A first for Indonesia: Bulungan uses BOSDA funding to supply reading books in schools

The growth of a strong reading culture in North Kalimantan, as well as in many parts of Indonesia, remains a work in progress. 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). With these figures in mind, North Kalimantan continues to drive the National School Literacy Movement (Gerakan Literasi Nasional, or GLS), especially in Bulungan district.

As a district partner, INOVASI has been working with Bulungan since late 2017 to support the growth of this literacy movement. Working with teachers and local government stakeholders, program activities include a recent School Literacy Movement Workshop in Peso, Bulungan.

As activities have progressed, so too has Bulungan’s support for building a stronger reading culture. Recently, the district became the first region in Indonesia to fund student reading books with BOSDA, local funding under the School Operational Assistance program. The funding allocation has been factored into Bulungan’s regional budget planning.

“This policy expands children’s opportunities, providing reading books that can build their imagination and strengthen their character,” explained Mr Suparmin Seto, Head of the Basic Education Desk at Bulungan Education Office, during a recent BOSDA Coordination Meeting in Tanjung Selor, Kaltara.

Under this new district policy, each school is required to purchase a wide range of books, including novels, story books, comics, and books on history, literature and general knowledge topics. Schools are required to spend the BOSDA budget to provide at least five new books with five different titles each year. The availability of these books is expected to foster a reading culture for 24,094 Bulungan students in 778 primary schools and 245 junior high schools. The provision of these books is regulated in the latest technical guidelines for the use of BOSDA in Bulungan.

“This is our response to implement the School Literacy Movement (GLS),” said Suparmin.

To help support and endorse the growing literacy movement, the local Education Office has also formed a team of ‘literacy guards’. This team is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the GLS program in all schools. One of the team’s important tasks is to assess and recommend books that fit the children’s culture, social norms and age. Members of the literacy team are a combination of Education Office representatives, principals, supervisors, teachers, and literacy practitioners.

“The INOVASI program together with the GLS Task Force from the national Ministry of Education and Culture will train this team in Bulungan, so they can implement the literacy program well,” Suparmin added.

INOVASI’s North Kalimantan Provincial Manager, Mr Handoko Widagdo, said that other regions in Indonesia should follow the example set by Bulungan’s new BOSDA policy.

“This is the first policy in Indonesia where the district supplies the books to the whole schools in a sustainable manner. The availability of books is one of the three keys to building literacy. The other two keys are exemplary in reading and systematic reading habit. Very often we ask the child to read the book, but the book is not available. Even if there is, the content of the book does not match the needs and age of children,” said Handoko.

He also noted that Indonesian children’s interest in reading is very high. Yet, children often do not access books that interest them or that are suitable.

Early results from INOVASI’s program baseline surveys in North Kalimantan show that more than 80 percent of children admit to like reading. However, in terms of types of books that are often read by children, about 67 percent are still dominated by textbooks. Only about 13 percent read story books, 2 percent read general knowledge books and the rest read comics, magazines and other books.

“Our survey has involved 540 students in 20 primary schools in Bulungan and Malinau. From there we find, the students generally read the textbooks from the school. It happens because the only books available are school textbooks. We are lacking books that can arouse children’s curiosity,” Handoko added.

INOVASI is also supporting Bulungan to strengthen literacy-based learning, especially in the early grades. This reinforcement is done through pilot projects in seven primary schools in Tanjung Selor and Tanjung Palas Timur. The pilot co-design has been informed by INOVASI’s distinctive locally driven approach Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA).

Said Handoko, “this approach is useful, because teachers will be able to recognize their own learning problems in their classes, and at the same time can find solutions by utilizing the resources around them. Through this approach, in the future, teachers can independently address the problem of learning in their respective classes”.

The national School Literacy Movement was launched by Indonesia’s Minister of Education in 2015, along with new books, modules and guides on assessment and scoring for training facilitators. This was in support of the national education policy on developing character for students across Indonesia. At its core, the movement aims to strengthen synergy between key actors in Indonesia’s education system, expanding public involvement in the cultivation of a nation-wide literacy movement.

INOVASI is a partnership between the governments of Australia and Indonesia. Working directly with Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture, INOVASI is seeking to understand how student learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy can be improved in diverse primary schools and districts across Indonesia. In North Kalimantan, the program is implemented in Bulungan and Malinau.

A first for Indonesia: Bulungan uses BOSDA funding to supply reading books in schools