Reading Crisis: The Culprit of Indonesian Education Low Quality

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia


Since its proclamation of independence in 1945, Indonesia’s national education development still seems to focus on fulfilling the quantity aspects, particularly the provision of school buildings, educational facilities, and educators (teachers and lecturers). In terms of quantity, Indonesian education has indeed been successful.  According to Biro Pusat Statistik (the Central Bureau of Statistics), in 2019, the percentage of Indonesians attending school by age is 99.24% for the 7-12 year age group; 95.31% for the 13-15 year age group; 72.36% for 16-18 year age group; and, 25.21%. for the 9-24 years. Thus, almost all Indonesian children in elementary and junior high school age have attended school; 3 out of 4 citizens aged 16-18 years study in high school, and 1 in 4 high school graduates proceed to study at tertiary institutions. In addition, in 2019 the literacy rate of Indonesia’s population aged 15 years or older is 95.90%.

Various efforts to improve the quality of education in Indonesia have actually been carried out. The curriculum, for example, has been changed 10 times, i.e. in 1947, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1975, 1984, 1994, 2004, 2006, and 2013. Since 1984, to implement the new curriculum, various training for teachers have also been conducted. However, these efforts cannot yet improve quality. Indonesian national education is lower than in neighboring countries. The study of PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) 2018 showed that Indonesian students’ average reading score was 371, much lower than the OECD average score, 487. With that score, the reading ability of Indonesian students was ranked the 74th among the 79 OECD countries. The same trend occurred in mathematical ability (Indonesia, 379; OECD average, 489), ranking 73th out of 79 OECD countries. Science ability (Indonesia, 371; OECD average, 489), ranking 71st out of 79.

The Essence of Reading as the Foundation of Learning

There are many factors causing the low learning outcomes of Indonesian students. The main cause, however, is the students’ low reading culture. Reading is the foundation and the gateway to learning. Students with appropriate reading interest and proficiency can learn anything, while students without them will face many difficulties while learning.
The essential role of reading as a foundation and as a learning success factor is supported by various educational experiences and recent study results. The following section lists five aspects concerning the importance of reading in learning. These five factors are essentially interrelated. They are separated in this article only to make discussion easier.

First, modern learning systems are very dependent on literacy (reading and writing skills). This dependence occurs because …

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