INOVASI, represented by its Program Director, Dr Mark Heyward, shared findings and lessons learned from phase I at the 2020 Australasian Aid Conference held on 17 – 19 February 2020 in Canberra. The conference brought together researchers, and development practitioners from across Australia, The Pacific, Asia and beyond who are working on aid and international development policy issue to share insights, promote collaboration and help to develop the research community.
Along with two researchers from RISE Indonesia – SMERU, INOVASI highlighted the lessons learned of education system in Indonesia and how an adaptive approach to development can contribute to the improvement of learning outcomes for educators and students.
Dr Heyward described INOVASI’s profile; its key focus areas of literacy, numeracy and inclusive education; and its implementation strategy from the beginning by endorsing partnerships with local NGOs and civic society organizations in district level. He explained how INOVASI uses evidence from pilots to inform policy makers on what’s been working on its policy implementation.
The presentation received positive a response from the audiences. One participant asking about how INOVASI works bottom-up in the districts level – and what would happen if the system doesn’t support reforms as expected. Responding to this questions, Dr Heyward explained that INOVASI works not only bottom-up but also top-down with the national policy makers as well by building evidence, trust, and strong working relationships with the districts education offices.
A second respond came from DFAT officials working in education sector, asking whether there is healthy competition between districts or villages and how this plays a role. Responding to this question, Dr Heyward explained that competition does exist, since districts officials often seek to make a name for themselves and get credit for their achievement – and education is one of the key sectors that involves political willingness from district leaders.
Competition between districts on education programs might create a copy-pasted program in other districts if it proves to be successful. However, it is worth noting that local context does play a significant role in differing characteristics within the program approach.
The national ministry often appreciates the efforts of districts by giving them awards when one excels another. This creates a typical cross-visit program when one district wants to learn from the championing district. For example, government offices in the eastern region of Indonesia are regularly visiting their peer offices in western regions or in Java to learn something useful to be replicated in their area.
The session was concluded by Dr Lant Pritchett, RISE Research Director, as the panel chair. He concluded the discussion by highlighting two main important issues based on how innovation could be diffused and spread.
The main problem is finding the proper methodology for significant self-initiating innovation. To put it simply, in an example, there are difficulties when we find innovation from 500+ districts but the methods is reduced into making case studies for three districts only.
The second problem is low trust. Taking an example from Pakistan, where an initiative was introduced in a low-trust environment, innovation should be driven top-down with more strength. In Indonesia, more dynamics happen in building trust with the government where exercise, discretion, and empathetic approach are put into consideration in introducing innovation to improve better education system.