[Academic] The Role of the NGO and Government Organization in the Education Development in Indonesia’s Border Islands

Case Study of Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar and SM3T*

By: Retno Widyastuti
International Master’s Program in Asia Pacific Studies
National Chengchi University
Taipei, Taiwan

*This paper was presented in 2013 IGU Islands Conference in Penghu, Taiwan Oct 1-5, 2013

Abstract— Indonesia is an archipelagic state with more than 17,000 islands. Some of those islands are located in the border of Indonesia with the other countries, which has some sensitive issues with national sovereignty. It’s not only related to the security, but also economic, politics and social issues. To prevent the threat for sovereignty, one of the ways is by developing those areas to increase their national consciousness.

Education has been becoming important part of development process and education not only helps in upward mobility of a society, but it is also a vehicle for socio economic development of the country. To reach that goal, it needs participation from many levels. In this study, it will assess and analyze the role of NGO and government organization in the education development, especially to fulfill the lack number of teacher’s distribution in Indonesia’s remote and border islands, with the case study of Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar and SM3T. The method of this study is qualitative with analytical descriptive from secondary data and interviews.
Keywords-component; Border Islands, Education Development, Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar, National Consciousness, Teacher Distribution, SM3T


Indonesia is an archipelagic state that has more than 17,000 islands, with more than 250 million citizens live (July 2013, estimation) [1]. These facts create challenges in Indonesian education, especially limited access for getting qualified primary education in remote areas, especially in the front line such as islands in border area of Indonesia.

Geo-politically, Indonesia located between two continents and two oceans, and border with nine countries. According to Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries of Republic of Indonesia [2], there are 92 islands that directly border by sea with nine countries, such as Malaysia (21 islands), Vietnam (2), the Philippines (12), Palau (7), Papua New Guinea (1), Australia (26), Timor Leste (5), India (11) and Singapore (4).

Most of the Indonesia border region is still left behind in terms of development in social, infrastructure, and economy. Most of the paradigm see that border region as an area that needs to be closely monitored due to the intruder, international illegal activity, etc. This view creates a development paradigm makes more emphasis on border security approach rather than social and economy approach. As a result, some areas in the border region still untouched by dynamics of Indonesia national development. The people in the border region is still remainly poor and many are oriented to the neighboring countries [2] in which can be very dangerous for national sovereignty. To prevent this situation, one of the ways is by development, not only physically (infrastructure, economy and trade) but also human development. Education has been becoming important part of development process and education not only helps in upward mobility of a society, but it is also a vehicle for socio economic development of the country.

In this paper, it will describe the role of government and also NGO, especially on developing primary education in Indonesia’s border region. As for the case study, it will describe about the role of recently well known NGO in Indonesia, named Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar and also SM3T, a newly program initiated by Ministry of National Education and Culture, Republic of Indonesia.

These two initiatives have similar pattern; recruiting university graduates to be a teacher in remote area for one year service. Their mission is to fulfill the lacking of number of teacher and also to be a new benchmark for escalating education’s quality in remote area. Their presence is also for developing the basic education for national consciousness in border islands.


Started in 2005, the government of Indonesia tend to be more serious on developing the nation’s education. Based on the Government Regulations No. 25 about National Medium-Term Development Plan Medium-Term period 2004 – 2009, it mentioned that education is one of the main priorities in the national development agenda, namely the priority for increasing access to quality education.

Based on the 1945 Constitution of Republic of Indonesia Preamble paragraph IV, it mentioned the promise and mandate of independence; “…to establish a government of the State of Indonesia which shall protect the whole Indonesian people and their entire homeland of Indonesia, and in order to advance their general welfare, to promote the intellectual life of the nation, and to contribute to implementing order in a world founded upon independence, eternal peace and social justice…”.

Related to the education, it is already being mandated that our duty is to“promote the intellectual life of the nation”. From the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia 1945 in Article 31 Paragraph (1), mentioned shall be that every citizen is entitled to education, and (3) confirms that the Government establish and conduct a national education system that enhances faith and piety and noble character in the context of the intellectual life of the nation, in which governed by of Law.

National education aimed to improving intelligence, as well as dignity of the nation. National education also should be able to develop a sense of patriotism, strengthen the national sspirit, and a sense of social solidarity. Thus, it is appropriate for all education services to targeting all school-age children to get proper education, wherever they are.

