Improving educational quality: the power of partnerships and learning

The issue of improving educational quality in Indonesia is a complex one, and cannot be solved by one stakeholder in isolation. The power of partnerships is key.

In the spirit of knowledge sharing and learning, INOVASI earlier this month hosted a three-day ‘Partnerships for Learning’ education seminar in Bali, Indonesia. Held during Indonesia’s National Education month, and attended by more than 200 education practitioners, NGOs and government stakeholders from across Indonesia, the seminar featured a range of key education innovators who will present on their experiences and approaches to improving the quality of literacy and numeracy in basic education.

Throughout the three days, there was one key guiding principle that underpinned discussions and sharing: greater impact will be sustained when education stakeholders work together as part of a coalition or movement to achieve collective goals.

Education systems need constant, ongoing renewal. Teachers need continuing professional development. As the role of international donors declines in Indonesia, and the capacity of local organizations increases, government must look increasingly to local partners, from the broad education ecosystem, to provide support for continuing improvement. These partners include government, civil society, universities and the private sector. In the Indonesian context, this is certainly the case.


An opportunity for dialogue and knowledge sharing

During the three-day seminar, INOVASI brought together local NGOs, practitioners and key stakeholders with an interest in education, to share their successful experiences with one another and with government stakeholders at the national and sub-national levels. Education practitioners, development practitioners and government stakeholders learned from their combined experiences about how different ideas and approaches can be adopted and used in local contexts to improve learning outcomes.

The seminar clearly demonstrated the strength and diversity of the non-government sector, along with the readiness of organizations to support government in improving basic education. Nearly 400 organizations responded to a call for expressions of interest issued by INOVASI in January 2018. Of these, 48 were short-listed for the small grant program and invited to attend the seminar.

Key presenters included Indonesia Mengajar, Tanoto Foundation, Australian based organisation Indigenous to Indigenous (I2I), The Asia Foundation, Room to Read, Rainbow Reading Gardens, IniBudi, Save the Children, Yayasan Sulinama, and local Bali based organisations YLAI and the Green School.

Said Haiva Muzdaliva, Managing Director of Indonesia Mengajar, “over the past eight years, Indonesia Mengajar has witnessed the growth of various education movements and initiatives, created through mutual cooperation between organisations and society. Some of these include the Desa Cerdas Halmahera Selatan Movement, Tulang Bawang Barat Cerdas, Tanimbar Mengajar Movement and many others. This is proof of the growing awareness of the local community about education in the region. It is clear that the collective spirit of all parties to work together has become one of the keys to success for finding solutions to education challenges in Indonesia”.


The Indian experience: improving educational quality and shared lessons

Our headline presenter was the Pratham Education Foundation, one of India’s largest non-governmental organisations. They are best known for their teaching at the right level (TARL) approach in primary grades to help children who are lagging behind in basic literacy and numeracy skills. Pratham shared key tools and strategies that could be transferred and tailored to the Indonesian education context, including their unique citizen led assessment initiative – ASER – an annual survey that aims to provide reliable annual estimates of children’s schooling status and basic learning levels for each state and rural district in India.

Pratham maintains a key focus on high quality, low cost and replicable interventions to address gaps in the education system. In implementing the TARL approach, certain core elements are needed, including:

–  Children’s groups are made according to basic assessment. Available teachers or instructors are allocated to facilitate easy to complete group activities and children’s work.

–  Simple one on one assessment is done to group grades three, four and five students by learning level, not by grade.

–  For each group, there are a set of simple activities and materials appropriate to their learning level.

–  Children learn in groups and also individually. The teacher or instructor completes activities with groups.

–  As children progress, they move into the next group or level.

Said Devyani Pershad, Head of Program Management at Pratham Education Foundation, “across the world, impressive strides have been made by countries to ensure schooling for all, and it is pertinent now more than ever to focus on learning for all. For over twenty years, Pratham has striven to work with the education system in India to find low cost, innovative and scalable solutions to improve children’s learning across the country. Partnerships with government have led to impactful programs implemented at scale, allowing for learnings to emerge that are applicable not only in the Indian context, but across the globe. As we continue to innovate and experiment as an organization, we aim to share what we have learnt and gain experience from the Indonesian context to work towards the common goal of learning for all.


What’s Next?

On the final day of the seminar, break out session discussions resulted in a suite of final communiques and actions to maintain the momentum. Some key strategies or plans were outlined, including:

–  Communities of practice, particularly through digital channels, to continue sharing knowledge and lessons

–  Organisational and knowledge exchanges, to continue learning from approaches that have proven to work in one particular context in Indonesia.

–  Adapting the ASER tool to the Indonesian context and testing it.

–  Ongoing need for synergy between government programs, and NGO programs.

–  Shared online directory for education resources.

–  Collaboration on the design, implementation and evaluation of key approaches to improving education, between organisations with common shared interests (i.e. digital libraries, literacy).

From the INOVASI side, to develop promising practices, INOVASI is building partnerships, creating coalitions and providing small grants to diverse partners to implement innovative approaches to improve learning. The approach includes a traditional grants mechanism to identify, adapt and test solutions using methodologies already developed by local non-governmental organisations and others. A ‘coalitions for change’ approach seeks to broker and establish more lasting, win–win partnerships in which partners have common or intersecting goals around improving learning. This approach invests in relationships to solve local problems, rather than investing in institutions. The aim is to bring together different actors (including unconventional partners) to try and change a policy or a practice to improve learning outcomes.

In addition, also during May, INOVASI will launch a digital educator community of practice (in the form of a Facebook group), which will seek to build a more diverse online community around existing education resources in the Indonesian realm. This will be co-facilitated with other key education organisations, including some of those who presented at the seminar including Rainbow Reading Gardens, The Asia Foundation, Indonesia Mengajar and Save the Children. The seminar further strengthened this collaboration, in preparation for the COP launch. The Ministry of Education and Culture’s ICT department Pustekkom will also be involved as a co-facilitator.

Improving educational quality: the power of partnerships and learning