By: Anambida Tenga Lunga S.Pd. SD (Head of Tanalingu primary school)
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 Anambida Tenga Lunga, a school principal at Tanalingu primary school in East Sumba.
It was great when I found out my school, Tanalingu primary school, would participate in the INOVASI – CIS Timor pilot. When CIS first came to our school, they explained the aims and objectives of the program, and said how they would involve the target villages and schools. Activities have continued at the district, village and school level, and we are learning much about inclusive education. From my school, myself, selected teachers, and the school committee have been actively involved.
Since the pilot has begun, we have noticed a number of positive changes at our school – and indeed, at other schools. These changes might be just for myself as the principal, but also changes for teachers and students. To explain a bit more, they include:
- Individual changes: my own mindset has improved, and I now won’t hesitate to accept students with disabilities at Tanalingu primary school. After the pilot workshops, I would always invite teachers to reflect on and discuss solutions for children with disabilities, or those with slow learning, and I’d always give encouragement for teachers to be more active and creative in the classroom.
- Teacher changes: for the teachers from grades one, two and three at my school who participated, they now don’t complain when dealing with children who are slow to learn, and are more aware about the needs of students with disabilities. This is a positive step.
- Student changes: these have been quite significant, especially for children with delayed learning. Since the program began, and the knowledge of principals and teachers has improved, especially through awareness and training in pedagogy, teachers are better prepared during the learning process. With better prepared teachers, it helps students – including those who couldn’t read at all and who could not count. Creative teaching methods are vital.
I’ve also noticed positive changes in teacher to teacher interactions. Before the pilot began, teachers did not understand inclusive education, or what learning methods were needed to teach those students. They used methods like dictation, and would just write directly on the board. This was not effective. The children with learning disabilities had a lot of trouble understanding what was being taught, and they could not read and write properly despite their age.
Teachers now understand their roles and responsibilities as educators, and continue to develop their skills and mindset. They are keen to learn and understand about the needs and skills of their students, and develop learning methods in accordance with the different needs of each child. Although we have not done formal learning evaluation yet, from my observations in the classroom I can see that there is positive change. Already, those students with learning difficulties have begun to spell all syllables and words, and even make sentences on the wall.
By understanding the different levels of children’s learning, the teachers can now better prepare lesson plans. This can be tailored for students, whether they are weak or strong in reading, counting and writing. For students who have difficulty in counting for example, the teacher can use group games and counting tools, which makes it easier to learn.
I feel motivated to continue improving learning outcomes at Tanalingu primary school, and I’ll keep providing support to my teachers to help build their capacity and fulfil their roles as educators. These changes must be maintained. For those children with learning difficulties, we are very grateful that their parents want to help them, and help them study at home.
I now feel that the teacher must be a good facilitator in the classroom, they must also mediate, and help students develop themselves as well as learn well. Support from both family and community is also very influential, but for me, the teacher must play their role well in school and in the community.
The biggest challenge for my school during the pilot has been of course taking on board the new skills and knowledge (we had never learnt the content before), and the use of the tool to identify students with special needs (or ABK). However, we recognise that this is an important responsibility, and it’s for the long term good that we can help children learn more effectively. It’s important that we keep trying our best. Slowly, our teachers are understanding the methods for identifying student learning abilities.