Tiny Teachers with Immense Impact
How One School in Indonesia Flipped the Script on Classroom Instruction
Getting education right has a huge impact on a country’s development journey: a quality education can place youth on a path to securing hopeful, stable futures. Education can also break the cycle of extreme poverty, opening access to opportunities that enable youth to reach their full potential.
Indonesia has the fourth largest education system in the world. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s conventional, teacher-centered approaches and low-quality instruction have created a culture of passivity. The country struggles in several areas on educational performance:
- While the government invests 20 percent of its public budget on education, students still lack competence in certain basic skills, such as math and critical thinking.The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of 2012 ranked the country 64 out of 65 countries for science, reading and math literacy and performance.
- Ten percent of Indonesian primary students repeat first grade, and nearly 20 percent of primary teachers do not meet minimum qualifications standards set by the government.
- Students are not learning skills needed to perform in a modern workplace and risk being left behind in Indonesia’s growing economy.
Building An Educational Culture of Courage
In partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Indonesia is changing the way faculty development, combined with hands-on classroom instruction, can improve educational outcomes. USAID’s Prioritizing Reform, Innovation, Opportunities for Reaching Indonesia’s Teacher, Administrators & Students (PRIORITAS) project held this at the core of its programming approach.
Since 2012, PRIORITAS worked with national and local partners to expand access to quality education. Active in 93 districts throughout 9 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces, PRIORITAS enhanced the capacity of local government to coordinate, plan, manage and finance education services. The program also strengthened the capacity of teacher training institutions and improved the quality of teaching and learning. PRIORITAS incorporated creative group work, peer-to-peer discussion and hands-on activities into classroom instruction for improved academic performance. These activities called on administrators, teachers and students alike to step up and apply their talents. This program trained nearly 250,000 teachers and education personnel in Indonesia on active learning techniques.
Through this work, PRIORITAS has helped 23 percent more students in partner schools to achieve improved reading comprehension, boosted students’ positive learning behaviors by 72.2 percent and increased good teaching practices by 60 percent.
But what did PRIORITAS look like on the ground?
“Tiny Teachers” Making a Difference
In one PRIORITAS-supported partner school in Batu, East Java, a teacher’s PRIORITAS-inspired “tiny teachers” technique created larger-than-life results. Mrs. Naning, a PRIORITAS-trained 6th grade teacher, gave high-achieving students special assignments to help motivate other classmates towards success. “I used to find that many students were shy and not confident. I chose the ‘little teacher’ to be a companion, a friend in learning and a motivator,” said Mrs. Naning. The program gave the “tiny teacher” a confidence boost and their peers a cheerleader as well as an academic motivator.
One “tiny teacher” was Ana Tasya Silvi Pramudya, aged 11. Along with three other “tiny teachers” in her class, Ana studied alongside her peers in a small group and occasionally gave extra explanations to her peers if they did not understand. “Some of my friends aren’t confident, so I motivate them by starting assignments together,” Ana explained. “Mrs. Naning usually makes activities into competitions, which makes us even more excited to do our best.”
Mrs. Naning’s shift to student-centered teaching resulted in more engaged learning experiences, increased feelings of pride and improved test scores for all students involved, including Ana. A classmate’s mother cried tears of joy when recounting how her child transformed from a meek, shy student into a more confident learner.
Seeing this success, the school’s principal, Sri Winarni, encouraged all teachers to put their PRIORITAS training into action. The school also engaged parents and local teacher training institutes to enhance teacher/learning experiences and equip future educators with proven, active learning tools.
After PRIORITAS, the school’s final exams ranking jumped from 15 to first out of 26 schools in Batu. Ana, who wants to be a teacher when she grows up, placed first in her class ranking. The school was recognized by the Batu District Education Office as an exemplary model for other schools to follow.
Toward Scale and Sustainability
The Batu District Education Office has since allocated tens of thousands of dollars of its own funding to training non-partner schools in the district, further enhancing the program’s sustainability and brightening the futures of more students like Ana and her peers. By committing to the use of active teaching and learning techniques in schools, Indonesia’s Batu District is building a culture of enthusiasm for learning that puts students first. Classroom results coupled with PRIORITAS’ emphasis on host-country self-reliance, mirrored in both its funding operations and program structure, fostered promise for sustained success.
“The quality of an education can accelerate a student’s path toward success. Education can play a determining role in a person’s level of income and health, participation in civic life and respect for rule of law,” said Ryan Washburn, USAID/Indonesia acting mission director. “USAID is proud that our work with the Indonesian Government has improved the education systems and has made an impact on people’s lives.”