Open Access
Zhao, Heng
Graduate Program:
Educational Theory and Policy
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 19, 2006
Committee Members:
  • Suet Ling Pong, Committee Chair
  • David Post, Committee Chair
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • Regina Deil Amen, Committee Member
  • education mobility
  • education attainment
  • family background
  • educational policy
After independence from 350 years of colonial domination mainly by Dutch, the new government made a commitment to equality of education. This study focuses on a series of education policies on spreading nine-year compulsory education by Soeharto¡¯s New Order government. They include: (1) 1973-1978 School Building Program, (2) 1979-1984 Open Junior High School Program, (3) 1984 compulsory initiative for six-year elementary education, (4) 1989 Education Law on nine-year compulsory education, and (5) 1994 emphasis on three-year lower secondary education. Can social engineering like education policies in particular eliminate educational stratification or as Pitirim Sorokin proposes that there is no trend toward either an increase or decrease of social mobility? The purpose of this study is to provide an insight into this question by examining the effects of a series Indonesian basic education policies on reducing education inequality based on an individual¡¯s social origins using the data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey 1997. In addition, this study is also interested in exploring the gender disparities in basic educational attainment for such an Islam-dominant country. Are Muslim girls backward in schooling as commonly perceived? The results show that over forty-three years period of time, Indonesian children¡¯s basic educational attainment in terms of primary school attendance, primary school completion given primary school attendance and junior high school attendance given primary school completion increased. The relatively outstanding changes were consistent with the goals of the state¡¯s educational policies accompanied with government direct financial investment or corresponded to the country¡¯s economic change. The effects of family background (except number of rooms and mother¡¯s education) on the child¡¯s educational attainment at the primary level had disappeared for the most recent cohort but its effects on the transition to junior high school demonstrated no trend of either increase or decrease. The gender disparities in educational attainment at the primary level had disappeared but the advantage of boys at the transition to junior high school was remarkable constancy. Once the girls had attended the junior high school, they were even more likely than the boys to complete the school for the most recent cohorts because of more competitive for girls at the entrance to junior high school and more working opportunities for boys in the labor market. Sometimes Islamic girls were most disadvantageous at certain level of basic education and for certain cohort compared with non-Islamic girls, Islamic boys and non-Islamic boys but it was not always the case. The findings suggest that the state education policies with real financial investment on the purpose of expanding educational opportunities would increase people¡¯s educational attainment. However, even if the expansion of an educational system generally decreases inequalities at particular points of school transition, inequality persists at the other points of transition. The government¡¯s efforts on expanding the educational system have not eliminated educational stratification but virtually result in no real change in the structured inequality inherent in differences in family backgrounds. Gender disparities in basic education did not differ for Islam and non-Islam in most cases. Even in the few cases when Islamic girls were assured to be backward, the reasons for the backward cannot be simply attributed to the belief of Islam. They are intertwined with social class and ethnicity issues standing behind the religious affiliation of Islam.