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In the past decade, Indonesia has achieved political and economic stability, worked to improve the country's infrastructure and public services. And although Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, it has withstood the subsequent economic slump and is well placed to maintain solid growth rates.
One of the strongest reasons for optimism is the combination of a young population and a birth rate that steadily declined until 2002, indicating that in the future, Indonesia's percentage of working population will continue to increase, boosting productivity and consumption, thus spurring economic growth. So it is no surprise that, more than ever, education is a key element in Indonesia's quest for a bright future.
However, the country’s education sector is the weakest link in the development process. There is widespread access to primary education (close to 100 percent target) but the country is lagging behind in junior high school, secondary and tertiary education. That is why the United States and Indonesian governments are working together to improve the quality of education in Indonesia.
"With closer educational ties, problem-solving in science and technology, the environment, business and many other areas also becomes easier," said Director of Public Diplomacy for the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Karl Stoltz, during a recent web-chat.
The U.S. has already made a large investment into basic education through various programs administered by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Since 2005, more than 362,000 students, 29,000 teachers and principals and 1880 schools have directly benefited from USAID programs, and Fulbright Scholarships and other educational programs administered through the American-Indonesian Exchange Foundation have benefitted thousands more. Higher enrollments of the poor in middle school would be a stepping stone for secondary and higher education.