Impact of Female Leadership in a Madrasah – Nia’s Story

Women dominate number of primary school teachers in Indonesia. Out of a total of about 1.4 million  elementary school teachers, almost one million of them are women – the proportion reaches almost 70%  (Dapodik, 2020). However, only a third of primary schools have female principals. In madrasah, there are even fewer female principals; the percentage is  less than 20%.

In 2018, INOVASI conducted a survey in 16 districts and one city in West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, North Kalimantan and East Java, involving 567 teachers and 199 principals including elementary and MI levels – madrasah btidaiyah or primary madrasah levels and conducted data analysis, as well as testing relationships between variables.

The findings of our survey also reveal that female teachers tend to perform better. Female principals also tend to have better school management and build a more conducive learning environment.

Issues of gender equality, disability and social inclusion are the focus of every INOVASI activity, including in early grade teacher literacy strengthening programs. In 2018, MI Sunan Ampel, led by Kurnia Dwi Wahyuni, M.Pd or often called Nia, was one of the selected schools of Sunan Ampel State Islamic University Surabaya (UINSA) for INOVASI literacy program with the Office of the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Pasuruan.

Story of Nia – Woman Madrasah Principal at Sunan Ampel Ibtidaiyah Sunan Ampel

Being a leader of a foundation that houses several Islamic educational institutions, one of which is Madrasah Ibtidaiyah Sunan Ampel, was never imagined by Nia. Starting her career as a teacher in 2003, Nia was appointed Head of Madrasah and Chairman of the foundation in 2016.

“When I was appointed as Head of Madrasah, I knew there many pros and cons from others. Some werew supportive but many also disagreed of a woman leading Madrasah,” Said Nia

Nia admitted she did not consider much on the pros and cons. “The important thing for me was to show the results of my work, that a woman can lead Madrasah, maybe to make it better in the future,” she added.

Since her appointment, Nia conducted reformation in the Madrasah. The first thing she did was to look into the teaching practices of the 26 teaching personnel.  She observed that teachers taught in a conventional method, not motivated and only putting in the minimum effort to complete the task.

Nia then reached out to a supervisor from Ministry of Religious Affairs and invited a professional tutor to give motivation and train teacher to be more innovative in teaching. From the training, Nia followed up with clinical supervision and lesson study that all teachers from RA to MI must join.

In the clinical supervision activities, Nia and madrasah supervisors collaborated to observe the teachers teaching and discuss their teaching patterns for improvement. As for lesson study activities, teachers both of senior and junior ranks collaborated for classroom teaching to provide observation and evaluation for each other. This activity was able to change their motivation and teaching method to be more active.

The character and moral education of the students were also a focus that needs to be strengthened. She strategized by promoting the use fine Javanese Language (Krama Inggil) and Javanese culture in everyday life.  This decision was taken after seeing the poor attitudes of students, who may not receive their parents’ full attention, and were exposed to bad influence from their surroundings.


Hard work that pays off

Her reform efforts were showing impacts, MI Sunan Ampel began to win a variety of academic achievements at the sub-district, district, and provincial levels. In December 2019, MI Sunan Ampel won The Best Attitude with their Javanese Language Habituation program at Madrasah Management Innovation Competition (Lomba Inovasi Pengelolaan Madrasah) in East Java Province. It is a huge achievement as MI Sunan Ampel had to compete with thousands of other Madrasah in East Java. “What was evident was the improvement in the way the teachers taught. It was more active and students were engaged in discussions during learning. Teachers were collaborative with each other. Between senior and junior teachers there was good cooperation and mutual support,” she said.

The results of the development of literacy programs at MI Sunan Ampel were very encouraging. Nia also asked teachers to create reading corner in their classrooms. Students were also encouraged to actively write stories. The students’ writings were then collected and published into books. Even during pandemic, Nia still required students to carry out literacy activities in their own homes accompanied by their parents. Student can borrow reading books and bring them home. Nia encouraged parents to provide guidance their children to read at home, by asking them to share photos of their reading activities at home. For parents who do not have smartphones, teacher will call parents one-by-one to discuss their literacy activities conducted on the day and also guided students to learn by phone.

One of the teachers in the Madrasah, Karomatul Khusnah, S.PdI said, Nia’s leadership encouraged students to create works that have made into books. “Ms. Nia encourages us to always motivate students to write so that they can produce work and eventually succeed. Our first book that we published was titled ‘Tahi Angin’, an expression that Tahi Angin means a thin cloud carried by the wind. The book is a collection of students’ essays about their stories during holiday,” she explained. This book is the first book published for internal madrasah circles. The madrasah plans to publish a second book on student stories during the pandemic but it is still delayed due to the pandemic.

Since her leadership, the Madrasah has also now received the highest accreditation, at A level. This is only possible by involving all teachers in the school which now provides education for 343 students. Nia proved that not only female leaders can lead, but also to improve madrasah’s performance.

Nia’s leadership was also admired by outsiders. “The interesting thing that I saw from Mrs. Nia’s leadership is in the implementation of literacy programs. She was able to embrace parents to actively support the program. For example, with the donation of reading books to schools contributed by parents, they are helping in the creation of media literacy, and most importantly the role of parents in accompanying children to read at home is getting bigger thanks to the encouragement from Mrs. Nia,” said Rakhmawati, M.Pd, Gesi (Gender & Social Inclusion) Coordinator program cooperation who is also a lecturer UINSA. Rakhma also observed that Nia is very visionary and able to engage all teachers and parents to contribute in the progressing the school.

Impact of Female Leadership in a Madrasah – Nia’s Story