerja swasta yg kerjaannya menuntut banget sampe sabtu dan minggu harus kirim laporan tp ya saya sempet2in)..Dan kalau suatu hari nanti saya punya teman di dinas pendidikan, waah…dengan senang hati akan saya sampaikan artikel ini dan komen2nya.

    Bagaimana dgn anda? Apa baru bisa komen? Atau sdh bergerak membantu bangsa ini? Nulis artikel provokatif spt ini udh bbrp level diatas yg ngomentarin. (Subjektif sih, buat saya ga provokatif tuh)

    Sekeras apapun kritik itu, kalau bisa membangun itulah yg baik. Dunia ini bukan dunia yg bisa ngikutin suasana hati semua org. Komen2 pinter juga buat apa kalo ga gerak…ayo, use all ur resources to help our nation.

    Oya, makasi mbak buat tulisannya 🙂

  131. The problem of Indonesian people is laziness. They are complaining to much, less study, and the worst thing is a lot of them choose to protest about national exam, rather than studying to face it. I have seen a lot of kids spending their time watching TV at night. How about books? I am hoping that WE REALIZE THAT THIS IS NOT ONLY THEIR (GOVERNMENT) PROBLEM. BUT IT IS “MINE and YOURS”. Wake up, change the habit. Starting from your family.

  132. Elizabeth, THANK YOU! Ever since I read about the latest PISA result, I’ve been waiting for someone who would discuss about it. I’m an Indonesian with PhD (from Germany), mother of 2 little kids, and currently living in Switzerland.
    I have been thinking, for years, and feeling very sad about the quality of education in Indonesia. I left Indonesia in 2001, and now already feel like a local in Switzerland, so that I can see how bad it is from a “Western” point of view. I honestly don’t believe that ID government will make a change – not yet. But I know you agree that the change should start asap or we will lose more generations. I learned about “Indonesia Mengajar” last year and it was a breath of fresh air for me to listen to their TEDx talk. Do you think such program will/can help? Is there anything that we, who live outside ID, can help with?

  133. wait , i think indonesian write number a bit different than US

    when they write 1.000.000,00 than it’s mean 1 million
    so therefore 1,000,000,00 is one point zero

    i think it’s have so many misleading information

    just wonder if there are some agenda for this graph 😉

  134. we are good in math, applied science & many more but we just stuck in practice. as i know, lot of us are very deeply about algorithms and logics, its the basic that the world needs atm. i always strange why the survey results because 5 of 7 of my friends always eat 5 books every day, lol sure they eat books, surfing, darknet’ing, or read fckin novels like alien lol
    but np if we still stupid…

  135. yes maam,you right,even my math.teacher my brain is on knees,he also be have like a reapers he ever said tamat riwayatmu,kamu akan hancur,kmu tidak akan naik kelas ,i am in first year of junior high school,and i am study under pressure,iam study with falling system,we must do presentation but in exam(us) there no our presentation in the exam,often my geography teacher not teach,we just do the task on modul book,and our teacher just give sign,and in exan there no one quetion based on modul book,and to prepare exam i am study the modul book from 1 am till 5 am,something we must write the paket book,now i must write from page 56 till 90,well,our goveent,teacher is very genius right,they make system by their logic but not from reality at field,

