As one of six INOVASI partner districts in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) Province, West Sumbawa is committed to improving the learning outcomes of early grade students. Currently, the district is supporting the implementation of the Guru BAIK pilot (BAIK meaning Learning, Aspirational, Inclusive, and Contextual). This pilot has been included in regional plans and is funded from local government budget (APBD). West Sumbawa is also actively involved in INOVASI’s foundational literacy pilot (also known as PELITA).
Earlier this month, a number of West Sumbawa regional stakeholders gathered together for a ‘District Planning Meeting’ at the Education and Youth Office hall. Facilitated by INOVASI, this activity mapped out plans for West Sumbawa program activities in the coming months. Teachers, principals and representatives from the district Education Office were in attendance.
At the meeting, Secretary of West Sumbawa Education Office Firmansyah, and Deputy Regent Fud Syaifuddin, emphasised the importance of collaboration and coordination. With approximately 19% of early grade students in West Sumbawa unable to read, according to regional data, the district planning meeting aimed to explore education challenges and solutions. Strengthening basic education skills, particularly in literacy and numeracy, is key to the ongoing strengthening of human resources at the district, provincial and national level.
Meeting participants were divided into three groups to discuss problems from three different perspectives; teachers, students, and institutions. Using the fishbone method, a problem identification tool, the three groups explored causes of education challenges, and then discussed solutions. It was found that teacher competency across the district is inadequate due to a lack of teacher training (including how to use systematic and continuous learning material), lack of supervision by school principals and supervisors, the low functioning of Teacher Working Groups (KKG), limited access to teacher learning and teaching resources, and low teacher motivation to learn or develop these for themselves in the classroom. Solutions offered by teachers included the need to strengthen Teacher Working Group based professional development programs, making it more sustainable. They also explained the importance of improved quality of supervision and monitoring and evaluation – perhaps as a priority for APBD and school funds.
From the student perspective, identified challenges included low student ability and interest in reading. Causes of this were often traced back to monotonous teaching methods, lack of effective and engaging learning tools, unsuitable reading books, unattractive library facilities and lack of parental support and guidance for children. Various solutions were offered. One solution was the procurement of reading books according to the level of reading ability and interest of students and improvement of the competence of early grade teachers through training and workshops. This could also be considered as part of APBD funding. Participants suggested that the allocation of local BOS funds would be a strong show of government commitment to developing library procurement programs, providing appropriate and varied learning media for both inside and outside class activities, and encouraging the participation of parents in book procurement.
From an institutional and environmental point of view, it was found that a key issue in basic education is the limited leadership of school principals. This is often caused by a lack of training, supervision and professional development. The group explained that the selection process must be further enhanced, accompanied by capacity building, development of more effective supervision instruments, and empowerment of the principal working group.
From this discussion, ideas and solutions emerged for local policy makers to consider. Key recommendations were to expand the impact of education pilots that improve quality and strengthen professional development programs for teachers in the form of short literacy and numeracy courses. It was also emphasised that a Bupati Decree should be implemented, focused on the institutionalisation of selected and trained local facilitators. Ongoing district regulation would go a long way to improve education management and administration, and thus, quality.