The ground outside Wunga Inpres primary school is cracked and dry. The dry scrubby grass stretches into a flat, and seemingly endless, horizon. The heat hangs heavy in the air. The school, located in the remote Haharu sub-district of East Sumba, a district on Sumba Island, has no running water, leaving children to bring their own bottles each morning.
But despite these first impressions, there is another perhaps more important factor at play. Although some students walk up to seven kilometres each day to attend school from their village, they are all here, ready and willing to learn. Bright red uniforms, bright smiles, and increasingly, active minds. SD Wunga is an INOVASI program partner school in Sumba, and are involved in a new pilot that aims to help teachers transition from using mother tongue to Bahasa Indonesia as the primary mode of classroom instruction.
Samuel Rihi, SDI Wunga’s principal, reflects on the school’s early challenges.
“Of the 127 students who studied in the school there are about 60 students who often skipped or rarely went to school, teachers are also so”.
Of course, distance is a key issue, with the school situated about 70 kilometres from Waingapu, East Sumba’s district capital. The journey takes about one hour to reach SDI Wunga.
In the classroom, many challenges also existed. Classroom facilities were inadequate, and teachers tended to use only one textbook during the learning process, and no other learning media. No real lesson planning was done to prepare for class. The mode of classroom instruction was often lecture style, with students sitting passively and silently. In addition, teachers faced many issues with the strong prevalence of local mother tongue. Ill-equipped with effective strategies and knowledge, they often mixed both mother tongue and Bahasa Indonesia when teaching, an unhelpful strategy for students.
Since INOVASI pilot planning began with SDI Wunga, many positive improvements have taken place. Following a process of co-identification of local learning challenges, and the testing of various classroom strategies to improve learning outcomes, one strategy has proven to be quite useful – lesson study planning.
In implementing this approach, teachers together plan their lesson study plans in advance, selecting a ‘model teacher’ each week who will implement the plan, with other teachers sitting in to observe and watch. At the close of the lesson, they reflect together, discussing improvements and challenges to work on.
With advance planning, teachers at SDI Wunga are able to better phase in the use of Bahasa Indonesia in the classroom, particularly in the early grades of one, two and three.
One of these teachers, Naomi Padjadja, explains how working with INOVASI has helped improve her teaching methods and knowledge in the classroom – and thus, benefiting her students.
“There are interesting things that are obtained from the process of learning in grade two. Now, students experience the learning, there is more intensive interaction and good communication between the teacher and student. The Learning process like this has happened at SDI Wunga since INOVASI has been present. Before that, we did not practice like this, and teaching was very monotonous”.
INOVASI’s East Sumba District Facilitator Andika Dewantara, is pleased with the pilot progress so far, particularly in SDI Wunga. He explains how even during the course of the current school semester, students have become more active and confident in the classroom, grasping learning concepts more readily.
“The teaching style of the teachers is moving from a teacher centred to a more student centred approach. Teachers begin to develop learning media for supporting the classroom activities, while students have more opportunity to read, to learn and to be more productive. Students are also more comfortable when teachers speak mother tongue language in the classroom using the 50:50 strategy that stands for using full mother tongue in the first 35 minutes and using Bahasa Indonesia in the next 35 minutes. This helps them grasp the learning concept easier”, said Andika.
By using the lesson study approach, teachers are better able to plan, to do, to reflect and to re-plan the learning process collaboratively so that other teachers can also benefit. The school principal and the school committee also participate in the lesson study. Their involvement helps them identify what works and what doesn’t work during the learning process, while at the same time they can understand what is necessary to best support classroom learning. The results of the lesson study approach will then be reported to parents and other stakeholders in order to gain their buy-in and support for the school.
SDI Wunga is one of 256 primary schools across East Sumba district, where approximately 60% of students speak mother tongue language at home, and not Bahasa Indonesia. Currently working with 10 schools across the district, INOVASI will soon expand to include an additional 15 schools in East Sumba’s other three sub-districts. During full pilot implementation, strategies will also be devised to engage parents and the local community in improving classroom learning and outcomes.