Another milestone reached: my kid just graduated from her kindergarten school, ha! She has attended that private school in Bekasi, Indonesia, for almost one year. Before that, she had one year in a public school in Brighton, UK. Both are good schools, and I really thank all the teachers and staff for their hard work and love given to my child. But I can’t deny that the school in Brighton left a special mark in my heart, because it had been one of my biggest support systems while we lived there. In this post, I would like to share some differences between the two schools in my experience and perspective. They might not represent all schools in the UK or Indonesia.
To make it easy to understand the differences in education level in the UK and Indonesia, I tried to create a simple table below showing the list of student levels in sequence before entering tertiary education (university). The school year in the UK is started every September while in Indonesia is every July, that is why the cut-off birth dates are different.
In Indonesia, the primary state school will prioritise children aged 7 to enter. If there is still a vacant seat, then they can accept younger children with a recommendation letter from a psychologist. While in the UK, the age requirement in the cut-off date is a little bit strict. For example, children who have not yet reached 4 years old on 1 September, even though only a few days younger, cannot enter Reception class yet.
My kid was 4 years old when we moved to Brighton in the mid of September, therefore she could enroll in Reception class. While Nursery in the UK has classes only 3 days a week, the Reception goes to school Monday to Friday, 6 hours each. Children with that age in Indonesia attend school only 3-4 hours a day, or even none at all, because pre-primary is not too mandatory. That’s why in the beginning, I was a little bit worried about my kid taking the Reception class, would she survive? But apparently all the kids there were playing and having fun, no stress at all!
As you can see in the above table, if we follow the Indonesian government system, the normal age of students entering university would be 19 years old, a year older than students in the UK. In the UK, education is compulsory until 18 years old, but the school is mandatory until 16 years old. The remaining 2 years of education can be obtained either in academic or vocational study such as apprenticeship and training.
This Indonesia’s education level that requires a 7 year-old age to start primary state school was actually introduced recently in 2017. The previous scheme, the one that is still preferable by the majority of parents including me, is primary school starting at age 6. In that case, the normal age of students in Indonesia entering university would be 18 years old, the same age with students in the UK (and the other developed countries as well).
The way around for enrolling our kid to primary school at 6 years old is through private schools which have a more flexible system than public ones, but unfortunately not cheap.
The big difference between my kid’s school in the UK (public school) and her school in Indonesia (private school) is of course the fee. The tuition fee in the UK was completely zero. They even provided free lunch meals, writing books, stationery, and field trips. The school sold sweaters and jackets with the school’s badge/emblem, and we bought one, but the rest of the uniforms (red/white shirt, grey skirt/pants, red-white plaid dress during summer) can be found easily in clothing stores. Although kindergarten public schools in Indonesia are also (supposed to be) free of charge, I don’t think they provide free books and lunch.
Meanwhile, in my kid’s private school in Indonesia, we have to pay admission fee, monthly tuition fee, textbook fee, activity fee (field trips), and uniform fee. The kids also need to bring their own writing books, stationery and snack meals. Of course if we compare it with private schools in the UK, they would be much more expensive than private schools here. People said, higher price usually means better quality. But it is not always the case. And there are also other considerations in choosing the school for our kids, such as location and cultures.
I observed that the kindergarten kids in the UK were more independent than here. Actually it is mainly influenced by their parents. A field trip day in Brighton was just like any other school day for parents, except that the kid became more excited. There was no following the kids around like some parents did here. Here, I always picked her up when she had finished, in the designated time and place informed by the teachers. But often I saw many parents follow their kids to the venue from the beginning until the end. Every time there is a field trip coming, the parents are also busy arranging their own transport and dress code. One time, the school even sent out a message about ticket registration for parents if they want to join the field trip!
I believe giving the kid some space to play with the friends would develop her self-reliance and independence. I trust her teachers taking care (and photos) of her during the whole trip. Not all parents have the privilege of free time during workdays. Kids whose parents cannot come, would be sad seeing their friends with parents.
And the more important thing is… a few hours of me-time is REALLY precious! In Brighton, when there was a birthday party with the option for parents to stay or leave, almost every parent left the kids, even as little as 4 years old. I remember one Mom said excitedly when we walked out from the venue, “what can I do for 2 hours? Do I have time for a movie?” Maybe the Jakarta Metropolitan Area is not as safe as Brighton, so we still need to be careful, but not too extreme by following them everywhere especially when the very capable teachers are around.
Again, this review is from my point of view as a parent. Meanwhile for the kid, I think she loved them equally as places for playing with her friends. This year she will start the Primary School, continuing in the same school with her Kindergarten one. It would be a challenging time, especially during a pandemic situation. Good luck, kiddo!