  136. Concerned citizen | February 10, 2014 at 2:50 am |

    I used to work for an education program under JICA, Ministry of Education and Culture, and Ministry of Religious Affairs. This PISA test (as well as other international tests) has done nothing but confirmed my own findings. My job required me to go to classes and observe how the students learn (which actually reflects how the teachers teach). I have observed hundreds of lessons in 10 provinces in Indonesia, worked with thousands of teachers and hundreds of educational university lecturers. They all showed the same pattern: learning means memorizing, answering test, not understanding, and focusing more on the fast-learners (as they are easier to teach). Indonesian teachers are more concerned about covering the heavy loads of the curriculum (National-Exam oriented). As a result, slow-learners are getting more and more left behind whilst the fast-learners don’t develop much either. They are prepared for exams, not life. Indonesian students are just following instructions, not given enough chance to reason. Simply put, they are never challenged to think. This is our common idea of education, even among university lecturers (who actually very rarely, some even don’t bother to, go to schools to see teaching-learning practice or try to teach there themselves). PISA test is just the opposite. It wants to see how much students understand and measure their reasoning capacities. So, what do you expect?
    And, for those who are proud with the fact that we won many gold medals, did you know that those students were specially and intensively trained beforehand by professors for that purpose? I don’t know about you, but for me this is not education. How many are they, compared to those who never receive medals? This fact only strengthen the fact that our students HAVE POTENTIALS. The question is how much out school system can maximize it and BRINGS OUT THE BEST from every single student, both fast and slow learners (if I’m not mistaken, this is actually the word “education” derived from).

    Bangsa kita suka menutup-nutupi fakta. Kalau ada kunjungan pejabat, semua pengemis dan gelandangan disingkirkan. Kalau Menteri Pendidikan datang, diajak ke sekolah-sekolah yang (menurut mereka) bagus-bagus (bangunannya). Makanya bangsa kita gak maju-maju. So, I thank you for telling us THE OBVIOUS.

    Somebody’s gotta say the truth so that we know what to improve. And, if our own people can’t say it, a concerned foreigner will do just fine for me.

    This is the fact. And, this is our challenge!
    This is everybody’s responsibility, Ministry of Education and Culture, Educational Universities, teachers, and us, parents. And don’t rule out the Ministry of Religious Affairs because they also manage schools (and the condition is generally worse).

    The fate of our nation lies on what is going on in that tiny little space called classrooms..

  137. I’m a 24 year old Indonesian that has studied in Indonesia for my whole life and there was a period of time when I was sent to Germany for a double degree program provided by my university. The physics test that was given was quite shocking to me because it didn’t ask for results but how the results can be get and what is the concept behind it. Yes students in big cities CERTAINLY have better education but I still think the majority of the “good” educational institution in Jakarta especially have flawed understanding of what’s important in education. We might be good number cruncher but I seldom see any reports about a team of Indonesian scientist making scientific breakthroughs other than Indonesian living abroad accompanied by a research team composed of many nationalities.

    On topic, looking from the results, the majority might bring down the average intelligence but as a whole, I think there are just too many things still need to be fixed in the educational system of Indonesia. Some say “Start from the bottom” but in Indonesia, the top and middle government are pretty much starving pigs who just wants money and only a few recently have risen as champions of clean and honest-to-good government. Without support from these corrupt bastards, there is no way the majority of Indonesian will get adequate enough education. Also how religion works in society is getting irritatingly hypocritical by days. How can one teach kids about being a decent human being if all the TV programs are not educational and the older generations act like scums ?

    I must say this 2014, is the last chance, the turning point, the point of no return for Indonesian. If in this year, a leader which is not capable of handling all the ruins that the past leaders have made and have a good moral is not picked, I think in less than 20 years, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia are going to have good time plundering their newly acquired lands and Indonesia will be left to dust with Java Island.

  138. I’m currently in the 3rd grade on one of the high school in Jakarta, and I have experienced the kinda fucked-up education system here in Indonesia (which makes me sometimes drools over education system in foreign countries). The thing is the government sets up an ed system that makes us only memorize, not applying, and to make things worse makes us pursuing only for grades. I understand that scores is one of the measurement of how well a person perform at things, but applied skills are also a necessity. You can imagine, with this kind of ed system, people graduate only with their memorized knowledge that is very easy to eradicate, lacking skill (and sometimes morality) that is actually the core of measuring if one’s an educated person or not. This leads to a shortage of really qualified people and impacts development of the country’s infrastructure and etc.

    Oh, also not to forget to mention that financial supports for education (i.e. scholarships, funds, etc.) are difficult to find and picky (public schools go first).

