Why Most Indonesians are Less Proficient in English?

As stated in many research studies that English proficiency among students in Indonesia is still lack. There are some major points that should be prioritized by the teachers and stakeholder. Here are points found in my mini-research.


The urgency to prioritize English proficiency is inevitable. In 2016, The Jakarta Post published its news that stated "Indonesia ranks 32nd in English Proficiency Index"1.


Background & Methodology

This mini-research was conducted in a state university in Makassar. The participants were 96 bilingual students recruited from 3 classes. Each class consisted of 32 students. The instruments used in collecting the data were observation and interview. Observation was conducted in 1 semester which was 14 weeks. I interviewed the students in week 14th week.

It should be noted that the result of this mini-research does not reflect the title of this blog-post. Meaning that this research result cannot be generalized. The result of my mini-research is just a piece of the whole cause.

Lack of Input

English is not mainly spoken outside the class. It is only studied and learned in school for 6 years and in university only in first semester (for non-English major students).

As stated in many books that input plays an important role in determining the success of language learning. The larger the input is, the richer the students' vocabulary will be. In turns, it will lead the students into success in producing the language. However, it needs repetition in using all that has been acquired.

Some Psychological Barriers

What I found in observation and as explicitly stated by students in interview, there were some psychological barriers that lead the students into passivity.

Lack of Confidence

Confidence becomes the main impetus for students to produce - especially speaking - their target language. Lack of it, of course, will lead them into silence. Although the students have willingness to learn, but the students’ silence would be negatively perceived. A way to differentiate passiveness in negative context (condition in which the students do not want to learn) with passiveness in positive context (condition in which the students have desire to learn but they just do not know how to say their idea in English) is by looking at their writing task.

Students with lack of confidence (in positive context) should be given more time to prepare their speech. As the time goes by, they will show significant improvement. It is different with students with lack of confidence in negative context. Things they really need are motivation and inspiration.

Students with lack of confidence in positive context tend to be silent in class. When they want to say something, they will monitor, as Krashen stated, their sentences before, while, and after speaking. Thing that makes them silent is generally ‘grammar’ - they do not want to speak grammatically error sentences.

Fear of Making Mistake

For many students, making mistake means 'the end of the world'. They do not even try to produce the target language (English) to avoid making mistake. For this kind of students, it is far better to be silent than producing English with error. Thing that makes it worse is the kind of error they avoid is 'grammar error'.

Fear of Being Laughed

For some students, they experience a syndrome called 'fear of being laughed'. What they do not actually realize is that they forget the fact that they are learners whom their main task is learning. In language learning, making mistake is common. That what the students do not realize. Unconsciously, the students do not realize that they every time they fear, they strengthen their mental block.

It is not a piece of cake to destroy what has been believed for years. This is a big task of the teacher and stakeholder to urgently find a solution for this syndrome. In another blog-post, I will publish my thought related to this point.