Indonesia has more than 652 local languages which are spread from Sabang to Merauke. In Indonesia, the constitution mandates Bahasa Indonesia as the sole language of instruction in formal education – a decision driven by national unity and identity. Although the constitution does allow for local languages to be used in a supplementary sense during the early grades, few teachers are trained in appropriate teaching methodologies for second language acquisition. Language transition strategies must be well designed. If students’ mastery of the language of instruction is low, it will certainly have an impact on their learning outcomes. In Bima District, West Nusa Tenggara, INOVASI supports teacher by strengthening the language transition process in Bima classrooms.
The use of local language is a key feature in daily Bima community life, with children speaking it at home, to their parents, and in the community. The strong prevalence of local language poses a challenge for teaching and learning activities in the classroom. Children still experience difficulties understanding the lessons, often due to a lack of mastery of Indonesian – the formal language of classroom instruction.
Khaerunnisa, an early grade teacher in SD IT Wihdatul Ummah, Bima District, West Nusa Tenggara, also experienced this challenge. However, her teaching approach began to change when she participated in INOVASI’s Bima pilot, focused on mother tongue-based multilingual education (a pilot known locally as GEMBIRA). Not only when it came to using language, but also in the use of learning materials that can support the teaching and learning process.
One of the training materials in INOVASI early grade literacy program is Big Book. Through training conducted in the Teacher Working Group (KKG), Khaerunnisa is now trained in developing early grade students’ reading and writing skills. The term Big Book itself is used to describe shared reading books used in classroom activities.
Literacy learning in the early grades requires teaching aids that can help teacher improve students’ reading and writing skills. Teaching aids is an effective method to attract students’ attention and interest, for example Big Books that Khaerunnisa utilises in her classroom with short stories that she created in both local Bima language as well as in bahasa Indonesia. The Language Bridge method is applied by first explaining various concepts to children using the Mbojo language, and then gradually introduce in bahasa Indonesia language.
One of the Big Books she created is titled ‘Kucingku’ (My Cat). The story is also available in Mbojo language with title ‘La Manis Ngaoku’. Like any other Big Books that Khaerunnisa made, this bilingual Big Book also features illustrations that appeal to children. Some illustrations in the story are made by herself, some are from the internet.
How is the teaching practice in the classroom? The shared reading activity uses the language bridge method where Khaerunnisa began the activity by reading ‘La Manis Ngaoku’. The children will sit listening to the the story in Mbojo language. After that, children are given the opportunity to ask questions. The whole process is carried out in the local Mbojo language.
Furthermore, Khaerunnisa will continue to the next session in which she retell the story using Indonesian language. The process will be similar; Reading the story in Indonesian language, and once finished children will have the opportunity to ask in case there are words or terms in Indonesian language that they do not understand.
The activity then continued with story sequencing. For this activity, a paper clipping containing a piece of the story in Indonesian language has been prepared. The children were also asked to reconstruct the story which had previously been read together. This activity is carried out in groups so that children can discuss with each other and provide input.
The teaching techniques and methods obtained through INOVASI’s pilot have helped make Khaerunnisa’s classroom atmosphere different. The experience with INOVASI program has opened her creativity, bringing new ideas in teaching her students.