Month: June 2017

Trinidad and Tobago: An Educational Overview

Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island Caribbean nation located about seven miles off the coast of Venezuela. The island of Tobago was settled by the Dutch in 1630, but was a French colony until it was ceded to the British crown in 1814. Trinidad on the other hand, was a Spanish colony from 1594 until 1802, when it was ceded to the British. The islands were united as one colony in 1888, gaining independence in 1962. In 1976, Trinidad and Tobago became a republic.

Trinidad and Tobago’s economy is supported by revenues in the oil and gas industry. The nation stands out among emerging markets for its education system, considered one of its core economic strengths. Trinidad and Tobago is the third most literate country in the Caribbean region after Barbados and Cuba, with a youth literacy rate higher than 99%. Education is available and free to all nationals, save for examination and administration fees at the tertiary level.

The education system is designed to distribute the population’s wealth from petrochemical industries. The emphasis is on strengthening basic education and increasing professional specializations at the higher levels. As such, the country’s government has made education a priority. For example, the fiscal year 2015 saw fifteen percent of national spending (about $1.56 billion USD) allotted to education alone.

Primary and Secondary School

The country’s educational system is based on the British model. School is free and compulsory for ages 5-15. Primary school starts at age 5 (grades 1-5). However, non-mandatory schooling can begin as early as age 3. Past primary school, students take a secondary school assessment for entry called the SEA (Secondary Entrance Assessment) which tests reading comprehension, essay writing, literacy and numeracy.  Secondary school spans grades 6-8 at which point students complete their Caribbean secondary education certificate. Grades 9-10 are part of upper secondary school, and are non-compulsory for students. However, completing these grades may lead to an advanced proficiency certificate and entrance to tertiary education. The examinations taken at the end of upper secondary school are comparable to the British O and A Level exams.

Higher Education

Undergraduate-level study is also free at approved universities, such as the University of the West Indies, the University of Trinidad and Tobago, and the University of the Southern Caribbean. Some master’s programs are subsidized by the government as well. The Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) program, for example, benefits over sixty-five thousand nationals, but expects recipients to work in the island for a period of time after graduation in return. Programs like these aim to curb brain-drain in the small dual-island nation.

Generally, education from government-assisted and public schools is considered to be of a higher quality than private schools. Students may also choose to attend technical and vocational schools instead of undergraduate university education.

Education in Indonesia

Indonesia is fourth most populous country in the world and has the third largest educational system. Education in Indonesia is compulsory for all children from the age of 7 to 14. The first six years of compulsory education are completed in a primary school, followed by three years in lower/ junior secondary school. After nine years of mandatory schooling, students may choose to continue their education in a senior secondary or vocational school. Thereafter they can choose between a university education and a paraprofessional education. If a student chooses to pursue higher professional education in Indonesia, they can receive a diploma in a certain profession. Students that choose to attend university can obtain a master’s degree or a doctoral degree if they meet set requirements.

The Ministry of National Education (MoNE) manages 84% of the primary and secondary schools in Indonesia, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) oversees the remaining 16%. Islamic Schools, or madrasahs run by the MoRA are offered from preprimary (optional schooling for children under the age of 7) to upper secondary school. Completion of an Islamic primary or secondary school is equated to completion of a public school in Indonesia. The MoRA also manages Islamic institutes, which are given the same ranking as public and private universities.

After mandatory schooling is finished, Indonesian teenagers can continue to a three-year upper/senior secondary education. There are three options at this level; general education, an Islamic education, and vocational training. General senior secondary schooling teaches students natural and social sciences, languages, and/or religion. Islamic senior secondary education provides students with specialized religious knowledge. A three-year vocational school in either an Islamic or public school will give students job training in a chosen field. Students also have the option of entering a four-year vocational program, in which they will receive a Level 1 diploma upon graduation. Upon completion of coursework, all secondary school students must pass an exam administered by their individual schools to receive a Certificate of Completion. To receive a Certificate of Graduation students must pass the national examinations administered by the MoNE, which also serves as an entrance exam to public universities.

Those that wish to continue to higher education must meet requirements set by each institution. To gain entrance to a private university, a polytechnic institution, or an academy students must take the exam set by each school. In Indonesia there are many options for higher education. Students may seek an education at a public or private university, a teacher training institute, an Islamic institute, a college or advanced school, a polytechnic school, an academy, or a community college.

A diploma from the Indonesian education system is awarded when a student completes higher education-level schoolwork at a teacher institute, academy, or any paraprofessional program. A diploma I requires one year of study, a diploma II requires two years of study, and so on. A Diploma IV is the highest diploma a student can earn.

After senior secondary school students may also choose to apply to university. There are over 400 universities in Indonesia, and a majority are private institutions. Because of the small number of public universities and therefore the limited number of available spots, gaining admission is very competitive. The national examination/entrance exam is standard throughout Indonesia, and therefore students who can afford to prepare for the exam tend to receive better scores. Due to the competitive nature of universities, many Indonesian students attend international institutions. Indonesian institutions also offer master’s and doctoral degrees for students who want to continue their education after an undergraduate degree.

As Indonesia’s economy is growing, there is a large demand for mid-level skilled workers who can contribute to the local and national economies. Because of this demand, there are a growing number of community colleges that provide two-year educational programs. Credits from these schools can be transferred to university credits, or graduates can join the workforce. As part of an initiative to increase the number of skilled workers in the market, the government has set a goal to increase the number of students enrolled in upper secondary vocational schools.

Over the past decade the Indonesian government has allocated more money to the education sector and decentralized money management. Now schools have more control of how they spend their money and can better customize their budget for students at each school. Despite these efforts, the lower education system has not improved much. Indonesian primary and secondary students continue to rank low on standardized examinations compared to their international counterparts.

Another effort has been made to increase the quality of teachers in primary and secondary schools. Passed in 2005, the Teacher Law requires all new teachers to hold a four-year degree, increasing the number of teachers that have a bachelor degree or a Degree IV. In theory this should increase the quality of education each student receives. But, it also means that more money must be allocated to teachers’ salaries, which decreases the amount of available funding from the operational budget.

The biggest problem with the Indonesian education system is the low rate of students who can actually attend school. Although primary and lower secondary school are mandatory for all children, in 2014 only 21% of children were receiving an early childhood education. Students are forced to leave school in order to support their families, get married at a young age, or because of various economic constraints. The education department has so far been unable to control or counteract many of the factors that contribute to the low rate of enrollment. As such, large scale policies and initiatives are needed to decrease poverty and to give children the opportunity to complete school.