  139. Dear, Pisani.

    The article is very good and enlightening me. But, the title says as if we (as kids) are the ones to blame for what we (kids) do not know. In fact, the blame is actually on the government that makes the education system. If I were you, I would change the title to “Indonesian Government Doesn’t Know How Stupid They Are at Making Education System”.

    Please, dear Pisani, your word just let all Indonesian kids feel bad and real stupid. It doesn’t give any good impact AT ALL (for kids). Unless, you really want us to feel stupid and down. Thanks 🙂

  140. Dimana banyak yg orang menjadi kaya apakah disebut negara telah maju,.?
    kalau di indonesia apakah ada orang kaya yg mau mebayar gaji yg lebih besar agar yg menjadi buruh/karyawannya menjadi kaya?

  141. Ini bapak budi ini ibu budi, budi budi budi, ini bapak budi…

    The way I learned when I was a kid. very relevant to the age at the time. Indonesia does not want to glance at the situation and make the system better, but prefer the ways and methods of others far out there, then impose on our children!

  142. REVISE
    totally agree with the article, sad but its a fact
    many kids until young adults (currently age 15-40, including me as in this group age) think that we individually are smart ass and know everything, but we actually know nothing, we just think and act locally.
    in the past 50 years, the education system is totally wrong!

    those who are disagree with this article, those are one of the stupid ‘product’ (apology to say, its not your fault, but our system are the one).

    lets we all accept the fact

    one more thing, i really love in the tv program hitam putih, when the host make a short program ‘are you smarter than me”, its actually challange and laughing at indonesian peoples in general who many of them think themselves are smart, but actually most of them are not.

    once again, lets accept the fact

    im not atacking others, including myself are stupid product because i study and raise in this system

  143. Many things make it so. Indonesia is rich countries that allocate its budget by 20% but in reality it’s a lot of money for unused to improve the quality of our education. And the main thing is our mindset in their studies

  144. I’m not that good with english so I’m sorry for my grammar..

    Anyway, I’m a-15-years-old kid from one of (well, not really) good public school in a city near Jakarta.
    I’m sucks at math, never got a 100 on every subjects, which I reaaally want to tell you
    There is religion
    Math (by the way in the new curriculum there are 2 maths)
    physical ed
    foreign language (beside eng)
    Kwu (I don’t know the eng)
    PKN (forgot this one)

    and to tell you the truth, I don’t excel in any of these, just a passing grade.
    but what I want you to know is my answer for the PISA question above…
    If they asked me for the answer, I will think that this should be a tricky question and start wondering if what “they” means by the “highest” is the lowest of all, then doesn’t it means that the lowest should means the highest value?? Or is it that there’s a practical solution? Or a calculus one?? Or is it actually a kind of ‘psikotes’ which is very tricky?? Or what???
    I tend to overthinking like that and end up answering the question with ‘luck’ (tangtingtung, etc.) lol.
    So is that means I’m stupid? Or am I just a super-annoying-overthinking-blockhead-kid?

  145. Membaca comment2 diatas….hmm mau share saja bedasarkan pengalamana kerja di us sekarang…saya tidak pintar..tetapi hitung2an lumayan lah…tapi di tempat kerja saya dianggap pintar hitung2an…teman2 kerja saya aduhh hitungnya susah hihihi mereka selalu mngandalkan kalkulator hihihihi…..dan saya satu2nya orang asia yg bekerja di situ…so saya tetap bangga dgn pendidikan yg saya dapatkan di indonesia. :))

  146. Concern citizen | February 12, 2014 at 10:05 am |

    Dear Elizabeth,

    I’m a father of two, I’m a product of Indonesian education, I started in private school in Bandung Indonesia till my elementary years, and then continued in public school until attained undergraduate tittle in one of the leading Institute in the country. Currently I worked in a factory in rural Jakarta.
    In average I’m totally agree with your assessment. Sometimes we need new operators for the factory and I responsible as the user to test and interview them. And you just can’t believe how hard it is to find a high school graduate who can solve a simple problem such as what is the total weight if I add 0.6 kg and 25 grams materials. In my experience roughly only 20% came trough. And this is rural Jakarta, only one hour car ride from Jakarta. I cant imagine the result if I carried out my test outside Java.
    I agree that It’s not Indonesian children who is stupid,. but rather they were failed by the education system.
    Today my five year old son can read the newspaper, but cannot comprehend what he reads, just because the system required him to be able to read if he were going to elementary school. Is it really necessary??
    My cousin son in Singapore can’t even spell two letter when he was six, and she say its normal. And Singapore is one of the leading scorer here.

