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publication October 27, 2020

Estimates of COVID-19 Impacts on Learning and Earning in Indonesia: How to Turn the Tide


This report estimates the impacts of primary and secondary school closures due to COVID-19 in Indonesia on students learning and future earnings. Our analysis uses two scenarios – six months of school closure (March-September) and eight months of school closure (March-November), as although some schools are gradually re-opening in the coming months, they may possibly re-close as well.

Download the report (.pdf) | Summary (in Bahasa .pdf)


Key findings:

  • Going to school is not the same as learning. Students who complete the same number of years of school often have very different levels of learning.
  • Due to school closure, we estimate that on average, students have lost about half of a year of learning. We estimate lost learning to be equivalent to 16 reading points on PISA based on school closures from the end of March to the end of September. The PISA assessment measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills.
  • In the long run, the closure of most schools through September 2020 is projected to translate into lifetime income losses of US$222.4 billion (IDR 3,336 trillion) across 68 million students, equivalent to 19.9 percent of 2019 GDP. This is because children’s future earnings are linked to how much they learn in school, since education equips them with the skills to be productive.
  • These losses could even be greater if schools remain closed for a longer period without additional action to support learning.
  • The Indonesian government has already taken several steps to support learning from home including providing free or subsidized internet quotas to students and teachers, educational TV programming, and providing schools the option of using a emergency or simplified education curriculum.
  • Moving forward, more action is urgently needed to minimize and hopefully reverse learning losses. Indonesia can consider:
    • Re-enrolment campaigns for schools that are reopening to minimize dropout, particularly targeting groups that are at higher risk, such as low-income students who may have to work to support their family’s income.
    • An intensive campaign to ensure schools and madrasahs have working toilets and hand washing facilities, and appropriate classroom spaces to accommodate students with social distancing.
    • Once children are back in school, support teachers to identify what students know and what they have forgotten, and deliver targeted teaching for different learning levels, in an effort to reverse learning losses. The government has already taken positive steps in this direction. The Ministry of Education and Culture has provided tools for teachers to assess their students’ progress during distance learning and as schools reopen. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has also announced plans for a similar assessment.
    • Expand access to online and distance education by increasing internet connectivity, as well as access to devices, starting in areas with the greatest need. This could include prioritizing 100 percent internet access for all schools so that schools can be a point of internet access for learning for all those living in remote communities.
    • Organize check-ins by phone or in person, while respecting social distancing protocols, to keep children engaged in learning and troubleshoot online and television access issues at home.
    • Work with partners to evaluate the quality of different distance learning materials available to help teachers and students select the most effective ones, as well as continuously improve the quality of these resources.
  • Ensuring their children are able to learn is an investment in Indonesia’s human capital and growth, as well as a more resilient education system for future crises.