Implementation of an Early Grade Reading Intervention in 20 Selected Pilot Schools in West and South West Sumba, Indonesia
1 July 2018 – 30 June 2020
Literacy Advisor, Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia
Beginning of the Pilot Programme
In July 2018 Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia (YLAI) signed an agreement to partner with the INOVASI Partnership and Grant Program, under DFAT Australia, to participate in a pilot reading programme in two Indonesian districts of West and South West Sumba. The goal was to improve student reading levels for Indonesian children in the early primary grades of classes 1-3, by increasing access to suitable reading material, and increasing the capacity of teachers to use this material in their teaching.
YLAI had been working as an NGO in the field of early literacy for four years, and developed strong, engaging reading programmes for young children through partnerships with international and national organisations. Their aim has always been 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 Indonesia would be able to read well.
YLAI planned to assess the effectiveness of its literacy programs through this pilot project in Sumba. YLAI believed the time was right to bring effective literacy programs to the attention of the Ministry of Education, to bring change in the system by the delivery of soundly researched reading methodology, and was therefore ready as an organisation to assess the impact of its programs in early literacy. YLAI was experienced in the use of EGRA (Early Grade Reading Assessment) as a reading assessment tool, and had developed diagnostic assessments (such as running records) to assess individual student progress in reading comprehension and decoding skills. These were applied during the pilot project to gather baseline, midline and endline data, and are still currently being compiled for publication under INOVASI.
YLAI Early Literacy Programmes
The main strengths YLAI brought to the INOVASI project were its soundly researched pedagogy, its experience in the field of primary school literacy education, its welldeveloped books and resources, and finally a highly trained and experienced team of educators and trainers. In addition YLAI is a foundation that had experience working closely with local education departments to develop literacy programmes in schools, and innovative teaching practices in the classroom. It had implemented classroom– based reading programmes, reading corners, and/or school libraries for over 14,000 local primary schools in Indonesia. It was therefore well placed to participate in this pilot project.
YLAI had developed key components in innovative reading methodology
Indonesian levelled reading program of 75 engaging titles, appropriate for Classes 1-3, as well as 12 Big Books for shared reading sessions, and 12 interactive picture books with detailed lesson plans for all components.
Teacher training workshops in the balanced reading programme in the three areas of Interactive, Shared and Guided Reading programs, with training, mentoring and monitoring handled by YLAI staff and the field trainers.
Targeted and specialized training for Train the Trainers sessions to ensure they had the ongoing professional development and skills they needed to deliver the high quality work expected.
Training videos to support the mentoring and professional development of teachers in schools.
YLAI had previously worked directly with relevant government educational departments to ensure their programs had meaningful impact at all levels, and could therefore partner with confidence with INOVASI to support needed change. YLAI therefore believed that the partnership with INOVASI would provide the two school districts with the confidence and commitment to pilot this approach to introduce the balanced reading programme in their primary schools. Moreover, the Ministry of Education had introduced the “15 Minutes of Reading” programme for all primary schools across Indonesia, ecognizing the need for primary students to read books during their school day, yet there was still a big gap in providing access to quality reading materials as well as specific training for teachers to deliver reading instruction within their prescribed Indonesian language curriculum.
In The Field
YLAI trainers and field officers visited schools during the pilot year in West and South West Sumba, and saw the motivation in the teachers and the children to read in the classroom libraries, engage with stories, and practice the skills of reading. During the implementation of this project, YLAI observed that teachers benefitted directly from using the balanced reading approach to teaching literacy, as they were empowered to deliver engaging lessons to develop and increase student reading skills, and improve their classroom teaching methodology. YLAI also observed students benefitting directly by having access to appropriate, engaging reading books, being engaged in their learning process, developing deeper comprehension and broader vocabulary skills, as well as learning to respond interactively to the reading content. The consistency of implementation across all the pilot schools still needed to be stronger as teachers were entering into an entirely new methodology, not only the teaching of reading, but also engaging with students in more interactive, participatory, and cooperative ways.
Students were 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 was all very new in the Indonesian system in this local context, and quite challenging for teachers. However the change they saw in their students’ interest and progress in reading was motivating them to continue. The teachers still asked often for continued support to manage all aspects of the programme, as well as monitor the progress of their students. They had 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 was very encouraging, as one of the biggest challenges was to integrate the new approach with the existing curriculum in a meaningful way.
In the words of one teacher, Ibu Yuliana Serli Rowa from SDI Kabali Bedu, Sumba Barat; she said that she was personally very happy because students’ enthusiasm during the learning process was very good and they were even competing to answer questions during the reading sessions. Moreover, the enthusiasm of students for independent reading was more than what she had expected. Without being asked by the teacher, the students took the initiative to read books whenever they got the chance. She was clearly excited by the change evolving in her classroom.
Monitoring and Expanding
YLAI did not want the schools to lose this momentum that had been achieved under the INOVASI pilot project. So it was very positive when the pilot eventually inspired the confidence of local leaders to want to continue implementing it in their schools. Although the initial pilot only took place effectively in classrooms over six months, after training had been completed, results from teacher engagement and student motivation were so encouraging that the decision was taken by local education department leaders to find a way to continue the programme independent of funding from Australian Government aid. After discussions with the Kepala Dinas, Head of the local education department, there was a lot of excitement around this initiative, and strong support to move forward with the proposal to extend the program. The education departments in West and South West Sumba recognized the need for stronger reading programs in their schools, and saw the value in concrete solutions to empower principals and teachers with a sound methodology to teach reading.
As a result YLAI was invited to sign an Memorandum of Understanding with the West Sumba District Education Office in September, 2019 to extend the implementation of the Balanced Reading Programme in 10 schools in West Sumba for another year. This was shortly followed in October 2019 by a similar MOU being signed with the South West Sumba District Education Office to also expand the programme in their 10 schools as well. Training was also extended in these schools to include the introduction of a phonemic awareness programme to support teachers and children in Class One, after initial baseline data showed very weak scores in letter/sound identification.
Therefore YLAI now continues to support these schools until the school year ending in July 2020, with ongoing mentoring of teachers, evaluation of the program, as well as the introduction of a phonemic awareness program for Class One teachers. In July 2020 final end line data will be taken, which should give a very clear picture of the success of the programme over a two year period.
Envisioning the Future
The vision of YLAI to work closely together with the local education departments, to bring strong literacy programs into the schools in West and South West Sumba is starting to be realised. With a well- trained group of facilitators in the region, regular KKG teacher professional development meetings that support the schools, and the ongoing direction from the principals, there is no reason to doubt that West and South West Sumba will move forward with these early literacy programmes in their schools, with the possibility that many more 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 should create a forward momentum in the development of a more literate community. YLAI recognises the importance of sustainability for all its programmes by working together with the education department to ensure the ongoing support of the facilitators, principals and teachers, so the programme can continue throughout many more districts to reach children essential reading skills in the early grades.
INOVASI – Innovation for Indonesian School Children Australia Indonesia Partnership. INOVASI Partnership and Grant Program: Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Innovation Facility for Indonesia’s School Children (INOVASI) Program.
DFAT – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government.
YLAI – Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia; Indonesian Children’s Literacy Foundation.