The Current State of Indonesian Language Education in Australian Schools


Implement an Intervention Strategy



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2 Implement an Intervention Strategy


Immediately design and implement an intervention strategy targeted at junior secondary Indonesian in order to stem the present decline and increase retention of students into senior secondary years.

The largest threat to not achieving the NALSSP target for Indonesian, and Indonesian language study more generally, is the current lack of retention of students into senior secondary Indonesian. There is currently a significant (albeit diminishing) base of students in primary and junior secondary school from which to build demand for students continuing into senior secondary Indonesian.

The proposed intervention strategy will involve a project conducted in a number of school sites with ‘at-risk’ programs over a three- to five-year period. The project will be led by a team of people with expertise in teaching Indonesian, languages education, school readiness and change processes, and qualitative research. To support the research, funding may be required for senior secondary classes for a limited, short-term period to ensure continuity of pathways for existing students. The research will assess factors affecting retention, implement strategies to address retention, and make recommendations for future intervention based on the findings of the initial phase of the project.

This recommendation will be designed as a national project with state and territory collaboration on aspects of action at specific sites; for example, staffing, local curriculum and assessment requirements.


3 Investigate Key Issues


Investigate key issues affecting Indonesian to inform further action, specifically:

  • the relationship between student retention and the socioeconomic and geographic distribution of programs

  • workforce planning in relation to teachers of Indonesian

  • the nature of primary programs, specifically program conditions, quality of teaching, and learner achievement.

It has not been possible within the scope of this report to comprehensively explore the many ‘unknowns’ that remain in regards to the current state of Indonesian language nationally and further issue- specific investigations are needed.

This report did not investigate students’ views on their reasons to study Indonesian or not. It is vital that any action to address retention and uptake of Indonesian be informed by the students themselves and the factors affecting their decision making. An investigation of student views would need to take into account the socioeconomic and geographical distribution of programs and other factors to ascertain the context in which students’ decisions are being made. This would require developing a map of the distribution profile of Indonesian programs across Australia.

Research in relation to workforce planning is needed to inform any strategies related to teacher supply for Indonesian. It is not clear from the data available for this report what the state and nature of teachers of Indonesian is across Australia. There are conflicting reports of both oversupply and undersupply. While inadequate supply of teachers of languages is an obstacle to program provision, there is some doubt as to whether this is currently the case for Indonesian given the recent shrinkage of programs being offered. Any strategies in relation to supply can only proceed once more clarity of the current situation is established.

The nature of Indonesian programs, particularly in primary schools, remains unclear. There are reservations among stakeholders about primary program conditions (and related learning experiences) and the impact of current programs on student retention. More insight is needed into primary programs to effectively address the conditions for improving continuity and retention. Research into primary Indonesian programs will require:



  • a baseline report of the nature of Indonesian primary programs across Australia

  • a pilot project to trial alternative models or conditions of program provision, in particular increased time on task

  • implementation over a three-year period to determine any impact on student decision-making and enrolment trends

  • targeting of schools with low rates of retention from primary to junior secondary

  • communicating findings to education jurisdictions to inform future decision making.

It is envisaged that these investigations will be designed as national projects with state and territory involvement in matters such as accessibility, data collection and understandings of the local context.

6 Conclusion

The study of Indonesian in Australian schools has a fifty-year history with periods of both expansion and contraction. The steady decline of more than 10,000 students per year over the past decade presents a number of major challenges and indicates the need for deeper understanding of the causes of this current situation and ways to turn it around.

The student participation data in this report reflects a significant shift over the past two decades in who is studying Indonesian and at what level. Enrolments in Indonesian at the primary school level increased dramatically during the NALSAS years (1994–2002) and while these remain relatively strong, the data shows that numbers are declining significantly. The starkest trend over recent years is the decreasing participation of students learning Indonesian at senior secondary level with the number falling to levels similar to two decades ago. While it has not been possible to fully investigate the causes of the current situation in the scope of this report, some contributing factors are evident.

Firstly, current rationales for the study of Indonesian are not connecting with Australian students and their families. While the teaching and learning of Indonesian is currently supported by the Australian Government through the NALSSP, this support is not influencing students’ individual decision making about the value of studying Indonesian.

A second factor is the operational conditions of Indonesian programs in schools. Factors such as geographical distribution of programs, quality primary programs, effective supply of qualified teachers and stability of pathways through to senior secondary school, all contribute to the current fragile state of programs.

Furthermore, this report indicates that too little remains definitively known about the underlying causes of the current state and nature of Indonesian in schools. The decline is not a single event or overnight phenomenon; it has been occurring over time. Deeper investigation is required to make more of the ‘unknowns’ known and thereby create a basis for taking further action to turn the current situation around.



In June 2008, and again in March 2010, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd outlined a vision of Australia’s relationship with Indonesia. It is a vision in which the relationship between the two countries is strengthened and deepened, not just in trade or security terms, but also in personal, social and cultural terms. Such a vision assumes a continued commitment over the long term to the teaching and learning of Indonesian in Australian schools. A significant reform agenda is required to enable Indonesian programs in schools to effectively play their part in achieving this vision.

7 Appendices


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