Foreign language teaching in Indonesia is regulated by government policy in 1956. The foreign languages taught are English, Arab, Germany, French, Japan, Korea, Mandarin, and so on. Since 1967 (No. 096, 12 December 1967), the government decided that among the foreign languages, English and Arabic are defined as the main foreign languages. Arabic is a compulsory subject in all Islamic boarding schools, while English compulsory subjects in all schools including in all Islamic boarding schools.
This policy has implications for all levels of education. English course becomes very popular since it is a compulsory subject in all Junior and Senior High Schools, and becomes a mandatory basic course in all universities in Indonesia. In all school and university entrance exams, one of the tests is English. This policy illustrates how important English toward the education in Indonesia.
Around 1992, (Depdikbud RI No 0487/1992, chapter VIII), the government has decided to put the English into the elementary school subject. This policy incurs pros and cons. For those who pros English, they see English need to be taught early so that language mastery for students will be better. While the cons consider that elementary school students in Indonesia are not ready either mentally or academically to receive English lessons. Another reason for Indonesia is its vast country so that the range of differences between teacher preparedness school facilities are in rural and in the city.
In 2010, for some schools, especially in large cities, there has been a pilot project of English language fifth and sixth grade at elementary school but the implementation so far is hampered due to the limited teacher resources. In other words, this policy should have taken into consideration various aspects: teachers, curriculum, subject matter, and readiness of learners.
The strong commitment of the Indonesian government to improve human resources is the main goal of national development. A real example is when entering the long-term development of the 25th year of the 2nd stage (PJP II) 1994/95, the development direction is emphasized on human resource development. The main purpose of development is to master science and technology. To be able to master science and technology, the teaching of English gets special attention from various academics, practitioners, businessmen, and government. This is reasonable considering the role and function of English as an international language or global communication language in order to master the Science and technology in this era.
From the aspect of government policy, viewing from the purpose of teaching English in Indonesia, is too ideal, but from the aspect of implementation is very restrained. English class only gets two hours a week. Of course, this portion is very limited. On the other hand, teachers and learning facilities, as well as a milieu, are also less supportive of an adequate language teaching.
Since 2011, the government has again promoted a new policy of opening an international school where all subjects are taught in English instruction. This school is much in demand by the have but the results have not been seen significantly. The students, in fact, experience difficulties, in a school environment they struggle with English but outside the class, they will be interrupted with Indonesian and regional languages.
To meet the needs of professionals; the teacher, banker, tourist guide, interpreter, language planner, customs, journalist, and so on, in some universities, they have opened an English department. The purpose of this education is to educate professionals in the field of English as mentioned above.