Children are the foundation of the country's development. The Government of Indonesia continues to strive to improve the quality of life of children and society as a whole through its programs and policies. This includes everything from Indonesia’s policy of mandating that children attend school for at least 9 years, to the establishment of social protection systems such as PKH (CCT), the Smart Indonesia Program (PIP), and other new and expanding programs. These efforts have had several positive results.
However, beyond all those positive developments, there are still numerous issues that have yet to be addressed. For example, in the education field, the results of international studies such as PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) still show low levels of student performance Indonesia relative to other otherwise comparable countries (Balitbang-Kemendikbud, 2016). In addition, access to quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) is still not fully equitable. What is more, the current programs are still focused almost exclusively on education, without attention to other components of children’s healthy development, such as the supportive capacity of families, especially parents. In addition, children in Indonesia are still experiencing various difficulties such as poverty, lack of access to basic health services, and lack of quality of education.
Short-term evaluations have been conducted by the Government of Indonesia and its development partners to see results from system development and the mechanisms for implementing policies and programs. These evaluations results have provided valuable lessons for policy makers, but have yet to provide an in-depth understanding about the difficulties experienced by children and families throughout their life cycle. In order to design comprehensive programs and policies that safeguard children’s futures, we need a better understanding of the types of adversities that affect children’s development in the Indonesian context, and on the other hand, what factors enhance their resilience to such adversities. In addition, more research is needed in order to determine the factors supporting families to be financially independent and more capable of supporting their children to get a quality education, as well as other important factors related to the education policies, care, and improving their wellbeings.
Looking at the situation, the Center for Educational Data and Statistics and Culture (PDSPK) from the Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC), in collaboration with PUSKAPA, has established the groundwork for a longitudinal study on the experiences of Indonesian children and their families (SLAK) in order to understand the long-term effects of early childhood adversity and to identify the most effective pathways to resilience. This long-term study is also an effort to realize MoEC’s vision of cultivating a generation of distinguished and highly competitive graduates by 2025.
In order to ground this long-term research in the experiences and perspectives of Indonesian communities, the project began with an exploratory study in October 2016 in several districts in Indonesia. This involved dozens of consultations with community representatives, basic service providers, and government officials at various administrative levels. The findings of this exploratory study will be used as the basis for constructing the research design and work plan for SLAK, including research questions and research instruments.
To kick-off of this long-term study, the MoEC and the Center on Child Protection and Wellbeing held a joint workshop on 21-22 September, which was attended by the representatives of the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), and several directorates of MoEC. This session began with a presentation that explained the background and objectives of SLAK, while collecting input from participants on how the results of such a study could benefit policies and programs. Several gaps have been found between the utilized data with the data that is required for a more effective program planning and implementation. The workshop identified the need to collect and utilize individual-related, more continuous and comprehensive data for planning and evaluation, which could be provided by SLAK. Also, the commitment to carry out this longitudinal study in order to achieve SDG targets has been made through this workshop.
As the exploratory phase of this study comes to a close, our understanding of children's hardships and resilience in Indonesia is just beginning to take shape. The SLAK study will provide an unprecedented wealth of data on the lives of children and families that will be invaluable to policy makers, development workers, and academics alike.