The Jakarta Post
A study conducted by the Education Sector Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership (ACDP) has concluded that many of the nation's elementary school students are able to read but have little understanding of their reading materials.
'Children can and should, learn to read comprehendingly by the end of grade two ['¦] Failing to read with understanding by grade two should be considered a 'warning light' for action to be taken to correct this by grade three,' the ACDP said in a study released on Friday.
The study, conducted between March and April last year with the help of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), found that only 47.2 percent of 4,812 second-grade students tested nationwide could read fluently with comprehension.
The ability to read comprehendingly, the study explained, was 'defined as being able to answer four out of five questions on the reading material correctly'.
Meanwhile, 20.7 percent of the students could read with limited comprehension, while 5.8 percent could not read at all.
A similar study was carried out in 2012, also assisted by USAID, on third-grade students in the same 184 schools across seven provinces. On average, the study found that students could read 70.42 familiar words per minute in isolation and 68.09 words per minute in connected text.
However, the study also noted that only half of the students tested could read fluently and understand the majority of what they read, highlighting the lack of improvement in the way reading and language is taught in schools.
The ACDP ' which was established jointly by a number of government institutions, the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), the Australian government, the EU and the Asian Development Bank ' found that students in Java and Bali had the highest reading comprehension scores.
A consultant to the ACDP, Totok Amin Soefijanto, argued that one of the reasons that many elementary school students could not read comprehendingly was that students were not taught Indonesian in their mother tongue, usually a local language, and so could not understand what they were being taught.
'According to our research, the reason students in remote regions cannot speak or read Indonesian is that teachers do not teach in the local language. If teachers taught in the students' mother tongue, which is most likely what they speak at home, then they would undoubtedly learn to read and understand much faster', he said.
Aside from the lack of use of students' mother tongues in class, the ACDP noted in a separate study that only 29 percent of teachers surveyed used active and effective methods to teach reading.
The head of the elementary school teacher education program at Atma Jaya University, Ivan Stevanus, agreed with the findings, adding that the issues could be traced to insufficient training at the 374 teacher training institutions nationwide.
'With elementary students, you cannot just instruct them and expect them to understand immediately. Elementary school teachers must understand that they need to get to grips with child psychology and encourage more participation from students,' he said.
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