Article 33 Indonesia’s Advocacy for Revitalizing Vocational Schools

One of the studies and advocacy Article 33 Indonesia is carrying out is to revitalize the Vocational High Schools (SMK) and their relevance to businesses and industry in Indonesia. These studies and advocacy is identifying the main issues in the efforts to revitalize vocational schools at the national level and continue their advocacy and development studies at the local level.

Article 33 Indonesia’s Advocacy for Revitalizing Vocational Schools


Article 33 Indonesia is a policy research institution incorporated as a foundation under the name Yayasan Artikel Tiga Tiga Indonesia, as stipulated in the Decree of the Minister of Law and Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia No. AHU-0025354.AH.01.04.Tahun 2020.

Previously PATTIRO Institute, in July 2012 it officially changed its name to Article 33 Indonesia, first taking the legalform of an association[1]. In 2020, Article 33 Indonesia changed its legal entity status from an association to a foundation.

The idea for the name Article 33 Indonesia came about from the desire to uphold the noble ideals stipulated in Article 33 of the 1945 Constitution, specifically paragraph 3: “Earth, water and the natural resources contained therein shall be controlled by the state and used for the greatest prosperity of the people.” Article 33 Indonesia believed these lofty ideals represent the vision and mission of their institution, namely:

VISION        :  To uphold the sovereignty of the people as stated in Article 33 of the 1945 Constitution

MISSION    :  Ensuring justice and public participation for the realization of economic democracy

One of the studies and advocacy Article 33 Indonesia is carrying out is to revitalize the Vocational High Schools (SMK) and their relevance to businesses and industry in Indonesia. In many parts of the world, vocational education has produced a skilled workforce needed by economic sectors such as industry, retail and services. Gradually, the Indonesian government has increased the number of vocational schools and mandated the revitalization of SMKs to produce a skilled workforce. However, data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in 2020 shows that SMK graduates continue to be the highest contributor to the open unemployment rate (13.55 percent), higher than high school graduates (SMA) and other education levels. To that end, Article 33 Indonesia conducted studies and advocacy by identifying the main issues in the efforts to revitalize vocational schools at the national level and continue their advocacy and development studies at the local level.

Identify Main Issues

A study by Article 33 Indonesia to map the various vocational education problems reviewed various aspects: (1) the performance of SMK graduates; (2) the supply side of SMK; (3) the demand side of the industry; (4) lessons that can be learned from various vocational education practices in other countries; and (5) the position of SMK in terms of local government authority. The study shows that the quality of schools determines employment, regardless of the type of school—SMA or SMK. Student achievements and economic background determine the wage levels: graduates who excel academically earn higher wages. Meanwhile, in terms of job opportunities, SMK graduates have the same opportunities as regular high school graduates (SMA) as well as vocational higher education graduates. 

Given the importance of school quality, the management of vocational education as a labor supplier needs to be strengthened in several aspects. These include curriculum alignment, productive teacher education in the long term, added Field Work Practice (PKL) time, and others. SMK management also needs to be strengthened with involvement of local governments. The labor market mapping document must be improved and provided adequately by local Education Offices as well as by various other relevant Local Government Apparatuses. Article 33 Indonesia also analyzed labor demand by industry sectors to inform the planning for vocational study program development. Analysis of demand for workers from vocational schools shows that sectors that absorb the largest workforce are the trade, and hospitality services sector.

Based on the study conducted, the first point of recommendation proposed by Article 33 Indonesia is to improve the quality of vocational education through the provision of facilities and infrastructure supported by industry and improvements in vocational teacher education. Second, ensuring the matching of competencies with needs where there is inter-agency coordination within the relevant ministries and industry associations is crucial. Third, create a revitalization road map for each province. A breakthrough is needed to accelerate the development of this roadmap with the support of industry associations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) and regional vocational committees. Fourth, ensure the suitability of the program with the competency objectives by conducting a link-and-match between the competencies of SMK graduates and industry needs. Finally, make a workforce needs analysis that is regularly updated.