  147. Frustrated ex-indonesian students | February 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm |

    I have read every single comments before i post mine to avoid making a mistake like most of my fellow indonesians who asked the same questions over and over again, even when they has been answered.
    I am not surprised that many of the comments focused more on the title rather than the issue its being brought up.
    A title is needed to withdraw attention, will most of you read this article if the title was “Pisa Test of Indonesian Students”.
    Moving forward from the title topic, there are still people who actually said that math and science is not important, whats important is “budi pekerti”. is this refers to indonesian who cant line up properly, who pays extra money to get their ktp done quicker because everybody is doing so, or reckless driving?
    Math and science is needed because its the base of logic thinking, combine together with your moral education it will build a solid common sense that will take you far in life. I agree that you do not need to be Enstein to suceed in your life, but what the tests is saying that something that a 15 years old should generally understand, most of our students failed.
    And i think what the test is trying to say that this is not ultimately because of the students are plain stupid but because there is something wrong with the system. This is the first step of realizing something is not right, whats next? Departments should go to school and talk to teachers, learn about how the culture is affecting the education. teachers should talk to students, aspire them, excites them, ask them what they like what they dont like. Parents should build a strong family foundation, makes their kids feel needed, fullfiled, go through this stage of craziness (you all know how it feels like to be 15 years old, no? Hormones, love story, friendship, etc). And students should open up, speak up, and stimulized themselves.
    Its all interconnected. You cant just blame the government when its the teacher who has no interest in making good people for the future. You cant just blame teachers when its the students who’s a stubborn. You cant blame the students when its their parents who doesnt give a damn! And you cant blame a test /researcher from giving out results.

    • I have worried the student freedom of speech being restricted by school regulation as to “discipline” the student and to make them to become obedient to their teacher or senior because acting unorthodoxly is a disdain for them, as the school of indonesia education system put “respect to the older one” but the older one abuses it for domination over the younger one rather than gaining respect.

  148. Frustrated ex-indonesian students | February 12, 2014 at 3:21 pm |

    Whoops..accidently pressed the button. Bottom line, i think instead of debating about whether or not this test is reliable, or how offensive the title is, you know what you should do. If you agree with this article, start doing something, anything, dont think about how big or small the impact will be, little things count. And for those of you who doesnt agree, move on. This article doesnt do you any harm since you dont believe any of it. For those of you who feels in between, do more research, its an awakening point to start paying attention.

    And as for me, i am going to teach my kids some counting while teaching them the importance of waiting in line patiently 🙂

  149. I tried to google the sample questions of PISA test. Many of them are not as easy as the one showed in this article. If we took this test 25 years ago, many of my friends would fail the test.
    I never took any education in other countries, so don’t know what they teach in school. I only know the quality of the person who took higher education from overseas university, and frankly, observed that they are no different with us. I noticed that they are more confident, outspoken, and of course, speak english better. But I suppose this especially caused by their economic background rather than result of the education.
    Nevertheless, the PISA test should become an eye opener for the public. Many people think that our education system is too focused on math and science. That we need to focus on moral and ethics more. No need too focused on math and science, no need for national exam, etc. Well, this proved otherwise. Other countries excel on all aspect.

  150. I am Indonesian, living in Australia. When I was doing high school in Indonesia, I could say that my maths were very poor. Then I moved to Australia just to find out that my maths were actually much better than Australians students in general. So what’s the point of this PISA survey? Nothing! It’s a black campaign against third world countries.

