In 2018 – 2019, INOVASI commenced 34 grant-funded pilots, with 20 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 Yayasan Tunas Aksara (YTA), working to strengthen early grade literacy teaching and learning in North Lombok, an INOVASI partner district in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province. Working with 14 schools in across the district, the YTA program has equipped 28 grade one and two teachers with Saya Suka Membaca (SSM) training, curriculum, materials and mentoring. Teachers have better built an understanding and skills they need to teach reading effectively and in an engaging way, taking children from learning ‘bunyi huruf’ to being able to read simple words, short sentences and eventually short paragraphs and books with understanding. Each school has also been provided with a ‘Library in a box’, further enriching the school reading environment for early grade students.
Early one school morning, a group of grade two students entered their classroom at SDN 5 Jenggala primary school in Tanjung sub-district, North Lombok, each of them exclaiming excitedly at the newly built and newly painted classroom. Everything was fresh – the result of a rebuild following the August 2018 Lombok earthquake.
The school is also one of 14 partner schools in the ‘I Love to Read’ program, a grant partnership between INOVASI and the Tunas Aksara Foundation. According to school principal Inggisardi, SDN 5 Jenggala has benefited greatly from the literacy pilot.
“The program is very helpful especially for our teachers who teach in grades 1, 2 and 3. Our teachers give good reports related to the learning process. Teachers are helped. Children understand more quickly. We strongly support this program going forward,” he said.
As the school day unfolds, noise from SDN 5 Jenggala’s grade two class carries across the school. Children can be heard learning to read words and sentences, with their teacher Dwi Damayanti helping them work with the letter ‘H’.
Damayanti was originally the school sports teacher. However, with the former second grade teacher entering retirement, she offered to help out, joining the partner pilot training sessions.
Damayanti admitted that at first she felt awkward to teach. But, with the material she received during training sessions, her skills have vastly improved.
“When we attended the training we learnt the the sound of letters. I just found out that the letter has a movement, there is the sound of the letter. So, children can better understand or recognize letters faster. (They) memorize letters faster. For example, if the child forgets, we show the movement and sound, and the child quickly remembers the letter. So, there is a lot that we have just learned from this training,” Damayanti explained.
The aim of the Tunas Aksara Foundation pilot has been to help teachers to help students to read. Training began by recognizing letters and their sounds and movement and was then following by working with syllables and syllable cards in the classroom. The third stage of training was to recognise words and sentences, before children can become independent readers. Each of these training phases is designed to help students more quickly recognise letters, syllables, words, sentences, and then full text in a book. The teacher is also guided in how to use story books in the classroom.
Damayanti revealed that the methods and equipment provided have made it easier for teachers to facilitate the classroom learning process.
“The way we practice the pilot training curriculum in class is very easy. Why do I say it’s easy? Because we’ve been provided with a guidebook. The guidebook is complete with steps. So, we practice it in class very easily. There is no difficulty. The children are also very enthusiastic because the pilot literacy and reading curriculum is amazing, very fun. So, there are no difficulties that I feel in class,” Damayanti said.
Teachers have also been equipped with formative assessment tests for each stage of literacy learning, so they can see where students are at and differentiate teaching accordingly – based on test results.
Real change has been taking place at SDN 5 Jenggala, thanks to the pilot partnership intervention. Damayanti revealed that the most fundamental changes include an increase in student literacy learning outcomes, and the engagement of students who were previously absent from school.
“Since I began with the pilot, the children were more enthusiastic. Previously a lot of children were sleepy, often not engaged. After I applied the pilot learnings there were no more children going in and out of the classroom. So, the class atmosphere remains calm and pleasant. After the pilot, the library started to get crowded. Reading interest began to appear. A student guardian came to me to say thank you because his child could read. I did nothing but only implemented the pilot training and curriculum!” she said excitedly.
Damayanti gave an example of one of her students, who was often absent from school before the pilot program began. Now, the student will come to school because they do not want to miss the stories read by Damayanti, using the story books developed from Tunas Aksara Foundation.
“Before implementing the pilot, many did not read or even knew letters. After I implemented the activities, it’s now not bad. If I increase almost 80% of my children (students) to be able to read, this is good although not perfect. The pilot curriculum is very influential on my students, helping them learn to read.”
Damayanti hopes that the North Lombok district government can continue the pilot program and spread it to other teachers and schools.