The 14th Temu INOVASI forum is a venue for exchanging knowledge and experience in order to formulate recommendations as an effort to encourage learning transformation. The discussion was based on findings from a series of student learning gap study reports conducted by the Center for Education Standards and Policy, the Education Standards, Curriculum and Assessment Agency (BSKAP), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (MoECRT) and the INOVASI Program.

The event themed “Learning Transformation: Are We There Yet?” which was held in Jakarta, Friday (6/12), began with remarks by the Head of BSKAP MoECRT Anindito Aditomo. Anindito said the aim of the study was for all children in Indonesia to have the same experience and learning opportunities, as well as to build basic capacities and skills that would enable them to become independent human beings in the future.

“Proficiency is the basis of graduation, the goal of learning. Content is a means. What is important in education is that all children learn and become independent,” said Anindito.

On the same occasion, INOVASI Program Director, Mark Heyward, presented the results of the Learning Gap Study. The study, which was carried out by BSKAP and INOVASI, began in 2020. A total of 18,370 students in grades 1 – 3 of primary school with equal gender proportions from 612 randomly selected schools participated in this study. They come from 11 INOVASI districts in the provinces of East Java, North Kalimantan, West Nusa Tenggara, and East Nusa Tenggara. To provide coverage and balance in all aspects of the Indonesian education system, eight non-INOVASI partner districts were also added, namely from the provinces of Jambi, Southeast Sulawesi, South Kalimantan and North Maluku.

The study findings are reported in three series. In the first series entitled Learning Gap Studies – 1, Beyond Letters and Numbers: The Covid-19 Pandemic and Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in Indonesia, one of the main findings is that many students in Indonesia have not mastered basic literacy and numeracy skills even though students who have not mastered basic skills at a certain level will be increasingly left behind at the following levels.

In the second series of reports entitled Learning Gap Studies – Series 2, Reforming Indonesia’s Curriculum: How Kurikulum Merdeka aims to Address Learning Loss and Improve Learning Outcomes in Literacy and Numeracy, there are findings related to national curriculum standards that are higher than the rate of student learning abilities and global standards. For this reason, curriculum reform is needed because a curriculum focusing on essential skills has the potential to reduce learning loss during the pandemic.

As for the third series of reports entitled Learning Gap Studies – 3, Widening Gap: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Students from the Most Vulnerable Groups in Indonesia, it was revealed that even though COVID-19 has had an impact on all students, students from vulnerable groups tend to be the most affected. Students with multiple vulnerabilities have the potential to have lower learning outcomes. More students in rural and remote areas have literacy and numeracy performance level 1 so they do not meet the minimum skill level compared to students in urban areas. For the group of students with disabilities, 91 percent of male students with disabilities in rural areas do not meet the minimum skill level, while the number of male students with disabilities in urban areas who do not meet the minimum skills reaches 82 percent.

Another factor is the teacher and family. As many as 56 percent of teachers in rural and remote areas feel less confident about implementing distance learning, while only 37 percent of teachers in urban areas lack confidence in implementing this. From the parents’ point of view, parents in urban areas are more involved in their children’s studies compared to parents in rural and remote areas.

Mark said the study concluded that a curriculum that focuses on essential skills (literacy and numeracy) has the potential to reduce learning loss. In addition, a curriculum that focuses on essential material also has the potential to reduce disparities in learning outcomes for vulnerable groups.

“The character of the curriculum that has the potential to improve student learning outcomes is a curriculum that focuses on essential material and provides flexibility for teachers to carry out learning according to children’s abilities,” he said.

Based on these findings, a number of recommendations were formulated. At the system and policy level, there needs to be curriculum transformation, teacher capacity building, as well as improving access to and quality of learning resources and infrastructure. At school level, it is necessary to use formative assessments, adapt learning according to students’ abilities, and maximize the use of learning resources such as the Merdeka Mengajar Platform (PMM) and any available local platforms. Then at the community level, efforts need to be made to activate community practitioners such as the Teacher Working Group (KKG) for teacher capacity building, as well as building and strengthening collaboration with the community (parents, development partners, Teacher Training Institute (LPTK), village officials, and other relevant parties) and related educational entities (Education Quality Assurance Centers/BPMP and Balai Guru Penggerak/BGP).

Good practice of learning recovery efforts

In addition to the presentation of study results, the 14th Temu INOVASI which was attended by various educational stakeholders from a number of regions also became a forum for sharing inspiring practices of student learning recovery. Niayah, Head of Madrasah Ibtidaiyah I Muhammadiyah (MIM) 16 Paciran Lamongan, East Java, for example, talked about the transformation of learning through the dissemination of literacy in the learning community to support the Implementation of the Independent Curriculum (IKM).

As the Regional Coordinator for implementing the INOVASI-Literacy program in the area, Niayah had to implement literacy programs in 10 Primary School/Madrasah Ibtidaiah institutions in the midst of pandemic. Niayah also collaborated with the East Java Muhammadiyah Regional Board in 2020. Niayah developed a literacy program at MIM 16, namely in the form of Al-Quran literacy and comprehensive reading literacy for students. Together with the teachers, Niayah carried out class surveys, established dedicated reading hours, renovated the library, created reading corners in the classrooms and school hallways, organized the Quran recitation program and literacy competitions at the madrasah. The effort was so successful that it was adopted by almost all SD and MIM in Lamongan District.

“All of these dissemination activities are carried out with self-funding based on awareness to make changes, especially for MIM. So far, there have been very few training and mentoring programs aimed at madrasah. By partnering with INOVASI, teachers get many opportunities to collaborate with other madrasah and get capacity building for fun teaching,” he explained.

Another inspiring story was conveyed by the Principal of Christian Mbatakapidu Elementary School, East Sumba, NTT Yunitha May Atanumba regarding the transformation of learning that learning designed by teachers who were once teacher-centered is now student-centered. “Through our KKG activities we collaborate to develop teaching modules, create joint media, carry out simulations and reflections. If previously the teacher had not conducted a learning assessment, now the teacher is required to carry out an initial assessment of learning and map student abilities,” she added.

Vamelia Ibrahim as Head of the Tana Tidung Empowerment and Family Welfare Mobilization Team (PKK), North Kalimantan, also shared her experiences regarding efforts to accelerate learning recovery in Tana Tidung. The learning recovery process was carried out through two channels, namely the school and the community. Especially for the recovery of learning through the community pathway, optimizing the Community Reading Park (TBM) function became the selected option. Within one year, Vamelia succeeded in encouraging the establishment of 38 TBMs in all villages in Tana Tidung.

“We collected data at SD 13 Tana Tidung. Children who previously could not read, after going to TBM, they started to read fluently. Data as of July – October 2022 at that elementary school shows that as many as 55% of early grade students have passed basic literacy competencies or students are already fluent in reading. Then, 85% of high-grade students have reached the level of reading comprehension independently or students are able to answer questions with explicit and implicit answers,” he said.

Apart from inspiring stories from the regions, the 14th Temu INOVASI was also filled with discussion sessions. A number of topics discussed in the discussion session included the achievement of the basic skills of Indonesian students, learning recovery efforts, and the gap faced by vulnerable groups in education in Indonesia.