  151. Robby Atmaja | February 22, 2014 at 5:53 am |

    All i get in this article is, it is a very good input for Indonesian government, specially Indonesian Ministry of Education and their in associated department. Our “lack” (if we don’t want to call it “poor”) system in curriculum and how the government fulfill the demand of great public school and a great system to runs it also is a fact that i (and maybe other parents in Indonesia) must accept and deal with everyday. And some point in this writing is true so i have to agreed it.

    But for the title of this article and the sake of Indonesian kids…i have to agree to azzam:

    February 11, 2014 at 3:38 am · Reply

    Dear, Pisani.

    The article is very good and enlightening me. But, the title says as if we (as kids) are the ones to blame for what we (kids) do not know. In fact, the blame is actually on the government that makes the education system. If I were you, I would change the title to “Indonesian Government Doesn’t Know How Stupid They Are at Making Education System”.

    Please, dear Pisani, your word just let all Indonesian kids feel bad and real stupid. It doesn’t give any good impact AT ALL (for kids). Unless, you really want us to feel stupid and down. Thanks 🙂

    Just like economy, education in Indonesia is centralized in the capital or in the high populated region only. Me and my wife are not anti-public school parents kind of type. In fact, me and my wife had our junior to senior high school in public school. But we can’t find at least a “good” public school around us yet. Our solution is sending our daughter in the private school in order to get proper and a better environment to have education, and so is most of our neighbor. Or for other who wealth they will send their children abroad. Problems will get even more emerged in the other Indonesian rural and remote area. Good public or private school is depends to local Corporate Social Resposbility almost fully in funding. “But how about government? they should the one who fully responsible about it?”…and yes i have the same exact question.

    But we have to admit that Indonesian public and specially private schools is already in the path of resurrection since at least in this last 20 years. Indonesian public school with great graduates is increasing…though it is still partial not yet national. Jakarta, Depok, Tangerang, Bandung, Jogjakarta, Surabaya and Bali is the region that have a lot of great pre-elementary to high school, private or public and of course with limitations but they are (public schools) are making great definite improvements already.

    Private Schools that made great graduates are getting definitely numerous also…even more compared to public school, quality and or quantity wise. But again the problem is, it is still concentrated in big cities or high populated area only.

    How stupid are the Indonesian kids these days? I will answer not that most. The rest stupid kids are not stupid because they were born stupid, but i will say…why don’t you make an article about how Indonesian government runs their Ministry of Education? And write your suggested solution(s) about it also

    I’m not trying to blame the government, but an objective and balanced article will be a true enlightenment.

    So, it is a great writing with very bad title.

  152. The title of this article makes me a bit worried about the future of Indonesia in the modern era. Because of the ability of mathematics, science and technology becomes indispensable capital. However, the results of this survey indicate our students are not quite able to deal with it. I also have written a review about it “Siswa Didik Kita Tidak Pernah Tahu Seberapa Bodohnya Mereka?, Mrs. elizabeth.

  153. The Fear Of the Lord is The Beginning Of Knowledge

    [pic] spotted in Manado.

  154. Dear Ms. Pissani,

    I am an Indonesian born and bred through and through. Who was lucky enough to have parents who realized what the elite status quo trying to do to us ordinary folks. That they contacted some acquaintances abroad to have me educated while working, just like an underaged TKI, except in a civilized country.

    Whilst this severed emotional relationship between me and my family, I am clearly aware of the benefits to be able to see from outside perspective ie. it is obvious to me the systematic intellectual castration being done to my people fellow Indonesians. Which unfortunately I cannot do anything about. As the slightest attempt to get them question the current condition of their basic existence and action of improvement, would deem me as anti-establishment, stirring discontent or worse, challenging their belief system.

    What I learn from living here since a year and half, is that to take socio-spiritual factors into account. Most of my charges during volunteering months in a makeshift slum school, holds a believe instilled by their parents and ancestors that their misery in the current life is like a karma deposit accounts to be cashed in on the afterlife. The more you suffers, the more you will reap later.

