INOVASI and CIS Timor help teachers design classes more suitable to diverse student needs

By: Kudji Koreh, S.Pd, Principal of SD Negeri Kamalawatar

In September 2018, INOVASI commenced 27 grant-funded pilots, with 18 new grant partners. This grants initiative is a key part of our approach to expanding and strengthening engagement with Indonesia’s non-governmental education sector. One of these grant partners is CIS Timor, working to strengthen school capacity and inclusive education in East Sumba, an INOVASI partner district in East Nusa Tenggara province. Working with nine schools in Rindi sub-district, the CIS program focuses on training in inclusive education, inclusive community involvement, and coalitions for change. In this story, we hear from Kudji Koreh, a school principal at SD Negeri Kamalawatar primary school in East Sumba.

I still remember when CIS Timor visited my school, SDN Kamalawatar, in October 2018. They introduced a new inclusive education program and said that our school was one of the selected partners. I was so excited, and immediately took part in the initial socialisation and district launch.

After the pilot launch, many activities and discussions were held with CIS Timor. I attended an initial awareness training where we were introduced to new insights about what inclusion education really was – namely, it’s about education for all. For the pedagogy training, I sent teachers in grades one, two and three from my school to take part.

I definitely feel that my mind set has changed from participating in this pilot. I have a stronger understanding of what inclusive education is. I had not really discussed it before the pilot. Although I and my teachers viewed education as a child’s right, we had not really thought that children with disabilities or those we often referred to as disabled children could easily go to public schools. In our school, there were no children with physical disabilities, but there are certainly those who experience learning challenges and delays. Now, thanks to the sessions with CIS Timor, we understand that public schools are indeed open to children with any condition.

Since the pilot has been running, I have noticed exchange of ideas and information between teachers and have observed a change in their teaching methods and techniques. They also know how to better use learning media in the classroom, when it comes to inclusive education. This includes the lesson plan, which can be developed to accommodate the diverse needs of each child. There is also a special learning plan that teachers can use for children with disabilities, called the Individual Learning Plan.

In a grade one class at my school, where children still found it difficult to recognise letters, the new teaching methods helped them improve. One method was playing with letter cards, and students with learning difficulties were given special guidance by the teacher. Slowly, they have now become more familiar with letters and have even begun to read and write some words correctly. There was one student the teacher was challenged by, who continually disturbed his friends and had a lot of energy in the classroom. For him, the teacher assigned additional homework so that he did not have free time to disturb the class order.

This was the same in grades two and three. Children are now almost all able to read and count, even though there are some who still experience difficulty and are given special guidance.

Thanks to the pilot, the teachers at my school are using their new found knowledge and are designing classes more suitable to different student needs. They are better able to help students who have learning difficulties. Newly equipped with a range of teaching methods and tools, they can be more flexible in the classroom, and children enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.

As the school principal, I now always advise teachers to create a child-friendly classroom. The teacher cannot do the old lecture style. With active learning, students are happier, and lessons are easier to understand.

The fact that students can now read should be considered the real evidence of positive change. We’ve now transitioned from monotonous learning to active and fun learning. Teachers cannot have the wrong mindset, as they’ll end up using bad teaching strategies. An inclusive mindset will be better for students in the long term.

Looking to the future, I can see that we must continue to improve some teaching elements, like the individual learning plans. It’s important my teachers can modify lessons to suit the students. We’ve not been used to doing this, so it takes time to get better. We’ll continue working at it.

INOVASI and CIS Timor help teachers design classes more suitable to diverse student needs