Transforming community space and place for student

As part of pilot design activities in West Nusa Tenggara province, INOVASI is exploring ways to improve learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy by improving the connection between school and local community.

Locals say that you haven’t truly visited NTB if you haven’t been to Dompu. With its rich cultural context and terrain, and located in the east of Sumbawa island, Dompu’s education indicators are generally lower than its other district counterparts in NTB. With a population of more than 200,000 people, and a 27% primary school dropout rate, Dompu district is seeking to increase support for its 3,315 teachers – only 906 of whom are certified.


Through the INOVASI program, the governments of Australia and Indonesia are partnering to understand how student learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy can be improved in schools and districts across Indonesia. Dompu is one of six INOVASI partner districts in NTB. In a place where the pervasiveness of events like horse racing in local Dompu culture have had knock on effects for educational quality and learning outcomes in many schools, the INOVASI approach is well received.

In Dompu and in all partner districts and provinces, INOVASI uses a distinctive approach to develop pilot activities and find out what does and doesn’t work to improve student learning outcomes. In simple terms, this approach is called Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA). It sees INOVASI working and learning directly with local partners to explore and identify local problems and co-design locally relevant solutions. This bottom-up way of thinking is certainly not new – conceptually it draws on approaches in the Doing Development Differently and Human Centred Design fields – but INOVASI continues to implement and iterate its own version of this on the ground in Indonesia.

In Dompu, INOVASI is putting PDIA in action in Lepadi Village, Kecamatan Pajo. Pilot planning began in August 2017, with a vision to bring together local school and community to identify cultural activities, events and customs that impact on student attendance at school. In the case of this particular area of Dompu, horse racing and harvest season have a direct impact on school attendance, and naturally, student learning outcomes.

The aims of this Dompu pilot are clear. Through a co-design process, community members will be engaged to successfully design, develop and test pilot ideas to improve student learning. With the PDIA focus on building local capacity, it will also build the capability of community members to identify their own problems and solutions in learning. The latter is crucial for long term sustainability.  Through community-led participatory engagement, stakeholders from all realms of social and community life have come together. Teachers, principals, school committees, parents and community leaders all lend a voice to the discussion – their involvement is key to improving the learning process in and out of school.


Initial ethnographic fieldwork in April and May revealed some important insights about cultural context in Dompu. With horse racing season and the planting and harvest season, children are missing up to 90 days of school annually. A validation workshop in August with local community members reinforced the impact of these  events on student school attendance. Stakeholders took the time to map the Lepadi village cultural situation, triangulating village maps, seasonal calendars, agricultural timelines and racetrack calendars. Four key factors emerged from these discussions, arising time and time again between different local groups. Not only was student attendance at school low, but student interest was limited, children are used as workers by their parents in the field, and knowledge and awareness of the benefits of education was fairly low amongst parents.

Further spatial mapping exercises during a follow up co-design workshop helped further synthesise problems into five major areas:

  • Lack of school attendance due to both horse racing season and the growing and harvest season
  • No student supervision system outside of formal school hours (which means no formal engagement with parents)
  • Difficulties experienced by parents in supporting their child’s learning
  • Absence of any community initiative that supports the student learning process inside and outside of school

Using a range of tools in the PDIA process to encourage problem cause, effect and prioritisation, and solution brainstorming, INOVASI worked with the community to explore how ‘space and place’ could be more creatively used for the benefit of student learning. Through a series of activities involving but not limited to idea sketches and role plays, Lepadi Village community members co-identified four prospective solutions for improving student learning outside of school.

The first, focused on parents, would see community connecting with parents and their children at a Badminton court in the Pajo Permai Sub Village area, creating space for learning using local traditional games. Other ideas looked to the issue of school attendance and cultural events, suggesting the use of huts on farm fields as a place of learning in the Timah Sub Village where children often miss school due to helping with farming activities in the field. During the horse racing season, a learning space could also be erected around the racing track, giving those participating children an opportunity to still learn basic literacy and numeracy skills. A final idea looked at the use of the school library book collection in SDN 3 and 7 Pajo, MI AL Ikhwan, distributing books to children living in the local community to aid their learning. All ideas could be integrated to form a community based approach to improving student learning outcomes in Lepadi.

The head of the district education office, H. Ikhtiar, emphasised the need to progress student learning outcomes.

‘Education must remain a major concern. Although ‘little jockey’ has become a tradition, children still need to catch up at school. We need to innovate so that children do not drop out of school, and we need support for the 2018 village budget fund – targeting children who are involved in seasonal activities. We need collaboration, and for education stakeholders, including schools and teachers, to be responsible’.


So far, the pilot planning process has been a story of building local capability just as much as it has been about co-identifying local issues and solutions.

Said Transpiosa Riomandha, a member of the INOVASI pilot implementation team, ‘working with the communities, we have to learn local contexts, their cultural dynamics, and we have to learn the art of engagement. We have had to learn the local politics, both at village and district level. Our local facilitators lead almost 80% of the workshop sessions with communities’.

As part of final pilot design, ideas testing and review will continue during the October – November 2017 period, following a preliminary presentation to village stakeholders and leaders in September. Follow the INOVASI Facebook page for more updates.

Transforming community space and place for student