Quantitatively, Indonesia has quite sufficient amount of teacher. However, the distribution and quality are generally still low. Throughout Indonesia, including Ministry of National Education (MoNE) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA), as well as private institution, there are more than 167,000 primary schools, 34,000 junior secondary schools and 17,000 senior secondary schools spread across some 440 districts and municipalities. Some schools are extremely isolated from the capital city, and/or their district centre and their remote location that creates problems in terms of teacher employment and deployment [4].

This can be evidenced by the number of teachers that do not achieved education in university level and get teaching certification, especially for those who are live in remote areas in Indonesia. Only 17% of primary teachers hold the proposed new standard of S1 (bachelor degree) [4]. Based on Dirjen PMPTK, Ministry of Education and Culture (2009), teacher quality index indicators in Indonesia in avareage is still low (3,72 scale of 0-11) and around 54% of teachers in Indonesia need to upgrade their teaching qualification.

From World Bank’s data, it shows their survey finding about the uneven distribution number of teacher in Indonesia. The district data show that there are marked inequities in the deployment of teachers both across schools and districts. Some 68% of urban and 52% of rural primary schools have an excess of teachers, while 66% of remote schools have a deficit [4].

It also mentioned that the district data indicate that there are acute shortages of staff in the majority of remote schools, with 93% claiming that they had a deficit [4]. Most of the teachers are working as civil servants, where they urged to serve wherever they are posted. However, the policy is clearly not being consistently implemented. In fact, a lot of teacher is refused to teach in remote area. The resistance to postings in such areas due to lack of adequate housing; poor transport; domestic responsibilities; concerns about the isolation from family and friends; and the generally poor services and facilities in remote areas [4]. As a result of the deficits, some teachers have excessive workloads. These factors ultimately have an adverse impact the students.

Teachers are at the forefront line in improving the quality of education, where teachers will conduct direct interaction with students in the learning process at school. In other words, the overall quality of education begins with quality learning undertaken by teachers in the classroom. It is supposed to be one of focus of the education system that need to be improved in Indonesia. To achieved more advanced country, it needs quality education, and to reach quality education, it needs quality learning. To get quality learning, it starts from a qualified teacher.


Unfortunately, there is no standard national definition of what constitutes a ‘remote location’ currently exists that allows for the quantitative analysis of the number of remote school in Indonesia. However, it can be clearly said that most of the islands in border area are still under-developed and become disadvantages area.

To know how to categorize a region become a developed or under-developed area, National Agency for Border Management of the Republic of Indonesia describe their approach in its grand design [3]. Disadvantaged areas are areas that the community district and the region is relatively less developed than other areas on a national scale. Determination using the approach developed areas 6 (six) basic criteria, namely: economy, society, human resources, infrastructure (infrastructure), local financial capacity (fiscal gap), accessibility, and regional characteristics (Ministry of Rural Development).

As for classification for an area as disadvantaged areas is based on [3]:

  1. Geographic. Generally geographically disadvantaged areas is relatively difficult to reach because they are too far inland hills / mountains, islands, coastal and isolated islands or because of other geomorphological factors that are difficult to reach by transportation and communications network.
  2. Natural Resources. Some disadvantaged areas do not have the potential of natural resources. The region might have vast natural resources, but the surrounding neighborhood is an area that can be protected or not exploited, and due to excessive use of natural resources.
  3. Human Resources. In general, people in disadvantaged areas have a lower education, knowledge, and skills are relatively low and the traditional institutions have not been developed.
  4. Infrastructure and Facilities. Limitations of communication infrastructure, transportation, water supply, irrigation, health, education, and other services that cause people in the disadvantaged areas find it difficult to carry out economic and social activities.
  5. Isolated area, Conflict and Disaster Prone. Physically disadvantaged areas is located in very isolated area, in addition to frequent an area experiencing social conflict or natural disasters such as earthquakes, droughts and floods, and could lead to the disruption of social and economic development activities.

From those criteria, most of frontline and outer – small islands in Indonesia can be categorized as disadvantage area. In 2010, there are 183 under-developed and disadvantaged districts in Indonesia [5]. Regarding the Ministry of Rural and Disadvantages Area Development, the Human Development Index (HDI) in these areas is only 66.98 (2013 estimation) [5].

Abubakar [2] also argued that these situations can create some threat that may be faced by small islands in outer and border line. These threats are illegal entry from foreigner fisherman, pirates, illegal fishing and trafficking; political, economy, social and cultural influence from foreign countries, occupation from the enemy, as well as natural disaster.


