ISSN 2330-717X

Why Indonesia Needs IISMA? – OpEd


Recently, according to Indonesian Ministry of Education website, Nadiem Makarim proposes a form of policy, IISMA or Indonesian International Students Mobility Awards. Basically, IISMA is a couple of policies that are specifically a part of Merdeka Belajar. In this program, Nadiem, as the Ministry of Education, gives opportunities to college students to study abroad. 


Furthermore, Nadiem asserts if IISMA can develop individual capability. Reported by Monitor on May, 11, 2021, Nadiem argued, “Studying in various learning environments has shaped me both intellectually and character. If we want students to sharpen their minds and pursue their dreams, we must transform the higher education system to make it more relevant to the world outside of campus.”

In IISMA, Indonesian government gives an incentive or scholarship to Indonesian students. For instance, a tuition fee. LPDP, Education Fund Management Institute, also, gives a visa fund and emergency fund. Emphasized by Head of Education Fund Management Institute, Dwi Larso, LPDP will provide 1.000 selected students for IISMA program. 

This kind policy is a new direction after the dictatorial government, Soeharto as a ruling Indonesian president. In addition, long years ago until Jokowi’s authority, Indonesia has seriously problems to increase Indonesian quality of education. Therefore, IISMA, is one of the tiny policies that can improve Indonesian image but limited. 

Troubled history 

Despite being the world’s fourth-largest country in terms of population, Indonesia was only the 22nd-largest sender of international students worldwide in 2017, making up less than 1 percent of the more than 5 million students studying abroad that year.

According to UIS data, the number of Indonesian degree-seeking students enrolled overseas has grown by nearly 62 percent since 1998, reaching a high of 47,317 in 2016. This growth made Indonesia the third-largest sender of international students among ASEAN member states in 2017, behind only Vietnam (82,160) and Malaysia (64,187).


Indonesia has been struggling to provide high-quality education to its students. In fact, analysed by the World Bank showed that 55 percent of Indonesians who complete school are functionally illiterate compared with only 14 percent in Vietnam and 20 percent in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In addition, Indonesia’s history of education is extremely bad. Add that time, 2014, Minister of Education and Culture Anies Baswedan declared that the country faced an education “emergency”. 

Despite this, Indonesia’s literacy rate is now high at around 95 percent and youth literacy rate is at 99.67 percent, The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests last conducted by the OECD in 2015 showed that Indonesian students were performing at lower levels in all areas – science, mathematics and reading – than the OECD average.

Quoted by the Lowy Institute report, “While education spending is now at a level similar to other lower middle-income countries, it is still less than comparable neighbouring countries […] The country’s education system has been a high-volume, low-quality enterprise that has fallen well short of the ‘internationally competitive’ system Education and Culture Ministry plans anticipate will emerge in the near future.

Based on the Jakarta post report, in 2018, Indonesia’s PISA report was not heavily changed. The report showed that Indonesia ranked 73rd in mathematics, 74th in reading and 71st in science out of 79 assessed countries and territories. It asserted by Indonesian President, Jokowi said, “The report that I received showed that [Indonesia’s] PISA score average in 2018 has decreased in three areas of competence, with the greatest decrease in literacy.”

Not compatible

Regarding what the report said, Nadiem, as Indonesian Ministry of Education, takes a quick step. In 2020, the education total fund reached Rp 508,1 billion compared to 2015 at Rp 390,3 billion. It’s supposed to increase Indonesian PISA. Nadiem told Jokowi that he had prepared five measures to address the problems and to increase Indonesia’s PISA score in 2024, one of which was to reform the assessments of student’s academic performance.

But, despite, Jokowi also said Indonesia must increase academic performance, so the problems come up. There are two main problems for education. First, the allocation of the fund is ineffective and Indonesian quality workers are low based on the Ministry of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia assessed. Even though, increasing of PISA score can reached 0,6% in 2020-2060. 

Therefore, now, Indonesian government tries to improve it with IISMA not to repair domestic troubles. With IISMA, an international society will see Indonesian students are brilliant even the science or PISA score was getting bad. In addition, IISMA is like a cover of Indonesian rough education system. But, another hand, IISMA can change a delighted image for education. 

*M Habib Pashya, Research Assistant, Universitas Islam Indonesia

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