School In Indonesia, Especially Medan City


School is become one of the essential part of modern people’s life , it almost as important as primary needs in today’s world, at least this how most of the Medanese parent thought.

I have heard many about parent who complained the expensive of school fee. Some of the parent even cut their daily needs spending in order to send their children to school. Some even borrow money from somewhere either relatives or friends only to send their kids to better school.

In Indonesia we have many types of school and it kind of headache when decided where the kids will be sent to…

School can be divided in many types, the public / government school (Sekolah Negri) own by the government, the private school (Sekolah Swasta) own by the corporate or private, International school own by the private or foreigner, The Madrasah (Islamic school), The Catholic school, The Buddhist school, etc.

Due to my experienced…
It is very important to choose right / suitable school for the kids no matter regarding the curriculum, the facilities, the teachers competency, the school fees, the environment, etc.

When I was in my preschool and Primary school (grade 1- 6) my parent sent me to Private school because I was living in county side. In my living area, there only two types of school the Private and Public (government). My parent chosen to send me to Private school after considered with many reasons, one of it Racist. People who live in Indonesia during Soeharto (2nd president) regime knew very well how the discrimination and racism happened in that time, especially for Non-native Indonesia such as Chinese, Indian, Westerners, etc.

In order to have better school environment and life, my parent decided to send me study in Private school where I mingle with the Chinese, Indian or the mixed – race kids. It rare to find Native Indonesian who study in Private school in my area during the preschool and primary school.

Although I was studying at Private school, my school has five religions subject to choose not alike Madrasah or Catholic school. Even Indonesia admitted five (now six) religions but still the dominant always Islamic, Christian and Buddhist as religion subject at school.

When my family had better financial “condition”, we moved to the city. My parent sent me to International school because they hope me to have better education for better future and be competitive.

School curriculum
This is the most important part to consider when choosing where kids should be sent to. Government has already set the curriculum standard every year for schools in Indonesia through the Ministry of Education  but practically the school curriculum might different from one to others.
For example, when I was studied in private school in county side, my school had additional subject such as Arabic, Japanese and Dutch. which actually different from the other school which my friend (who went to same study course/bimbel/kursus but different school because she studied in Catholic school)
My school in county side did not have any extracurricular or clubs while the some of the school had it.

School Environment and Majority
I don’t want to be hypocrite about school in Medan, especially. Most of the Chinese and Mixed – race kids won’t enter government school (sekolah negri) because afraid get bullied and discriminated. So most of time private school got stereotypes as Non-Indonesian school because 90% of the students are the Chinese and Mixed-race kids.
Because of some factors, Private school is stereotype as middle upper school, better school environment and safer place for kids while the Government school always stereotypes as middle lower school, bad environment, etc.
Actually Government school is not bad as older generation described but because of the racist and discrimination and also majority, the younger generation has already create kind of “opinion”
While International School always described as high class school filled with rich generation. In International school, the kids are come from different races with one similarity which is their parent must be rich people. why? simple because the school fees in International School are higher times compare to Private and Government school.

School Facility
“The most expensive then it must be the best”
This is one of the well-known quotes for the Medanese. Since International school is the most expensive school then it has the best facilities. I can’t deny this reality because I had experienced it before. I remembered when I was in county side, my class only had 20 – 30 students for every grade and each class while in international school they had at least 40 students for each classes and grades so that they had like class 1-A /1-1, 1-B/1-2 (means grade one class A or 1).
In my county side school, we were only had one basketball field which used as multi-function facility such as running, table tennis, basketball and every Monday morning we are having flag ceremony in same field. While in International school they had at least two fields, swimming pool, Big Hall, multi-function hall and field for flag ceremony, labs such as Chemistry, Biology, computer, etc.

School Competency, Teacher quality
Government school always stereotypes as school that have the poorest teacher quality because many of the teacher aren’t get well paid so the quality is bad. Since the teacher quality is bad, how can be expected to have good school competency. I heard sometimes the teacher only came to school only to fill their attendance but not teaching the students. They are taking free-salary (gaji buta) because teaching nothing.
Private School has better teacher quality since the school fee little bit expensive and also it own by the private so the Teacher get better paid compare to government school. Besides that teachers in private school also get monitored and evaluated so they are working harder to teach the students.
International School as the most expensive school has the best teacher quality among all since the teacher is imported from foreign country (foreigner). The student also speak more than two languages in school environment and little bit irony because they used English as first language at school rather than Bahasa Indonesia which is the National Language.

So that’s all about school in Indonesia during my time LOLS. I don’t know whether it has changed or remained same. Since I had left school so long.

How’s about your school in your country or your place where you live?


  1. Samie · December 7

    I went to a Filipino – Chinese school where there’s also racism hidden under the guise of wrong sense of pride. Some local Chinese are not very respectful to native Filipinos. But, some to be.Polite and civil. We used the negativity as a tool to be a better person. That was decades ago. Now, I.still sent my kids to a chinese – Filipino Catholic school. I thought, it will be different and way much better from my non-sectarian school 😣 but, parents are more competitive and pushy ( we term it as, EpaL and Jolog ). Thou, foundation of academic discipline is ok but…english & Chinese verbal proficiency, social etiquette and morals are severely lacking. I’ll let my kids finish primary school and transfer them…Hopefully, to an international school ( if, I can afford 😳) for better exposure to respect of diversity and more. else…they go to the states.