The task of ensuring basic and primary education is not only government’s responsibility, it also requires voluntary and private sectors, as well as communities, to collaborate and contribute. Successful experiments and new approaches to education have emerged from Non-government organization (NGO), and also government organization (GO). In this part, it will describe two organizations (each represents NGO and GO) as case study.

A. Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar

Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar (GIM), literally means “Indonesia Teaching Movement”, is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that focused on developing primary education in remote areas in Indonesia. Ignited by the spirit of enlightening the nation, Anies Baswedan, PhD has initiated this movement. GIM officially launched in 2010 adopts the tradition of sharing and inspiring others. It sends the best university graduates to teach as Pengajar Muda (means “Young Teacher”) for one year in the primary schools located in some of Indonesia’s most remote areas [6].

GIM believes that education is a movement and not merely a program run by government, schools and teachers. Education is a movement to educate and enlighten the nation that has to involve everyone, as GIM believe that education is a duty of every educated individual. Thus, GIM commitment is to continually send and support hundreds of Pengajar Muda every year to serve in some of Indonesia’s remote villages.

In order to ensure that every school child in Indonesia obtains the best education, GIM equips the Pengajar Muda’s with training on leadership and pedagogy methods. Hence, apart from being a primary school teacher for one year, these Pengajar Mudas are actively involved in their community.

It is in line with GIM’s mission is to address the undersupply of primary school teachers in remote areas as well as to give valuable life experience to future leaders at a grass root level by living within these remote communities.

Since 2010, there are 293 university graduates that have been selected as Pengajar Muda. These talented young graduates have been serving schools in remote villages and striving to make an impact on the children and their villages. Living within the community for 1-year to teach in an elementary school, Pengajar Muda have become the drivers of change and windows of development for the schools and villages.

As potential future leaders who have global awareness and competence, the experience of living closely with the communities will also give Pengajar Muda the opportunity to gain grassroots understanding about Indonesia. It is GIM vision to have a network of future leaders in many sectors that have great capability, integrity and deep understanding of Indonesia.

Until June 2013, there are 293 Pengajar Muda has been serving 22,808 students in 147 villages in 17 districts, in 16 provinces in Indonesia. From these 17 districs, six of them are located in islands, such as in Bengkalis, Bawean Island – Gresik, Sangihe Islands, Rote Ndao, South Halmahera and West Maluku Tenggara, and four of them are located in Indonesia’s border area.

1) Bengkalis
Bengkalis is a district located in Riau Province, in which has sea border with Malaysia. It has 24 big and small islands. Some of these big islands are Rupat Island (1,524.84 km²) and Bengkalis Island (938.40 km²). Pengajar Muda are served in primary schools in three sub-districts in Bengkalis, such as; Rupat, North Rupat dan Bantan. Especially North Rupat and Rupat, it is located in Malacca Strait area.

2) Sangihe Islands
Sangihe Islands, North Sulawesi Province is a district located in the most northern part of Indonesia and it is border with the Philippines. Sangihe Islands consist of more than 90 small islands. The capital city of Sangihe Islands is Tahuna, located in the biggest island in this district. Tahuna can be reach from North Sulawesi’s capital city, Manado, by sea with duration 7 – 8 hours, or by air with duration 50 minutes. The islands that become Pengajar Muda’s service location only can be reaching by sea. From Tahuna to those small islands needs 3 to 10 hours. Because of this remote location, there is only limited electricity, as well as communication access (cellular signal). Most of the people in Sangihe Islands are working as sailor, and coconut farmer. They do trade to Manado, even to the Philliphines.

3) Rote Ndao
Rote Ndao, that is located in East Nusa Tenggara Province, is the most southern district in Indonesia. The access from Kupang, capital city of East Nusa Tenggara, to Lobalain (capital city of Rote Ndao) is by sea. Rote Ndao has 8 sub-districts, and it has sea border with Australia territory.

4) West Maluku Tenggara
West Maluku Tenggara is located in Maluku Province, can be accessed from Ambon, the capital city of Maluku to Saumlaki by air, with duration 2 hours flight. Saumlaki is the capital city of this district, and it is located in Yamdena Island. To go to Pengajar Muda’s service location, it takes another trip by sea around 2 – 12 hours. Some of islands only have limited transportation access, in which only twice a week. There are 10 sub-districts that spread in different islands.
Similar with Sangihe, in these islands, there is only limited electricity and communication access. Most of the people are working as sailor and sea weed’s farmer.


