Children in Indonesia usually begin their education when they are six years old, at sekolah dasar (primary school). Public schools do not have a kindergarten. Some parents may choose to send their children to private kindergartens that charge tuition.

Sekolah dasar lasts for six years. Most schools have classes in the morning, from Monday to Saturday. Children spend less time in class than North American children, but they are expected to complete three to five hours of homework every evening. Primary school students also attend a special class to study Pancasila, the guiding principles of Indonesian society. They must pass this course in order to go on to the next grade. All public schools follow the same curriculum.

Before the Asian Currency Crisis in 1997, school enrolment was 90% for primary school, but it has since fallen. Now many parents cannot afford to pay for the school uniform and textbooks. Some children drop out of school to work or to help in the rice fields.

After primary school, students attend Sekolah Menengah Pertama (junior high school), which lasts three years. Students write an examination before entering Sekolah Menengah Umum (high school), which continues for a further three years. Some high schools prepare students for university; others provide vocational training for those interested in technical work. There are also high schools that train primary school teachers.

   Did you know?
All Indonesian children study agama (religion) at school. Agama involves learning about one's own religion, rather than studying different religions. For example, Muslim students study the laws of Islam and learn Arabic.
Those who complete the courses necessary to attend university must take an entrance examination in which they are tested on everything they have learned during their schooling. It is a difficult examination, and only a few students pass each year. Candidates who fail may take the examination again the following year. There are both private and public universities. The private universities charge high tuition fees.

The largest university in Indonesia is Universitas Indonesia, located in Jakarta. The Institut Teknologi Bandung, located in Bandung, is the major institution for technology studies. Traditionally, men tend to take engineering, medicine and business at university, and women study arts, literature and foreign languages. About half of all university students are women.

   Did you know?
In the early 20th century, Kartini, a woman of the Indonesian nobility, expressed her frustration at the lack of higher education for Indonesians. She wrote a series of letters about this issue to a Dutch couple she knew. The letters were published in Holland and caused a stir. Kartini is regarded as Indonesia's first feminist.