Stakeholder Engagement

Article 33 Indonesia has always maintained good relations with the Ministry of Education and Culture (now the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology) both at the national and subnational levels. In a study related to the revitalization of Vocational Schools conducted in 2019-2020, the Ministry of Education and Culture financially contributed to data collection activities in the field. The involvement of the Ministry of Education and Culture in this study was to ensure that the ministries, in particular the Bureau of Planning and Foreign Cooperation (BPKLN), the Directorate of Primary and Secondary Education (Dikdasmen), the Directorate of Vocational Education, and the Center for Policy Analysis and Synchronization (PASKA), understood the gaps, problems and benefits from the recommendations of this study for improving the quality of vocational graduates in the Indonesian labor market.

As a partner of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Article 33 Indonesia was also invited to a discussion to provide input to the Minister of Education and Culture Nadiem Makarim on key educational issues that need to be included in the education policy agenda. Article 33 Indonesia recommends that the Ministry of Education and Culture focuses on improving the quality of education. The ministry’s discussions with education activists in Indonesia contribute to the education policy agenda, with the main focus on the education change system, namely on the dynamics that occur in the classroom, as well as paradigm shifts for all ministries and national and subnational agencies to be able to serve the people better.

Continuing the study in the national context that has involved and informed the Ministry of Education and Culture of efforts to revitalize research-based vocational schools, Article 33 Indonesia engaged with local governments with a focus on supporting local governments in producing outputs for vocational development programs. Article 33 Indonesia initiated a study on the development of SMK to meet labor market demand in Central Java and South Sulawesi. Central Java and South Sulawesi were selected for their strategic position in terms of economic growth. South Sulawesi is considered as a strategic catalyst for development in eastern Indonesia. From the results of the study, Article 33 Indonesia formulated recommendations to inform provincial governments of Central Java and South Sulawesi in their efforts to increase the uptake of vocational workers in the labor market:

  1. Responding to the economic sectors that are experiencing growth and contraction in the uptake of SMK graduates
  2. Development of SMK-IDUKA (Industry and Workforce) partnership guidelines
  3. Acceleration of professional certification of graduates
  4. Job market information
  5. Establishing cooperation between Institutions
  6. Cooperation between SMK and BLK (Vocational Training Centers)
  7. Efforts to mitigate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

The study’s findings and recommendations were followed up with the initiation of mentoring and technical assistance programs in the two provinces. This mentoring activity aims to support the two provinces in an effort to strengthen the implementation of the Vocational Education and Training system policies at the local government level by producing: 1) Two guidelines for Industrial Vocational Schools in Central Java and South Sulawesi, 2) Four MoUs on partnership between SMK-Companies, 3) Mapping of BLK, and 4) BLK-SMK technical guidelines.

During the development of guidelines and piloting in Central Java and South Sulawesi, Article 33 Indonesia consulted and involved key stakeholders such as the local Education Offices, Labor Offices, Vocational School Principals (MKKS), Vocational Training Centers (BLK), and the private sector, represented by the Indonesian Employers Association (APINDO) as well as individual companies. Priority was given to close collaboration with local governments to support vocational development programs to create enabling environments that support vocational development. In follow-up activities, this work will also involve stakeholders from community groups who have an interest in increasing job opportunities, including for SMK graduates, such as workers/labor unions. Vulnerable groups, such as disability groups, who are SMK graduates can also be involved in follow-up activities.

Knowledge Sector Initiative (KSI) Support

KSI contributed to this policy process by providing funding that allowed Article 33 Indonesia to continue research and advocacy on vocational education and its relevance to industry for several years. KSI’s involvement has also built Article 33 Indonesia’s awareness of the importance of multi-stakeholder involvement, including policymakers and civil society groups, to ensure that their research influences policy. Through program logic sessions and evaluation and monitoring support, KSI also helped Article 33 Indonesia to advocate for policies more systematically, measure activities better, and encourage the integration of reflective processes in work.


[1]  Since its establishment in 2009, the PATTIRO Institute was an organization separate from the PATTIRO NGO - legally independent and with a different organizational structure and management. The name change was not only to avoid confusion from partners, but also to build the branding and identity of Article 33 Indonesia itself, as an independent institution since its inception. These two institutions maintain a mutually supportive relationship in research and advocacy work in the field.

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