SM3T abbreviated from Sarjana Mendidik di daerah Terdepan, Terluar dan Tertinggal (literally means; Bachelor Educate in the Frontier, Outermost and Disadvantaged Area), is a newly program runned by Ministry of National Education of Indonesia. This program is the part of Program Maju Bersama Mencerdaskan Bangsa or MBMI (means Program of Developed Together for Englightening the Nation).

Sumarna Surapranata, Director of Teachers and Education Personnel of Primary Education, Ministry of Education and Culture, writes that the Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemdikbud), working hard to meet the needs of teachers in the 3T area (abbreviation of Terdepan, Terluar dan Tertinggal) [7].

SM3T program is addressed to the Bachelor of Education who has not served as a teacher, to be assigned for one year at 3T area. SM-3T program is intended to help overcome the shortage of teachers, as well as preparing teacher candidates a strong professional, independent, and have a caring attitude toward others, and have a soul to educate the children of the nation, in order to move forward together to reach lofty ideals as mandated by the founder of the Indonesian nation.

The reason behind, is because some education problems regarding teacher especially in 3T areas, such as; shortridge, unbalanced distribution, under qualification, low competencies, and the mismatched between qualifications education in the field of teaching. Another problem in education is the dropout rate is still relatively high, while enrollment rates are still low [7].
This program is also as a preparation for these university graduates as a professional educator. Until 2013, there are more than 5,200 graduates that already deployed and teach in 34 districts in 9 provinces, such as; Aceh, East Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, West Papua, Papua, Riau Islands Province, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and Maluku [9].

Some of service area that located in the frontier islands of Indonesia’s border are in Rote Ndao District in East Nusa Tenggara Province (sea border with Australia), Sangihe Islands District and Talaud Islands District in North Sulawesi (border with the Philliphines), Natuna Islands District and Anambas Islands Districts in Riau Islands Provinces (sea border with Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia), Nunukan District in East Kalimantan Province (border with Malaysia), Biak Numfor District in Papua (border with Palau) and South West Maluku District in Maluku Province (border with Australia) [9].


Nowadays in Indonesia, there are a lot of NGO that has similar concern with GIM and SM3T, to create education as the movement. It involves not only government organizations and programs, but also Non-Government Organizations, which represents the societies and communities, to take a part in nation’s education, especially in remote and disadvantages area.
The most important role from these organizations is the presence of complimentary teacher in these 3T areas. The young teacher helps to decrease the uneven distribution of teacher, as well as to enhance education quality in primary level.

Based on the interview conducted by the writer, GIM has specific approach, named education behavioral entity approach. It means, the Pengajar Muda not only responsible to teach in the school, but they also stimulate the society to make social and educational change [8]. In GIM, the Pengajar Muda has central role as the direct partner of GIM on developing Pengajar Muda’s leadership capacity, as well as as the technical supporter and direct partner on pursuing GIM’s vision and mission in supporting social change in area. In other words, they are the ambassador of the movement.

Pengajar Muda has four tasks in GIM’s framework, they are; curricular, extra-curricular, society education, and advocation of education network. Pengajar Muda scope of working is class, school, village/ society (including parents), sub-district and districs.

Similar to Pengajar Muda, as for the young teacher in SM3T program, their responsibility is also not just taught in the classroom. They will also educate and think about what facilities and educational information required and needed for the students in the SM3T locations.

Some significant stories of changes from GIM’s and SM3T’s locations are;

1) Students

The presence of young teacher in remote areas and islands, become the window of information for the students about many activities and competition. Not only in district level, but also national, even international level. Some of the students in these under-developed area can be successfully shows their ability on competing with another students with better education facilities in urban/ major cities in Indonesia.

Diana Poae (12 years old), one of the students in Kawio Islands, Sangihe Islands District, become the runner up in International Kids Photo Contest conducted by National Geographic Contest. Some other students also winning the competition in various contests, such as; Panasonic Kid Witness News 2013, Kalbe Young Scientist Award, student from Bengkalis as the finalist of Olimpiade Sains Kuark, student from West Maluku Tenggara as the participant of Bobo’s National Children Conference, and many more.

Not only did that, to strengthen student’s consciousness about nationality and patriotism, the young teacher teach them how to sing national anthem, conducting national ceremony (in some places it conducted for the first time), and invite the students to do multi-cultural understanding not only theorytically, but also practically.

