Teaching children with learning barriers in Central Lombok

In Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, INOVASI is working to improve learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy for children with learning disabilities through the SETARA pilot. Creating more inclusive classrooms is a priority for the Central Lombok Education Office but identifying the root of the problem takes further exploration, and a conversation between all stakeholders. INOVASI has put its Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach into action in the district, with initial exploration and problem synthesis commencing in April 2017.

Mrs. Siti Hadijah is the Principal of primary school SDN 1 Gemel, Jonggat, one of INOVASI’s SETARA partner schools in Central Lombok. A core focus for SETARA is improving the ability of teachers to better guide and teach students with learning barriers in the classroom.

During the pre-pilot phase in her school, Siti acted as a coach and group leader responsible for directing and guiding the teachers in their efforts to education students with disabilities. In many cases, more appropriate teaching methods can be used when educating these students. The pilot has so far been well received by Siti and other teachers, given they have better learnt how to nurture special needs children in the classroom, and progress their lesson plans.

“In SETARA, we are taught in detail to explore the problem of learning and how we can solve the problem so that children can understand quickly,” she explained.

Siti Hadijah cares deeply about improving the quality of education, especially inclusive education. For eight years Siti has been the principal of SDN 1 Gemel, working to implement inclusive education for students. She has focused not only on children who experience learning barriers but also students who are deaf, mentally disabled, speech impaired and with other disabilities.

Teaching children with disabilities is not new to Siti. Prior to working at SDN Gemel, she taught children with disabilities at SDN 1 Puyung. “I am very used to educating and nurturing the children with special needs, so when I am in SDN 1 Gemel, I do not have trouble nurturing and educating them,” she said.

According to Siti, providing education services to children with disabilities requires hard work, patience, and diligence. “Sometimes we are overwhelmed, but with great patience and diligence, they finally understand about the lessons given,” she added.

Over the years in her school environment, she has observed that children with disabilities will often initially feel inferior, embarrassed and lack confidence. They are also often bullied by other students. However, with increased awareness and understanding, both groups of students can be friends. Teachers also continue to encourage children with disabilities to remain in school and ‘be confident’.

Siti has also noted changes in attitude and mindset when it comes to parents of these students. “Sometimes there are parents who are embarrassed and uncomfortable to send their children to school, but after we give the understanding that every child has the right to get a decent education, then their parents are willing to send their children to school.”

“Inclusive education is education for all,” said Mrs. Siti. “That is, every child has the same right to get knowledge at school.”

With new found guidance from the SETARA pilot, Siti and other teachers are feeling more capable in guiding students with disabilities. In addition, they’ve noticed a shift in their own attitude and mindset. Siti notes that teachers feel more patient in educating the students with disabilities. With changes in teaching methods, students, especially students with disabilities, who were previously quiet, lacked confidence and had difficulty in absorbing lessons, are now more cheerful, self-confident and find it easier to understand lesson concepts.

“Our challenge is how the children can read and count quickly although their ability to absorb lessons are slower that their peer. So we do various methods such as through props, with gestures or with ‘touch’ techniques, especially for students who are difficult to distinguish letters,” she explained.

Some of these methods include the ‘touch’ technique, which is considered effective for  distinguishing letters, such as the letters ‘b’ and the letter ‘d’. The teacher writes with their index finger on the student’s back. “If we make the writing with the index finger on the right side of the back, then it is ‘b’. If the index finger makes the letter on the left side of the back then it is ‘d’. Apparently, they understand more quickly than other methods,” she explained.

Siti hopes that INOVASI will expand the SETARA pilot to other schools, helping other teachers and students to improve quality of education – particularly for students with disabilities in learning. She also hopes that   the government will adjust the curriculum and set an assessment standard for students with disabilities.

“I also hope that parents, school committees, and stakeholders continue to support INOVASI program and inclusive education in Central Lombok.”

Teaching children with learning barriers in Central Lombok