In West Sumbawa, one of six partner districts in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), INOVASI is implementing an early grade literacy pilot with selected schools, students and educators. Pre-pilot planning began in 2017, with full pilot activities commencing in mid-2018. Using a short course modality, teachers are learning the basics of early grade literacy teaching and learning, including strategies for teaching reading and writing. INOVASI’s 2018 baseline data showed that 19% of West Sumbawa early grade students in grades one to three did not pass a basic literacy test – in grade one, 38% of students did not pass. Many more boys failed than girls, with 24% of boys failing compared to 12% of girls. For those students who did not pass, skills in syllable and word recognition were the weakest.
Supiani, a grade one teacher at SDN Mura 2 primary school, shares her pilot experience so far.
Supiani first began her career as an assistant teacher, at a primary school in Sumbawa. As an assistant to senior teachers, she did not directly teach the students. While working as assistant teacher, Supiani observed how the teachers taught and how students responded. She began to feel that something had to be changed or improved in the classroom, as the teachers used a lecture style method that was ineffective for student learning.
In 2016, Supiani became a grade one teacher at SDN Mura 2 primary school in West Sumbawa. Not long after that, INOVASI’s foundational literacy short course pilot (known locally as PELITA) began implementation in her school. As an INOVASI partner teacher, Supiani developed many literacy skills, and felt her capacity as a teacher grow.
“When I first heard the word INOVASI, I had imagined what I would get from the trainings. I understand the word innovation as a word that means creativity. I know we will get training on new methods and approaches that are not monotonous and boring for children. And this is what I’ve been waiting for, ” said Supiani.
What she imagined was in line with what she then received as a partner teacher. Together with other early grade teachers in two sub-districts in West Sumbawa, Supiani developed her knowledge in how to understand the basics of literacy, the use of Big Book, and reading comprehension.
INOVASI was the wake up Supiani needed, to embrace her creativity in the classroom. Now, the classrooms are colourful and full with literacy displays. She also created various learning media.
“The difference is felt in the classroom. We can make the atmosphere more alive. Children look happier because they can learn to read while playing by using various teaching tools and learning media,” she said excitedly.
One of the learning media creations made by Supiani was the ‘letter card’. This is where coloured pieces of paper are cut into interesting shapes, and a letter is drawn on each piece. All the letters of the alphabet are then made into distinctive shapes for students to use, making it easier for them to remember letters.
“If we present each letter in attractive shapes and colours, it will make kids curious. Often, they come to me, bring one letter and ask what letter it is,” explained Supiani.
To provide a variety of learning media, Supiani did not have to spend a lot of money. Most of the materials used paper from the school. Her students also sometimes brought their own coloured paper – often choosing their favourite colours.
According to Supiani, the early grade children, especially those in grade one, do need a different approach in the classroom. They need things that are concrete in order to understand the concept being taught. Presenting letters and numbers in an interesting object will make them understand more quickly, more quickly than if it is only displayed on the whiteboard or in a book.
Supiani is now very passionate about her teaching career. She was always encouraged to find teaching approaches and techniques that could make her students in the first grade become more interested in what she taught. When she meets other teachers, she now does not hesitate to share her ways of teaching. In the future, she is excited to continue strengthening her skills, and in return, her students’ learning outcomes.