At first, most of the students did not know about how large and big their country is. What they know is only their own island. To solve this problems, the young teacher initiates a program named “Jejaring Anak Indonesia” (means Indonesian Children Network), that is a correspondence program to encourage students to write and share their experience to the other students in another schools in different islands or provinces. It is quite effective for the students to broaden their knowledge and experience about the concept of state, nation and multi-culture.

2) Teacher and Headmaster

Previously, as mentioned before, the presence of original teacher in 3T areas is remainly low because of some reasons. But since the coming of young teacher, it stimulate them to come to the school ontime, as well as they are motivated to increase their quality through workshop and training, initiated by young teachers.

The teachers and headmaster also join some competition to increase their ability and experience. One of them is Jonathan Karame, Headmaster of SDN Inpres Para, in Sangihe Islands Districts; he got Manado Post Award 2012 from the Governor of North Sulawesi Province.

3) Society

Inspired by the successful story of their children, many parents and society finally become more optimistic and aware with education development in their area. Some of the communities in villages, in together, are build a place to study for their children and also village library with their own money.

4) Stakeholder

Bureau of Education, Youth and Sport in Sangihe Islands initiated a movement named Sangihe Mengajar (means Sangihe Teach). There are 16 young graduates from North Sulawesi recruited as the teacher to teach in elementary and junior high school in this district.


From this case study, it can be seen that the presence of young Indonesian graduates make the NGO and GO’s role in can be more signigicant. Not only solving the distribution problem of teacher in remote areas, it also helps the behavioral change of the society to be more aware and care about their education. Furthermore, these teachers, besides of taking a role as educators, they also empowered to strengthen the nation and state in the frame of the Republic of Indonesia.

Now, there are more and more NGOs and GOs that initiated similar movement on education, especially on inviting more people to be more aware and contribute their contribution for the education. The survey has established that the NGOs can and do play a strong role in assisting the State to complement the public education system and to improve its effectiveness [11].
Although it is still a long way and not an easy job to be done, as well as some problems (technically and socially) that facing this initiatives, the presence of both government and society is very important to reach State vision on enlightening nation through intellectual life and education. It also can escalate the people who live in small islands in frontline of Indonesian border to be more conscious about their nation and patriotism spirit. So that national threats related to foreign influence and border’s problem can be minimize.


[1] The World Factbook; Indonesia, Central Intelligence Agency Website, July 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html
[2] Abubakar, Mustafa. Menata Pulau-pulau Kecil Perbatasan; Belajar dari Kasus Sipadan, Ligitan dan Sebatik. Jakarta: Penerbit Kompas, 2006.
[3] BNPP, Grand Design; Pengelolaan Batas Wilayah Negara dan Kawasan Perbatasan di Indonesia tahun 2011 – 2025 (Grand Design; Management of Country’s Border Area and Border Regional in Indonesia, year 2011 – 2025). Badan Nasional Pengelola Perbatasan (National Authority for Border Management), Republic of Indonesia, 2011.
[4] The World Bank. Teacher Employment and Deployment in Indonesia; Opportunities for Equity, Efficiency and Quality Improvement, 2006. Retrieved from: http://ddp-ext.worldbank.org/EdStats/IDNstu08a.pdf
[5] Yoltuwu, Johozua M. Pertumbuhan Ekonomi di Daerah Tertinggal (Economic Growth in Disadvantage Area), Work Meeting Presentation, Ministry of Disadvantage Area Development, Republic of Indonesia, 7-9 March 2013.
[6] Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar Website. http://indonesiamengajar.org
[7] Dikbud E-Magazine, Edisi 03, IV, May 2013. Retrieved from:
[8] Personal Interview with officer of Gerakan Indonesia Mengajar office, on August 1st, 2013 at 2 – 3 pm.
[9] SM3T Website. http://sm-3t.dikti.go.id/
[10] Kusumo, Ayub Torry Satriyo. Optimalisasi Pengelolaan dan Pemberdayaan Pulau-pulau Terluar dalam Rangka Mempertahankan Keutuhan Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia. Jurnal Dinamika Hukum, Vol. 10 No.3 September 2010.p. 327 – 337.
[11] Jagannathan, Shanti. The Role of Non-Governmental Organization in Primary Education; A Study of Six NGOs in India. Retrieved from: http://bit.ly/142h4bR