Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Things On Basic Education I Learn From The Current Project

Currently I am working for a development project that aims to improve quality of basic education. Therefore I get a lot of insights on that issue. It had been a wonderful experience to visit the project's partner schools and see how much they had developed and improved. 

One of the news clipping on the project. And yes, the girl in yellow headscarf holding the camera is me, doing the translation work for the American guy (This post is a shameless self promotion in disguise, after all. Hahaha).
  
Here are some of the things I learn from the current workplace:

Learning should be active, creative, effective and joyful

Of course there had been policies of active learning back in the 1990s, but it was all just jargon and slogans. In the end, the teachers gave boring monotonous lectures.

So how did the project change all that? Well, the project gave the teachers a series of trainings and mentoring sessions, which had 

One of the keys to successful active learning is most likely for the teachers to be guiding observer and let the students find the solution to the problems. To find answers to the problems posed by the teacher, the students sometimes go to library, check Internet (under the teacher's supervision, of course), interview local people (sometimes their classmate's parent) or go to the school yard for direct observation. Anything the students find with their own brain will definitely stick longer than what the teachers shove into their heads. 

Letting the students to experiment, make mistake and learn from the mistake will eventually make students to learn more than just a subject. They will learn to be independent and confident people. Those are traits that will be useful for their life, taught within the 45-minute of a class session.

Another thing I like, the project tries to make the school subject learning process as close as possible to the students' daily life. For example, a mathematical problem would ask: if the price of wood is Rp x per square meter, how much money needed to build a cupboard?

The students not only learn how to do Mathematics, but they know why they learn: to be able to survive the big world out there.

Students (and teachers) should read non-textbook books

Textbooks are good for learning the school subjects, but non-textbook books (or reading books) are important to broaden the students' horizon, nurture their imagination and improve the reading habit. 

Many of the partner schools have implemented the 15-30 minutes of reading before the learning session long before former Minister of Education and Culture Anies Baswedan issued a ministerial decree on reading habit and character building. 

The project not only encourages students to have a special reading time during school hour, but also motivates the teachers to do so. After all, the students learn from the teachers. And what kind of student do you expect to come out if the teachers don't read anything?

Tangent: When I was in high school, I would lend and borrow comic books with my classmate. But one day, there was a random raid, with the target to find and confiscate things that students should not bring to school. One of such things are non-textbook books. Long story short: the teachers found the comic books,  and they made me feel like a criminal for reading non-textbook books.

Education takes a village

To educate a child is not equal to simply enrolling the said child into an educational institution. School principal, teachers and parents should unite to find the best way to educate the children. Money is the first thing that comes in mind, but there are many ways to help. Parents can help with trees/flowers for the school yard, which can be a source for learning Biology, or they can be a sourceperson and tell the class about the work they do. 

The most important thing to increase community/public participation is to create trust, and this can only be established through transparency. Most partner schools put up the school budget in the wall, so people can see where the budget goes.

Literacy creates a life  of dignity

Reading skill is the most important aspect in education, because if you can not read well, you will not be able to comprehend what the problem means. You can not find the information needed to answer the problem too.

One of the students in the project's partner schools even taught her mother on how to read. I should write about this amazing student, and some other students too, in a separate post.

Anyway, the project will soon come to a close, and I will leave the office in 1.5 months. It's been a wonderful project, as well as a unique workplace and colleagues. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of the team.

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