Sistem Edukasi SMA di Indonesia: Manakah yang harus kamu ambil? – Part 2


Di artikel kami yang sebelumnya, Yudhi Bunjamin sudah menjelaskan tetang empat sistem edukasi SMA di Indonesia: Cambridge A level, IB, NSW HSC, dan UN. Di post ini, Yudhi menjelaskan lebih lanjut tentang hal-hal yang harus dipertimbangkan dalam memilih kurikulum SMA yang tepat.

Now that you’ve understood all of your choices, go back to those questions you asked yourself in the beginning and begin to consider which system would suit you best.

What subjects do I want to study in High School?

When asking this question, take English and Math out of the question. Let’s face it: you’re going to need it.

The reason you should ask this question is because some of the programs have subject combination restrictions. For example, if you know that you’re not that good at humanities or sciences and studying a subject you really dislike isn’t a challenge you’re willing to overcome in high school, the IB may not be good for you since you have to study at least one science subject and one humanities subject.

On the other hand, if you want to study a more diverse range of subjects, then the national curriculum is probably not the best one for you because of the penjurusan. Even though the new curriculum allows you to study one extra subject from another stream, you probably won’t get to learn it as deeply as the other subjects you learn. The national curriculum is also not so friendly to students who want to study social sciences but are good at Math because the Math for IPA and IPS is different. Personally, the whole idea of penjurusan is why I eliminated UN from my options.

It’s also good to consider the range of subjects on offer in each program. For example, the HSC and national curriculum doesn’t offer Psychology. Also, there’s no AS or A level Bahasa Indonesia.

What curriculum am I studying now and what curriculum am I already used to?

If you’re already studying a Secondary School or Junior High School program that precedes a High School Diploma program, you might already be used to a style of learning. For example, the Cambridge IGCSE (or O Levels) leads to A Levels. Remember that each of these programs was developed with very different philosophies. I’m lucky to have experienced the Singaporean curriculum, the Australian curriculum, the Cambridge curriculum (which essentially is an international curriculum) and the Indonesian curriculum at different points in my education and I can definitely say that the way of thinking and working is very different.

What major do I want to study in university?

This mainly has to do with the subjects you are going to take under the program you choose. If you know which major you want to study, look at the pathway towards that major and the subjects you’re going have to study to get there. The easiest major I can think of is Actuarial Studies which requires both a high degree of Economics and Mathematics. If you’re doing the national curriculum, penjurusan doesn’t really allow you to attain high levels of both subjects. If you want to study Medicine or Law and are most likely to study in Indonesia, the national exam might be your best pick. If you want to major in Psychology, programs that offer Psychology like the A Levels and IB may be a better option for you.

I must admit that this might be the question that should affect your decision least but it’s still worth consideration.

Which country do I want to go to for university?

If you plan on staying in Indonesia, UN is the best way to go. Trust me, I’ve heard of MIT graduates who have had to take Paket C to get into universities in Indonesia.

If you want to study in the US, I honestly think it doesn’t matter. The admissions process in the US is very holistic and you won’t be disadvantaged if you have a less credible or less international system. Many Indonesians studying each of the four programs have gained admission to the best colleges in the US. However, since going to the US means having to take the SAT, an English-intensive program would be more advantageous for you.

For Europe, it’s quite varied depending on the country you want to go to. For one thing, I know at least one friend from each of the programs who have been admitted to leading hospitality schools in Switzerland. Also, if you’re planning on studying in the UK, Cambridge is, for obvious reasons, a very desirable qualification to have.

In Singapore, universities generally don’t recognise the Ujian Nasional; the results don’t come out after the admissions process is over anyway. Usually top universities in Singapore like NUS conduct their own tests in Indonesia. So, again, it doesn’t really matter but an English program really helps. However, since students in Singapore study the Singaporean A Levels which is also administered by Cambridge, studying A Levels will put you at the same level as the students competing for admissions in Singapore.

Universities in Hong Kong generally do recognise the Ujian Nasional. In fact, in some schools like Santa Laurensia and IICS, universities such as Hong Kong University and the City University of Hong Kong have developed memorandums of understanding with the schools regarding recruitment and even scholarships. However, all the other programs are also highly recognised and well respected in Hong Kong; it’s just that you might end up in a different pool of applicants depending on your program.

Finally, Australia is a different story. Most universities in Australia, for reasons I don’t really know, do not recognise the National Exams. These include the top universities such as the University of New South Wales, Melbourne University and the University of Sydney. I rarely find Indonesian students in Australia who only have their UN results. Studying the HSC really helps because you get an ATAR which means you can be compared to local students. Also, the ATAR cut off is lower for international students than it is for domestic students. However, only until recently, the Universities Admission Centre and other University admissions entities in Australia have developed a way of converting A Level and IB marks into an ATAR (and it converts really well). Also remember that students from the US (yes, there are some of them here) or from US-based international schools are being admitted based on their SAT/ACT scores and AP (Advanced Placement) results. I have one friend here studying Advanced Mathematics with me who studied in Singapore American School and gained admission into UNSW with his SAT and AP scores. However, if you have the resources, the easiest way to gain admission to an Australian University is to go through a Foundation or Uniprep program, but that’s a whole other story.

Always check admissions requirements and recognised qualifications for each university directly from the university’s website.

What type of system might suit me or my learning style best?

This is where doing the HSC was not a good idea for me. I’m the type of person who only performed well towards the end of high school. I have a lot of non-academic activities, to say the least, so a program that didn’t record marks throughout the year that affected my final results such as the HSC or the IB didn’t work in my favour. If you’re the type of person who reaches his or her peak performance during exam period or gets consistently better and better throughout the year or plan on taking up a lot of extra-curricular activities, A Levels might be the way to go. If, on the other hand, you’re not good at exams, IB may be more suitable because it’s more project based while HSC might be more suitable because in the final year assessment tasks are carried out more regularly throughout the year, some of which are not exams or tests.

There a lot of these little factors unique to each individual that could have a massive impact on success in a particular program (this is why we should appreciate the fact that we have a lot of choices).

How sure am I of the answers to the questions above?

Like I said before, it’s all right if you don’t know the answer to some of these questions but that only means that the more uncertain you are about your future plans, the more general a program you need to choose. I’d say that if you really have no idea what you want to do or where you want to go, going national is your safest option. No one’s going to fault you for studying your own country’s curriculum; it’s just that they might not trust it and they might want you to do something else on top of it.

It’s important to choose a high school program that works in your favour. However, at the end of the day, even if you choose a system that turned out not to be the best one for you, you shouldn’t worry too much about it. I believe that there’s always more than one way to get to where you want to go. Furthermore, having the right approach towards one’s education makes a successful student more than the system itself does. A dedicated and proactive learner will make the most of the education he or she receives and can thrive in any high school system or any school for that matter. An active learner would be able to overcome the fault in our systems.


Photo taken by IPEKA International Christian School.

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After sending out numerous college applications, Yudhi now studies a Bachelor of Science in Advanced Mathematics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Having experienced the Singaporean, Australian, Cambridge and Indonesian curriculum across ten different schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12, Yudhi considers himself a “third-schooled kid”. This, along with other unique experiences such as helping a troubled school in Bangka to develop its curriculum and mentoring junior students in his high school, has brought him to aspire to one day help improve education in Indonesia. Yudhi enjoys writing, traveling and meeting new people. He can be reached through


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