A local solution to mother tongue transition in Bima

Ibu Arnu A. Ma – SDN Inpres DIHA Bima

In any culture, spoken and written language is an essential part of communicating knowledge and meaning. It is often said that the more diverse a person’s vocabulary, the more a person can derive meaning and make sense of concepts. This is certainly the case for basic literacy and numeracy in the classroom.

There are more than 300 native languages spoken across the diverse Indonesian archipelago. Although Bahasa Indonesia is the country’s official national and ‘unifying’ language, this is only spoken as mother tongue by around 7% of the total population, according to University of Washington’s Asian Languages and Literature.

Despite the wide-spread use of Indonesian, including in mass media and business, some people continue to only speak their native mother tongue language – particularly in remote areas. Without an understanding of basic language, how can a student be expected to understand textbooks, or even complex mathematical concepts?

One particular teacher from Bima, a district in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province, is experiencing this first hand. Early grades teacher Ibu Arnu, was a participant in the INOVASI program’s Guru BAIK workshops in the first half of 2017. Through a series of problem solving workshops and mentoring activities, the Guru BAIK helps teachers discover what particular learning challenges the children in their own classroom face and then develop, test, review and iterate different solutions to address them.

In Ibu Arnu’s local area in Diha Hamlet at the foot of Laraji Mountain, children are accustomed to using their mother tongue language instead of Indonesian. As a result, their ability to speak and read in Indonesian is very low. With an absence of kindergartens in Diha Hamlet, children are not prepared when they begin formal schooling, usually entering primary school with a minimal writing and reading ability. This then affects the students’ ability to do mathematics.

Applying the Guru BAIK problem solving methodology, Ibu Arnu explored possible solutions to help her students not only read, write and speak more effectively, but to enhance their motivation to keep learning.

“Maybe, for other teachers, teaching the lower classes is challenging. But for me, teaching a low class is fun. Because in my opinion, children at this age are still easy to influence, depending on how we educate and what kind of approach we use, “explained Ibu Arnu, an alumni of D2 PGSD Mataram University.

Ibu Arnu found one particular solution to work well. She developed her own Bima-Indonesian language dictionary, which was full of short stories about the local environment, and lots of simple and colourful pictures. Armed with this dictionary, Arnu’s students were able to more easily build their Indonesian vocabulary.

“Since my students still cannot speak Indonesian, I tried to make a short story. The story then I translate in the picture and his words I write in two-language dictionary, Bima and Bahasa Indonesia. So, the pictures and dictionaries are simple objects that they usually encounter when leaving for school or at school. For example, what do we call rice fields or flagpoles in Bima and Bahasa Indonesia? The picture and the dictionary paper are then distributed to each student, after which I invite them out of the class to do the observation together”. Ibu Arnu acknowledged that every teacher should prepare well for their classes, and use learning media as much as possible. She also emphasised the importance of teachers using local solutions to solve local learning challenges.  “The INOVASI workshops made me even more convinced that the idea could come from anywhere. That the teacher should not only base their ideas on textbooks alone, but also must dig out things beyond it and problem solve themselves. Teachers should also be able to develop ideas and learning themes because teachers have the task of teaching, and fostering learning in their students”.


A local solution to mother tongue transition in Bima