Understanding local context and education challenges is a key feature of the INOVASI program. In Dompu, INOVASI has been working closely with the local community to better understand and identify key educational issues. One such issue has been the lack of the community’s role in the education sector, contributing to lower levels of literacy and numeracy skills in primary schools across the district. In this context, INOVASI’s current pilot, ‘Community Engagement in Learning’ is seeking to address the absence of the community in education.
It was a bright sunny morning when Ms. Diani, a grade 1 teacher at SDN 3 primary school in Dompu, brought around 15 of her students to the classroom for the first time. The atmosphere was noisy, and the air full of energy, when they took their seats. The students had just been taken around the school to see the place where they would now study and learn, as part of orientation. They only begun school a few days prior.
“I invited them to see the teachers’ room, then also the school toilet and canteen. They were also introduced to their friends from other classes and the teachers here,” said Ms. Diani.
Diani is a senior teacher at the school, first starting her career in 1988. Her entire career has been spent almost exclusively teaching first grade students. Although she taught fourth grade, this lasted only a few years. Diani explained that while she wanted to teach another class, the principal always assigned her to teach early grade students.
“Maybe because I look more patient and loving,” she said with a laugh.
For Diani, teaching first grade is a big responsibility because it means being a person who will lay the foundation for every student, and teach them essential basic skills. The success of the students in higher grades is largely determined by how well they are prepared in first grade, especially when it comes to literacy and numeracy.
Drawing on her many years of experience teaching first grade classes, Diani said that all students have the ability to learn, and all can be taught well.
“The key is they are diligent in going to school and taking lessons,” she added.
She stressed that one key factor leading to success in class is attendance – something often linked to parental support for learning. At the school where she teaches, the problem of attendance has often been an obstacle for children and their learning. At certain times for example, during the planting season or harvest season, parents who work as farmers will spend a lot of time in the fields or fields, and they will bring their children to help them. As a result, they are absent from school, and their learning does not develop.
All of that, explained Diani, stems from a lack of parental attention to children’s educational needs. “Parents play an important role in the education of children at home. Cannot just rely on schools and teachers,” she said.
Efforts to grow awareness of parental support for education at SDN 3 Dompu began in April 2018 as part of INOVASI’s pilot. Activities were done in in collaboration with the Dompu District Education Office. Through the INOVASI ‘Community Engagement in Learning’ pilot, more than 250 student parents have been involved from partner schools.
This pilot aims to build teachers’ understanding and ability to engage parents effectively in children’s learning. On the other hand, the program also seeks to increase the awareness and skills of parents in supporting their children’s education at home.
At the start of the pilot, Diani and other teachers received a briefing on how to establish communication with parents so that they could pay attention to their children’s education. Diani said she had since put this knowledge into action.
“When the children come for their first day of school, their parents accompany them. I took the opportunity to talk to the parents. I said that we had to work together so that children could be smart. I can’t work alone and I need support from all parents,” she explained.
“I also gave a simple example that they could do, such as preparing their children when they go to school and asking for their children’s homework when they go home,” she continued.
Diani often writes specific messages to parents through the child’s notebook. “I ask the student to hold the notebook until they got home and show my message to their parents as soon as they arrive.”
Such methods, according to her, can help parents focus attention on their children’s learning. The attendance rate of students has now improved as a result. If there are children who cannot attend, parents will usually come and report the issue to the school.
In addition to this understanding of community engagement in learning, Diani and other partner teachers have gained essential knowledge in how to better teach basic literacy. With their new found teaching skills, Diani and her peers will continue to improve education quality in Dompu district.