A meeting held in August 2017 between teachers and the Education User Committee (Kelompok Pengguna Layanan, KPL) of SDI Hawir elementary school in Nggilat Village, Manggarai Barat in East Nusa Tenggara, quickly turned into a heated argument.
Members of the KPL, which comprised of parents and community figures, had just finished presenting the results of a diagnostic test looking at how the students fared on mathematics and Indonesian language following the implementation of the KIAT Guru pilot program since April 2017 at the school.
The pilot is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Team for Acceleration of Poverty Reduction, and five district governments with disadvantaged villages, including Manggarai Barat. Yayasan BaKTI implemented the program with technical support from the World Bank and funding from the Government of Australia and USAID. The pilot aims to improve education service delivery in remote villages by empowering communities and tying payment of the remote area allowance with either teacher presence or teacher service quality.
The diagnostic test on 30 students of SDI Hawir showed that they have made some progress compared to the baseline survey held before the pilot was launched. The number of students who have difficulties in reading or mathematic have decreased and some have met the basic standards of their grades.
Amid this progress, however, the result showed that a couple of fifth graders who still could not read, whereas the baseline survey indicated that all of the fifth graders could. The KIAT Guru facilitator, Pansbert Chrispierco Bunga explained that since the problems on both the survey and the diagnostic test were given in multiple choice, the students perhaps answered correctly the first time but they could not provide the correct answer during the test. This situation created a commotion between the KPL and the teachers, as both parties threw a blame game.
“How is it that fifth graders cannot yet read? I’m questioning the capacity of the teachers. It may be better for the school to appoint more capable teachers especially for first graders, so that they will have more solid basic ability,” said a KPL member.
Some of the teachers became defensive, saying that parents should not leave it all up to teachers in educating their children.
“You cannot blame us because we are appointed by the government. Parents should also take part in educating these children, helping with their home works at home,” said a teacher.
The school’s principal, Damasus Jowan, said he felt proud of the progresses the students made and asked to look for solutions.
“How could parents want teachers to have all the responsibilities? The duties of the teachers have limits, please do not throw the blame at us,” he said.
After exchanging arguments, both the User Committee and the teachers concluded that the problem was because the children had trouble receiving the lessons. Pansbert from KIAT Guru, who initially let both parties resolved their own arguments, immediately chimed in, saying that a blame game, particularly on students would not solve the more pressing issue at hand.
“If the results are not satisfactory, let’s create solution beyond what we have agreed on,” he said.
KIAT Guru empowers communities to hold teachers accountable by agreeing to prioritize five to eight bottom-up service indicators to improve the student learning environment. In some pilot schools, community empowerment is combined with pay for performance as part of teacher’s income, based either on the KPL’s verification of teachers’ presence, or the KPL’s score on teacher’s service performance. Comprising nine members – six parents of students and three community figures, KPL members are elected by the parents and community members.
The members take turn to come to school and monitor the teaching and learning process. A KPL member in Nggilat Village, Maria Fransiska Di, said there are three methods of evaluating the teachers: direct monitoring at school, document checking and interview with students.
Every month, they presented the evaluation process in a meeting with the school. The results often incited arguments between the KPL and teachers, who sometimes feel the former did not do their job well while their evaluation would affect the teachers’ allowance.
Andreas Jemahang, KIAT Guru cadre who works closely with the KPL in Kaju Wangi Village in the neighboring district of Manggarai Timur, admitted that the parents initially lacked self-confidence to evaluate the teachers.
“We didn’t feel confident as we are only modest farmers and we have to monitor and evaluate teachers who are university graduates. But we have been encouraged not to hesitate,” he said.
KPL also works to monitor the communities, particularly parents, to remind them to do their share in helping children improve their academic abilities.
Dispute aside, both teachers and communities agreed that KIAT Guru have brought them together with the mutual goal to provide better quality education for their children.
“We as parents did not pay much attention to what happened in school, thinking there are teachers to do that. With KIAT Guru, we are reminded that our children’s abilities mostly did not meet the standards. The teachers perform better now, and the communication between teachers and parents now exist,” said Maria Fransiska Di of Nggilat Village.
Teacher Benediktus Roni of SDI Hawir said with KIAT Guru, KPL and teachers are mediated to disclose and solve problems.
“With the agreements between schools and communities, both parents and teachers become more aware of their responsibilities,” he said.
Religious teacher Quintus Kalis said KPL has done a great job in monitoring the teachers and he was convinced that with KPL’s involvement, the quality of education at the school would improve.
“KIAT Guru has increased teachers’ professionalism here. The program has made our ‘flu’ disappear and the sick days are behind us,” he joked, as in the past, many teachers did not come to school due to ‘influenza’. “Now we’re ‘healthier’ and have perfect attendance.”
Back to the diagnostic test result, both the KPL and the teachers decided to amend their initial agreements in a meeting a week after. The additional points include afternoon classes, replacing morning flag ceremony with tutoring session and 15-20 minutes refreshing session in the morning. These amended agreements would be evaluated every month, and readjusted every semester.