    • azurro4cielo · December 8

      I agree about parents are more competitive and pushy.
      I remembered years ago when I was still in my Primary school. my mom crazily pushed me to master English by sending me to Private Linguistic course every week three times after school.
      Beside that I still needed to go for other courses which mom thought it would helpful for my academic progress and “career” future.
      Today’s I could see many parents send their kids to learn many things especially the linguistic and music stuffs.
      The kids who study in International School are so competitive perhaps they are pushed to learn many things since they young.

      • Samie · December 8

        Minding your own kids personal development or advancement is an easy and way to put it. Thing is…when some Chinese parents gets petty and shallow jealous of a Filipino ( from a Non Chinese household) trying hard to learn Mandarin. They will try to attack the Filipino child’s self esteem by vicious and malicious mongering. Worst, by corrupting teachers to single out the Filipino child. They got.the advantage of familiarity with the “elders” local Chinese teachers… Which either, breeds contempt ( for being strict ) or corruption. Yet, I teach my kids to be more Resilient for knowing different worlds. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. You can’t blame some people for living in their own arrogance and ignorance.

        Thanks azzurrocielo 😄 parenting is a skill of balance and sense. *sigh*

      • azurro4cielo · December 8

        Things are contrary in my place. The government tried to control the minority (Non-native Indonesian) during 2nd president regime. I remembered as minority we were banned to do traditions activity and even speaking our mother tongue. I don’t even know Chinese Mandarin exist after the 4th president who allowed Mandarin as school subject because before we were only taught English, Arabic, Dutch and Japanese at school.
        There also discrimination in paying school fee, using facilities, grading / marking method and etc.

  2. Ma · December 8

    Hi! Interesting post. It’s nice to learn about other country school systems. I live in the United States and their school system depends on the neighborhood that you live in. Public school is free to all children and is funded through tax dollars, mainly property tax. So areas with higher property value have more funding for their school which usually means better quality education. Most inner city schools are not as good as schools in the suburb (outside the city). I live 2 hours away from a major city, in a small country town — our school system from grades K-12 are listed as some of the top schools in our state.

    • azurro4cielo · December 8

      Hi There : )
      Indonesia Public school is subsidized by government so the school fee might cheaper compare to others.
      Other than Public School, we have “Express School” that funded by either government or private in remote area which 100% free. But this kind of school not really called as school for many reasons such as no competency in curriculum.

  3. yunaem · December 8

    Very interesting to know bout school in other country. I live in Malaysia. Not much I can say about schools here.

    I went to government school from primary (darjah 1) until finish SPM (Sijil Persekolahan Malaysia) in Tingkatan 5. I must say, I seldom see a malay and a chinese become good friends until I reach pre-U (Tingkatan 6). and also that’s because i’m the only malay girl in my class, who takes physics course, more malays at biology course, and mostly malays take the literature course. Although I think there is no boundary to befriend with somebody, I was kind of single out by my own race, just because I’m from different course. they thought I just hanging out with them to show off that I’m a better than them (they got it all wrong!)

    The chinese mostly do their own thing, and sent their children mostly to chinese school. only some would send thier children to government school. The Indian (Indian) are the minorities, coz there’s not much Indian school here (only have primary school) they send thier children to government school.

    Private and International school are the same as what you told us.

    We also have Madrasah. There are schools that being supported by the government, such as Sekolah Rendah Agama Bersepadu, Sekolah Menengah Agama. we also have Pondok, modern and conservatives, manage on their own. their funded by peoples waqaf (donation) and their management people’s money…

    although their management and funding are of different type,all their curriculum are still under government (kerajaan yang aturkan) and keeps on changing….
    I felt pity with the teachers and students. they change the language for teaching (bahasa pengantar). for a long time we use Bahasa Malaysia, English as a second language. just because the government think we need to be competitive with students internationally, they change it to English causing a mass drop in students result in exam.

    the other time, the government don’t want education to become exam oriented, they change the method to evaluate the students. students will have a little field research to make during their study. and the method of documentation also change. teachers have to make document for each student in class they teach.
    Imagine, a class teacher, have to manage 40 students (40 files), and also teach another subject in another class of 35 students (35 sheets to be given to the other class teacher). Not to mention students extra curricular activities….

    documentation has taken a LOT of teachers time rather than their main job: teaching.

    Although I have finish U-course to become a teacher, with this kind of situation, I am VERY grateful that God made me to become a homemaker/manage own business.

    • azurro4cielo · December 8

      I mingle very well with Native-Indonesian, Perankan Chinese, Chinese and mixed-race kids during my time study in private course/ kursus / bimbel (Extra-class out from school). in private course I met lots of kids from different races and background. furthermore, I felt much comfortable joining the private course, at least people there not see me differently as Chinese-Canadian.

      some people thought mixed-race kids have lots of advantage study in School but actually not.

  4. mtlanon · December 10

    anak sutomo?

  5. Anna · January 15

    Never knew that you are from Indonesia! I’m jealous of you ability for knowing Chinese >.<
    So at least you know 3 language right?
    Thanks for the hard work :3

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