History & Background
Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago, straddling the equinox and formed by 17,670 islands. Its national territory stretches from Australia to Southern Asia and is the fourth most populous country after the People's Republic of China, India, and the United States.
Indonesia's population of nearly 200 million experienced a diminishing growth rate of 1.82 percent in the period 1990-1995, when compared to its 2.32 percent growth rate the previous decade (1971-1980). Although the population growth will decrease, the total population of Indonesia is expected to increase from 195.7 million in 1995 to 242.6 million in 2020. The World Bank estimates a continuing decrease in population growth, to less than one percent in 2015-2020. The decrease is attributable to the nation's proactive family planning efforts. National literacy rates have progressed rapidly since Indonesia's independence on 17 August 1945, in spite of natural impediments such as the nation being made up of 400 distinct ethnic groups and the fact that more than two-thirds of the population live in rural areas. In 1930, less than six percent of the population was literate, while the 1990 census data reveals an 84 percent literacy rate of those over 10 years of age.
Corresponding to the advancements in literacy is the change in the Indonesian labor force as characterized by the continuous decrease of employment opportunities in the area of agriculture and an increasing demand for knowledge and skills in industry. The structural shift in the economy has generated new challenges and demands affecting the education system. According to the 1987 Survey of the National Labor Force, 70 percent of the labor force had not been educated beyond primary school level, inadequate for a society approaching the era of modernization. However, the 1990 population census shows a growing tendency toward higher education within the labor force. Likewise, over the past 25 years, the number of pupils more than doubled for primary school, rose four and a half times for the junior secondary school, eight times for the senior secondary schools, and about 10 times for higher education. Such growth has resulted in a more educated population and labor force.
In June 1993, UNESCO awarded President Suharto with the Avicenna Medal (Ibnu Sina Award), recognizing Indonesia for implementing its universal education program for 7 to 12 year olds in a much quicker way when compared to other developing countries. Jacques Hallak from the Institute for Educational Planning, UNESCO, wrote in 1990 that "higher level industrial countries with better social economic conditions like the United States and other developed West European countries like France, Germany and England needed 60 to 100 years to accomplish universalization of basic education."
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