    Which was frustrating for me to comprehend at first, as I see my fellow brothers and sisters exchanging the gold mountain they were born atop, with a crate of banana. But you know what, maybe banana is all they want and need. One thing I know for sure that they are happy in their simplicity and misery. That no material and knowledge could compare nor replace. And somehow I do not want to ruin it by instilling different sets of values.

    However, I did let them know that IF THEY WANT, they do not have to live like this. And pointed the most basic direction of finding out information for themselves instead of believing whatever the ‘education system’ wants them to ‘learn’, through the use of basic analytical thinking and English, amongst others.

    I understand that some people will accuse me of being condescending. In the end, it is the Indonesians themselves who will have to change their fate. If they are happy with the status quo, then why not. Who am I to tell them otherwise -as I was privileged to be rescued from their context. In fact, if they want to change, they would have done it ages ago, instead of blaming others for their adversities. As tragic as this may be, I am convinced that there is a grander scheme at work that we mere mortals could only attempt and do so much as witnessing what’s about to unfold.


    Raden Mas Ojek

  155. indonesian | June 20, 2014 at 3:33 am |

    Too bad so many Indonesians who have commented here are so concerned about the delivery of the message that is using the word stupid rather then looking at the content objectively. Please do not be defensive and said things like intelligence is not measured by math test, being happy is more important than being smart, being nice is better than being smart etc. This article proves that we are too content with the result without doing enough objective self reflection and demanding better system. It seems people are too lazy and ‘satisfied’ in their lives to want to do self improvement and it is a common attitude across the nation. There is no ‘fighting spirit’ to improve ourselves by demanding better education system. Please guys education is one the most important thing on the list to improve our nation’s standing and it has potential to contribute to many improvements to many social and economics parameters.

  156. Other countries get an education and good governance but not a megabiodiversity country while Indonesia had abundant natural wealth and beautiful scenery but bad education and governance. I think it’s a break-even to us.

  157. Im an Indonesian high school’s student. I agreed with you.

  158. I used to felt smart and lazy before college but when colege happens it only left me with lazy ._.

    after i read this i think i can relate…

  159. Arsy Reza | May 8, 2016 at 11:52 am |

    I learnt many things in school, and until now (I’m 15 years old) honestly I haven’t really understand anything I’ve learnt. We as students are forced to memorize rather than to understand. Students with high scores Don’t always understand more than those with low scores, but they may remember more of the materials. I don’t know, maybe it’s not about the student’s ability? Maybe It’s all about the curriculum, about how school thaught us about the materials, the way they teach us. If we can find the right and suitable method of teaching for Indonesian students, maybe we will have better generations and brighter future.

    Thank you,
    Indonesian student

  160. Edo Suhartanto | May 9, 2016 at 2:53 am |

    Is the question using English or Indonesian?
    If english is used than I think the pisa test did not set the best picture of indonesian student. Right?

  161. Hey fucks, just accept that we’re Stupid because its the reality.

  162. Musician | May 9, 2016 at 4:28 am |

    2+2 not the same as 1+3 if you dont understand doesnt mean you are stupid

  163. as a parent, i repeatedly share to my daughter that grade isn’t everything, it is comprehension that matters, although in Indonesia, students with excellent comprehension do not always got straight “A’s” they never fail in the applied knowledge

  164. Sandi Sufiandi | May 9, 2016 at 1:21 pm |

    I think the wrong question asked, Indonesian use dot to separate thousand and comma to show number less than one.
    For more fair test please use local convention.

  165. Anton Napitupulu | May 9, 2016 at 1:47 pm |

    First of all, the title is very provocative. In a positive way to understand, we cannot differ sweet among sweets.

    Secondly, in positive way too, the article should be taken as criticism to Indonesian education program.

