West Sumba puts education quality first

In September 2018, INOVASI commenced 27 grant-funded pilots, with 18 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 Literasi Anak Indonesia (YLAI), working to strengthen literacy teaching and learning in West and Southwest Sumba, INOVASI partner districts in East Nusa Tenggara province. YLAI recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the West Sumba district education office, to expand the implementation of the Balanced Reading Program in 10 schools across the district. Aprile Denise, YLAI’s Literacy Adviser, explains what this means for education improvement and sustainability in Sumba.

In September 2018, YLAI began to implement a reading program as part of our partner pilot with INOVASI. Now, with support from local government, we are excited to continue to support these schools with ongoing mentoring of teachers, evaluation of the program, as well as the introduction of a phonemic awareness program for Class One teachers. The vision of YLAI is to work closely together with the local education departments, to bring strong literacy programs into the schools in West Sumba. YLAI recognises the importance for the sustainability of its programs by working together with the education department to ensure the ongoing support for the facilitators, principals and teachers, so the program can continue throughout many more districts to reach children in the early grades.

YLAI has been working in the field of early literacy for many years, and has developed strong, engaging reading programs for young children. The aim is to bring a habit and love of reading into the schools and classrooms, and to raise the skill level of teachers to teach reading, so that all children in West Sumba will be able to read well. Teaching reading is not difficult, but it requires well trained teachers, and excellent resources that motivate children. YLAI can provide this for schools, but it needs the close cooperation of the district education office, facilitators, principals, and teachers. YLAI recognizes the need to work together as a team to support each other, as we cannot achieve these results on our own.

YLAI trainers and field officers visited schools this past year in West Sumba, and have seen the motivation in the teachers and the children to read in the classroom libraries, engage with stories, and practice the skills of reading. The consistency of implementation across all schools still needs to be stronger as teachers enter into an entirely new methodology, not only the teaching of reading, but also engaging with students in more interactive, participatory, and cooperative ways. Students are invited to sit on the floor near the teacher to engage actively in interactive and shared reading, and to work in small groups as they are guided through levelled reading texts. This is all very new in the Indonesian system in this local context, and quite challenging for teachers. However, the change they see in their students’ interest and progress in reading is motivating them to continue.

In the words of one teacher, Ibu Yuliana Serli Rowa from SDI Kabali Bedu, she says that she is personally very happy because students’ enthusiasm during the learning process is very good and they are even competing to answer questions during the reading sessions. Moreover, the enthusiasm of students for independent reading is more than what she had expected. Without being asked by the teacher, the students take the initiative to read books whenever they get the chance. She is clearly excited by the change evolving in her classroom.

The teachers still ask often for continued support to manage all aspects of the program, as well as monitor the progress of their students. They have a lot of demands on their time, but the school principals have willingly allowed space in the daily curriculum to incorporate this rich reading program. It is very encouraging, as one of the biggest challenges is to integrate the new approach with the existing curriculum in a meaningful way. YLAI do not want the schools to lose this momentum that has been achieved under the Inovasi pilot project, so we decided to look at a cost-sharing agreement to ensure the continuation of the program. After discussions with the head of the education office and the education department, there was a lot of excitement around this initiative, and strong support to move forward with the proposal. The education department in West Sumba recognize the need for stronger reading programs in their schools and see the value in concrete solutions to empower principals and teachers with a sound methodology to teach reading, as well as the resources to support it.

By signing the MoU last week, we hope this is just the beginning of a great partnership, that will continue to be sustainable into the future. With a well- trained group of local facilitators, regular teacher working group (KKG) meetings to support the schools, and the ongoing direction from the principals, there is no reason to doubt that West Sumba will move forward with early literacy in schools, with the possibility that all students can be successful in reading. Once school districts, principals, teachers and the parent community realise the value of the reading programs in their schools, it will create a forward momentum in the development of a more literate community.

West Sumba puts education quality first