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Three Differences Between Kindergarten in the UK and Indonesia

Kindergartens in the UK vs Indonesia

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, England.

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. Mostly 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 kindergarten in the UK and Indonesia. Especially between the two schools that my kid attended, based on my experience and perspective. They might not represent all schools in the United Kingdom or Indonesia.

Education System

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 starts every September while in Indonesia every July. That’s 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. Children who have not yet reached 4 years-old on 1 September, even only 1 day younger, cannot enter Reception class.

My kid was 4 years old when we moved to Brighton in the mid of September. Hence, she could enroll in Reception class. While Nursery in the UK has classes only 3 days a week, the Reception goes to school 6 hours every Monday to Friday. Children with that age in Indonesia attend school only 3-4 hours a day, or even none at all. Pre-primary is not too mandatory. In the beginning, I was a little bit worried. Would she survive the Reception class? 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. That is 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 introduced recently in 2017. The previous scheme was primary school started at age 6. The majority of parents, including me, still prefer that one. In that case, the normal age of students in Indonesia entering university at 18 years old, the same age with the UK students. The way around for enrolling our kid to primary school at 6 years old is through private schools. They have a more flexible system than public ones, but unfortunately not cheap.

School Fee

The big difference between my kid’s kindergarten 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, but the rest of the uniforms can be found easily in clothing stores. The uniforms were red/white shirt, grey skirt/pants, and red-white plaid dress during summer. 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 might not be always the case. In addition, there are other considerations in choosing the kid’s school, such as location and cultures.

Character Development

I observed kindergarten kids in the UK and Indonesia were differed in their independence. It is mainly influenced by their parents. A field-trip day in Brighton was just like any other school day for parents, except the kid was more excited. There was no following the kids around like some parents did here.

In Indonesia, 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, sometimes there was a birthday party with the option for parents to stay or leave. In that case, 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 should not be too extreme by following them everywhere especially when the very capable teachers are around.

Again, this review about differences between kindergarten in the UK and Indonesia 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!

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