    Thirdly, we can and we should question on the PISA test of 15 year old kids as fair measurement to judge Kids’ intelligence. Mainly it is because test is a situational measurement, depends on location, time, and readiness of the objects. Other consideration is, we have several age-base, such as under 5, under 12, under 15, under 18. Which range is the most representative for Kids, is it really 15 only?

    Last thing, if Ms. Elisabeth Pisani spill this out positively, and all stakeholders view it positively, maybe we can take any positive thing out of it.

  166. I as an Indonesian know how stupid the system is, especially the new curriculum of k 13. I myself didn’t achieve much in science and maths as the basic one i cannot understand, this became worser when i graduated from my middle school to vocational highschool where we demanded to be “attractive” to our current teacher. This become more gruesome when the teacher only paying attention in one particular student or two (in Indonesia people who take the seat infront close to his/her teacher is basically smarter) where i myself and my friend seated in the middle and the back is the one who got the worst of the act and we were emotionally hated by the teacher who always blaming us by being noisy and lousy. Me and three of my friend were different from the other classmate especially me, when i branded as “rebellious” because i had a diffrent views of perspective and not in the same boat as my teacher, in the end of the semester i got bad grade as not “affecting”,expected to be,friendly and branded as “orang pintar tapi buruk akhlaknya” where my teacher use me as a subject of a conversation when trying to instruct the new student to be “good characteristic 101” a new shitty program annie baswedan make for the new curriculum of 13.

    Talk about the student behavior of majority of indonesian were pretty “edgy” and “cringe” with their “motivational”, “inspiration” and “faith”, as indonesia didn’t teach them to be a rational and having a consent human being but robot motivated by word and telling, inspirated by nonsense and overly faith. as the train of stupidity wont stop. Indonesian people is so smug for having the best “norm” that their redeem from education and religion with their comment of spam insulting people for having plastic surgery as majority wrote “feeling insecure with true self after god gift the soul and the body” leaving smug comment and motivational picture or quote all over the comment acting they won something and do greater good as the school teaches them to be.

    What do you think? did i the one who were being a bad student or the system and the people of indonesia education is dumb to the grave?

  167. Irkham Ulil Albab | May 10, 2016 at 4:26 am |

    Hi, I don’t agree with you. All of PISA Mathematics items I concerned, consist of unfamiliar context for Indonesian kids. As mention in your example, we teach decimal number using comma (,) not dot (.). Does it make a sense?
    A decade, Realistic Mathematics Education has been promoted in Indonesia. The score will be different. Hence, I don’t really sure which students were being surveyed. PISA never tell the sampling place.

  168. I have to say, i enjoyed reading all the comments (dear Eli, i hope, like i do, took comments as meters of how intelligent your viewers are and i dare say there is still hopes). Don’t be discouraged by negatives since positive ones trumped them.

  169. why people compare everything? I dont even care if I am smart or stupid as long as I am happy with my life.. peacee~

  170. setidaknya anak2 di indonesia tidak ada yang bunuh diri karena tekanan di pendidikan.

  171. Optimist mom | May 10, 2016 at 4:13 pm |

    Maybe Indonesian students good at in other fields there are many field beside math…you can not test fish, elephant, hypo to climb a tree

  172. eljoemike | May 12, 2016 at 2:12 am |

    Ignorance is bliss. It’s better to be happy even though you’re stupid. Take that, sucka! #hatersgonnahate

  173. 16yearsold Indonesian Student | September 10, 2016 at 6:38 pm |

    The article and the comments are amusing. Mbak Elisabeth nya kaya ular. SlyCunning. Aye Aye Aye.

  174. parhimpunan | June 8, 2017 at 5:59 am |

    give your solutions for the situation, not just blame n blame. if you are really Indonesian, do something for your country. if you are not Indonesian, don’t waste your time judging and talking about my country’s education, please think about releasing your own country from the people’s moral problems. I love my birthland, nobody has right to manage our own business…keep in mind!!!

