Bulungan launches independent Teacher Working Group in response to low student reading skills

In many parts of Indonesia, the need for a reading culture is overwhelmingly strong. North Kalimantan is no exception. Results from Indonesia’s National Assessment Programme (INAP) show that the average literacy score for North Kalimantan is two points lower than the national average score (RPSA Kaltara 2017). In survey activities conducted by INOVASI in 2017, it was found that only 14.59 percent of first grade students and 60.94 percent of second grade students can read. Even for those who can read, not all can master reading comprehension.

As part of the push to improve student reading skills in the early grades, all regions in Indonesia are being encouraged to find solutions and new approaches. Bulungan district in North Kalimantan (Kaltara) has answered this challenge by developing an independent Teachers’ Working Group (or KKG), with technical support from INOVASI.

Suparmin Setto, Head of Basic Education Development from the Bulungan Education and Culture Office, explained that the independent KKG initiative is a direct response to results from Indonesia’s National Assessment Programme (INAP) released by the Ministry of Education and Culture in 2016. The INAP results showed that 46.83% of primary school students in Indonesia do not have good reading skills. Basic literacy and reading skills are key during a child’s learning and development, and can help students better grasp other subjects in the classroom – including maths and science.

“We are struggling against time so that children can read at the latest in grade three in primary school,” said Suparmin.

Explained Suparmin, if students in grades one – three cannot read effectively, they would feel the ‘Matthew Effect’. In short, this means that they will be left behind by their peers because they are unable to understand lessons. All subjects require children to read and comprehend.

“It is not enough to just be able to read. Students must be able to understand the meaning and communicate the meaning in their own words. Thus, children’s reasoning can develop,” said Suparmin.

The ‘window’ period for children to learn how to read is in the early grades of one, two and three. Beyond this, it becomes very difficult, and students will have trouble studying other subjects.

The independent KKG program is an important sign of progress and local government commitment in Bulungan. The independent KKG is designed with four key areas in mind, namely modules, methods, facilitators and financing.

“We use proven training modules and methodologies, trained facilitators and sustainable financing. These are the four strengths of the independent KKG model that we have developed,” Suparmin explained enthusiastically.

For one year, activities at the independent KKG will use practical training and teaching modules. These will help teachers directly implement training results in their respective classrooms. The content of the training includes literacy recognition material, the use of big books, phonological awareness, reading words, reading comprehension and writing skills.

Training design uses a ‘training-school-training’ approach. This means that the teacher capacity building process does not just stop in the training room, but continues until each class has been assisted. Trained facilitators are sent to schools to assist teachers as they apply training materials. This mentoring process is key to changing the mindset of teachers, and to ensure that they can reflect on what they have done in the classroom.

Trained local facilitators play a primary role in teacher training and mentoring. They come from a variety of backgrounds and include some of the best principals, supervisors and teachers from nearby teacher clusters. They have been trained and have already begun implementing similar training materials in their respective schools and classes. Through this model, the training and mentoring process will be practical and collegial.

INOVASI support has been in the form of facilitator selection and training, as well as financial analysis to help local government determine resourcing needs for the KKG.

The entire KKG process will be funded independently by schools using drawing ona  range of financing mechanisms. The school will utilize the National School Operational Costs (BOSNAS), Regional School Operational Costs (BOSDA), teacher professional allowances and support from private companies in the community and their corporate social responsibility programs.

“We call it an independent KKG, because the KKG activities and funding are carried out independently by schools,” Suparmin said.

The use of certification allowances to finance the KKG is a new approach. This model ensures that government-certified teachers receive continuous training so that quality is maintained.

“We also collaborate with the Educational Quality Assurance Agency so that the entire process of this independent KKG can be recognized as part of continuous professional development. This is an obligation that must be done by teachers who have been certified,” Suparmin added.

Handoko Widagdo, INOVASI Provincial Manager in North Kalimantan, said that changing learning methods would have a major impact on children’s learning outcomes. The results of the Indonesian Education and Learning Innovation Survey (SIPPI) conducted by INOVASI, found that 73% of learning time still uses a teacher-centred approach, with teachers using a lecture style method for 42% of the learning time. Only 19% of learning time provides students with an opportunity to discuss new concepts and ideas with their peers.

“21st century educational design drives the learning process into a student-centred approach. This means that children are more active in the learning process,” explained Handoko.

Handoko emphasised that Bulungan’s independent KKG is an effective and efficient way to help teachers change their learning process, and ultimately improve the quality of education.

“The Bulungan independent KKG is designed by considering training modules, methodologies, human resources and sustainable financing. These four factors will make the Bulungan independent KKG have an impact on improving the quality of education,” he said.

The implementation of the independent KKG in Bulungan was initially carried out by 8 school clusters involving 188 educators. This program provides benefits to 3,080 early class students spread across 48 primary and Islamic schools in the region.

Bulungan launches independent Teacher Working Group in response to low student reading skills