Getting the basics right: literacy in North Lombok

November 2017

As part of pilot design activities in West Nusa Tenggara province, INOVASI is exploring ways to improve foundational literacy skills and student learning outcomes in North Lombok.  

Located on the north coast of Lombok island, North Lombok (or Lombok Utara) is home to a population of more than 200,000. With a teacher population of 1,438, 606 of whom are certified, North Lombok is focussed on improving educational quality, particularly in the case of education services and education access for all children. Despite efforts to date, quality of learning outcomes in literacy remains low. Grade two student reading results, as tested by the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) toolkit in 35 schools across the district, indicate that reading fluency and comprehension sit at under 25% for students. The need to strengthen foundational literacy teaching and learning outcomes is an important one.


Through the INOVASI program, the governments of Australia and Indonesia are partnering to understand how student learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy can be improved in schools and districts across Indonesia. North Lombok is one of six INOVASI partner districts in NTB.

In North Lombok and in all partner districts and provinces, INOVASI uses a distinctive approach to develop pilot activities and find out what does and doesn’t work to improve student learning outcomes. In simple terms, this approach is called Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA). It sees INOVASI working and learning directly with local partners to explore and identify local problems and co-design locally relevant solutions. This bottom-up way of thinking is certainly not new – conceptually it draws on approaches in the Doing Development Differently and Human Centred Design fields – but INOVASI continues to implement and iterate its own version of this on the ground in Indonesia.

Getting the basics of literacy right in the early grades has positive flow on effects for all areas of learning. Through its Foundational Literacy pilot, due to be implemented in both North Lombok and West Sumbawa, INOVASI will work to improve early grade student learning outcomes by enhancing teacher understanding of curriculum content. By improving teachers’ ability to use key processes for literacy development, including formative assessment, teachers may apply more effective teaching strategies and resources in their classrooms.

Pilot planning began in the second half of 2017 in North Lombok, with initial exploration activities. As with all INOVASI pilots, local facilitators play a key role in planning and implementation. In this instance, facilitators are local teachers and educators themselves. By building their capacity and empowering them to use the PDIA approach to co-identify root problem cause and effect with local stakeholders, it is expected that the end pilot design and implementation is more sustainable.

A combination of tools has been used so far, including observations, interviews with teachers, and other brainstorming tools. Teachers were asked to list their pedagogical problems and concerns, particularly as they relate to literacy content and understanding. Through a collaborative process of co-identification and discussion, local facilitators have been able to uncover several important insights. These are key to final pilot design.


During the PDIA process, a range of findings and considerations have been uncovered and unpacked with local stakeholders – particularly with local teachers. These include:

  • Student skill in reading is still very low
  • Many teachers have no literacy education background and do not have the knowledge and skills to teach basic literacy effectively
  • Teachers often move to teach from upper grades to early grades, and vice versa. This does not lead to sufficient knowledge in how to teach early grades
  • Schools and teachers have not prepared books that match the actual reading skills of students in the classroom. Furthermore, teachers and schools do not have the adequate knowledge on what books are appropriate to choose for early grade students
  • Many early grade classes are actually taught by honorary or tribal teachers who are not from teacher training institutes. Some are even from high school
  • Teachers have not used instructional media before to help improve student understanding. They are more familiar with using only textbooks

More importantly, perhaps, is the finding that many teachers do not realise they have a problem. While they agree that students are not able to read, they do not see the root cause of the problem as something that rests on their shoulders. This relates to the effectiveness of classroom management, learning management, the use of learning media, questioning as part of learning, and student tasks and activities in the classroom. These are all areas that must be strengthened in teaching in order to improve early grade literacy and learning outcomes.


Moving forward, local facilitators will continue to work with teachers to further unpack and analyse those findings gathered during the PDIA exploration process. In moving towards co-design of a solution, these ideas and issues will be explored further.

As part of final pilot design, ideas testing and review will continue during the November – December 2017 period, including in selected schools and classrooms. The pilot will commence implementation in early 2018. Follow the INOVASI Facebook page for more updates.



Getting the basics right: literacy in North Lombok