The Jakarta Post
The Jakarta administration is amplifying efforts to improve the interest in reading among students and the public in general by holding events such as literacy tours and competitions, in line with Gubernatorial Regulation No. 76/2018 on improving reading interest issued last month.
The regulation, which also requires schools to oblige students to visit libraries, came after studies showed that literacy levels in the capital — and the country — were shockingly low.
In the 2015 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which measures the reading, mathematics and science literacy of 15-year-old students, Indonesia ranks 62nd of 72 countries surveyed.
Another OECD study revealed that adults in Jakarta show lower levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy compared to adults in other countries who participated in the survey, with a wide dispersion.
The new regulation serves as a basis for the administration to carry out several activities to familiarize the public with reading, promote reading-related activities, and hold and offer rewards through competitions.
“We are challenged to improve our reading interest, particularly in an era where people are far more interested in reading WhatsApp [chats] than in reading books […] People nowadays prefer to skim rather than read,” Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said over the weekend.
Anies also cited a 2016 study conducted by Central Connecticut State University, which put Indonesia as the second-least literate nation among a list of 61 countries, besting only Botswana — even though in terms of infrastructure to support reading, the archipelago ranked above some developed countries.
Anies issued a similar regulation in 2015 when he was education and culture minister, requiring students to read for 15 minutes each morning.
The regulation stipulated that each regional head was authorized to determine the reading activities.
However, the regulation was deemed ineffective because teachers were often absent to observe the reading sessions.
“In the near future, we will communicate with the Library and Archives Agency to determine what kind of activities we will hold to ensure [the new regulation] is effective and measurable,” said Jakarta Education Agency acting head Bowo Irianto.
One of the events prepared by the agency, Bowo said, was the Literacy Festival, which will be held at City Hall on Oct. 4.
It is set to feature book reviews, writing seminars and a presentation of students’ literary works.
Library and Archives Agency head Wahyu Haryadi said he was confident the series of planned events would boost students’ reading interest.
City-run libraries welcomed 1.18 million visitors in 2016, a jump from 355,812 in 2012.
“There were 1.7 million visits in 2017 and we expect to see a 10 percent increase this year. Basically, the more, the merrier,” Wahyu said, adding that there were 1.2 million books available in the libraries spread across the capital’s five municipalities and one regency.
“Students are particularly interested in reading fiction, apart from books that relate to their studies,” he said, adding that the number of readers on iJakarta, an online reading platform launched during the previous administration, had also experienced a significant increase.
Child psychologist and education expert Najeela Shihab said it was important to ensure that students did not only visit libraries because they felt that they had to.
“What is more important is for the students to be able to draw a conclusion of the books they read — how they relate [the stories] to real-life conditions and improve their problem-solving abilities,” Najeela said.
“If they just read unnecessary information, it could end up worsening their literacy.”