  175. Hi,
    I’m one of the fortunate Indonesians that was sent abroad during my secondary and varsity years.
    When I came back home to work at a large multinational bank, I made friends with a number of Indonesians that has stayed in Indonesia,and thus never had an overseas education.
    Low and behold,their maths skills were excellent,much better than mine.
    Not only that, their social skills were really good too.
    Maybe I’m just stupid compared to my coworkers,or maybe everything just depends on each individuals.
    Thats where your theory fails.

  176. One of stupid | January 23, 2018 at 11:19 pm |

    Ketika membaca komentar yang diberikan oleh banyak orang Indonesia, Pisani dan banyak orang bule yang baca mungkin berpikir judulnya bisa diganti:
    “Indonesian people don’t know how stupid they are”. There are a lot of us show that quality with our comment without paying attention to the content.

  177. Somebody who is curious about Pisani | February 16, 2018 at 8:36 pm |

    I rarely make comments on a article, but the topic (especially the title) is just fantastic. I just think that if you really want to criticise education system in Indonesia, please don’t only rely on tests (even though this kind of study is clearly much easier to conduct and much faster to get the results), but please conduct a deep research on how the system is going in Indonesia (across all provinces if you want to criticise more, because inequality in accessing education is one of serious problems in education in Indonesia). That way, people who read your article will focus on the education system rather than being upset by the title, or maybe that is part of producing a catchy article? Anyway, I am so happy to know that you care about Indonesia! 🙂

  178. Hi! I won’t comment on the title lol… I could also understand the harsh responses you got from some commenters, this has been more of my concerns than the bad bad PISA , TIMMS or PIRLS results our students have got so far. It seems like a lot of people get offended too easily. I did my masters in Educational Sciences in the Netherlands ten years ago and in almost each course we discussed about international comparative studies like PISA. You guys could imagine how my fellow Indonesian classmates and I felt to see our country fared on the list and those apologetic-almost pitying looks of our Dutch lecturers. Luckily none of us uttered only defensive comments. Rather, we tried to brainstorm the possible reasons & solutions. Unfortunately none of us could do anything more than raising the awareness about our educational system upon our returns to Indonesia… and just like how some people here tried to negate the fact brought up by this brutally honest article, so did some of our fellow academics. Please… this fact isn’t new at all and still it is alarming. Rather than wasting our energy to be merely offended and hence defensive upon the ‚s‘ word the author used, let‘s reflect and do something, especially for most underprivileged students outside the big cities in Indonesia. This is the reality, the inconvenient truth we have to swallow.

  179. LOL Indonesia should send test participants from BPK Penabur, Santa Ursula and Kanisius high school (full of chinese descent). The ranking will be the top three 😀

  180. Saya dari Indonesia dan saya kaget bahwa ada artikel seperti ini di internet. Saya merasa artikel ini menjelek-jelekan nama Indonesia. Meskipun artikel ini di publish 7 tahun lalu, saya pikir kenapa artikel ini tidak dihapus? Atau mungkin di perbaharui? Sebelum saya komentar di sini saya mencari tahu rangking PISA terbaru dan Indonesia bukan yang paling bawah lagi. Memang, kami masih harus memperbaiki sistem edukasi di Indonesia. Kita sebenarnya adalah negara yang masih berkembang, maka dari itu kita belum memiliki edukasi sebagus yang ada di negara yang sudah maju. Tapi siapa tahu kalau di masa yang akan datang Indonesia pasti memiliki edukasi yang jauh lebih bagus yang sekarang kita miliki. Dan menurut saya artikel seperti ini bisa menjatuhkan semangat anak-anak Indonesia yang memiliki niat untuk memperbaiki nilai atau belajar lebih giat. Saya berbicara dengan bahasa Indonesia karena saya juga bangga dengan negara ini. Dan sekali lagi kalau bisa artikel inu dihapus. Saya tidak membenci ataupun memiliki maksud menjatuhkan orang yang menulis artikel ini. Tapi saya meminta supaya orang yang menulis artikel seperti ini untuk tidak melanjutkan menulis artikel seperti ini. Terima kasih. Love from Indonesia ❤❤❤

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