Poverty is still a major problem that hinders Indonesia’s development. In 2017, around 26.58 million Indonesians still lived below the poverty line. They often could not afford good education and health care for their children, causing an endless cycle of poverty. This becomes a hereditary problem which is passed down from one generation to the next generation. The Indonesian government has established various education program to alleviate poverty. But many of them did not work efficiently since the root of the problem, namely the quality education, has not been resolved.
Education is a key to intellectual and professional developments of people and plays an important role in supporting a stronger and more globally competitive Indonesia. Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” By having an education, someone has a higher probability of employment, productivity, and earnings as well as better life choices. Hence, the only way to break this poverty chain is by investing in quality education.
Indonesia has many smart and potential children who have big dreams and aspire to pursue higher education. But the lack of financial ability and infrastructure access discourage them from aiming high. According to 2016 UNICEF data, there are 2.5 million children (age 6-15) who were not able to continue their education to a higher level. This is caused by various factors, such as marriage at an early age, children who are forced to work to support the family, and mostly, the economic factors. Moreover, children in the rural areas are having small chance to get exposed to science and technology. This situation produces uncompetitive human resources, which are not qualified to compete in national or even global job market.
During the last 10 years, the Indonesian government has allocated 20% of the state annual budget for education, which is roughly equal to only US$2962.1 dollars/student/year. This amount is the lowest among other countries listed by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Despite this allocation, Indonesian students still perform behind the OECD average in international student assessment test.
In some regencies, the effect of poverty on education is already visible at the start of primary school. Children from the poor families are less likely to start school. Those who do start school are more likely to drop out early. The average length of school in Indonesia, which is only 7.9 years in 2016, shows that there are a huge number of students who finished primary school but failed to completed secondary school. These difficulties weaken the children’s enthusiasm for pursuing education. To increase the school participation of children from poorer backgrounds, we must make the school more affordable by defraying the educational and opportunity costs. It shows that Indonesia needs scholarship expansion support to increase access for poor students.