The most talented individuals organise production processes, discover, and innovate. As a result, talented individuals contribute more to economic growth than ordinary labour. This paper is the first step to understanding talented individuals in Indonesia. First, we use an international benchmark to estimate the number of students who could be considered as highly skilled. We then examine their background and the schools that they attend. We use three rounds of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
We find that Indonesia has a minuscule proportion of highly skilled individuals. Out of a cohort of 3.1 million 15-year-old students, Indonesia only had around 0.46% or 14,300 individuals with high mathematics skills and 0.06% or 1,900 individuals with high literacy skills in 2015. Our analysis shows that skills are associated with having tertiary-educated mothers and a favourable socioeconomic status. These skilled individuals cluster in a handful of schools that have a higher proportion of certified teachers. Students within these schools have similar characteristics, indicating the strong influence of parental choice. Our findings point to the need for Indonesia, and perhaps other similar middle-income countries, to have an active policy to identify and nurture talent.