Indonesia continues to make strides in expanding access to early childhood education (ECE) across its vast archipelago, now reaching some 70.1% of 3-6 year olds. Yet despite this increased availability, quality of services continue to be poor, especially in rural and low-income areas. In particular, there continues to be reliance on under-qualified teachers, with many having received inadequate formal training, or none at all.
The vast benefits of ECE can only be realized if the services that children receive are of sufficient quality, and the lack of skilled teachers in rural areas risks reinforcing inequality of opportunity in Indonesia. As such, the race is on to provide adequate training to the ever-expanding force of early childhood educators to meet the needs of children across the country.
Fresh approaches are needed to achieve this scale, since government spending on ECE is limited and the current top-down approach to teacher training can be expensive. The existing model also presents major barriers for rural teachers, since it involves extended travel or relocation to regional urban centers for extended periods of time to attain their qualifications.
The recently introduced Village Law involves the transfer of up to US$140,000 in funds directly to each village in Indonesia, to finance development programs based on their own needs and priorities. There are currently 196,378 ECE centers in the country and almost all are privately managed, often by communities themselves.
Getting their children into quality pre-schools is often a high priority for community members, and the Village Law presents an opportunity for villages to invest in their own ECE centers and teachers in light of limitations in public investments.
Last year the World Bank, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Villages launched the Generasi ECED Frontline pilot program in Indonesia. With funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the program aims to leverage the Village Law transfers to increase the availability of high quality, affordable professional development for ECE teachers in 25 rural districts. The program delivers quality training at the sub-district level, bringing it much closer to the teachers who serve their communities. This is done by expanding the force of local district trainers to provide training, as well as engaging local ECE NGO’s who handle the logistics.
The pilot also introduces community participation into the service delivery process. Village governments can nominate local teachers to receive training, and community groups enter into contract arrangements with the NGOs, and are responsible for monitoring performance as well as managing and dispersing funds.
In 2016, 203 training classes were delivered to community teachers from over 2,500 villages. For many of these teachers it was their first opportunity to attend formal training.
Encouragingly, master trainers were willing to navigate tough terrain, by motorbike or even small boats to reach remote areas, and also boarded with local families where no accommodation options were available. As a result of this commitment, training was delivered at the sub-district level, meaning teachers only had to travel short distances, could return to their homes at night, and were able to bring their own children to the training sessions.
The two-year pilot program operates by allocating earmarked funds for communities to purchase training for three teachers from their village each year (approximately Rp. 1,500,000 (USD 110) per teacher). As communities become more familiar with being involved in the service delivery process, it is hoped they will begin to use their own Village Funds to purchase the training package for their teachers, given it’s low unit cost.
This district-based, community focused training system puts forward a more market-based model for service provision by connecting supply and demand for quality ECE at the local level. This approach has the potential to accelerate the up-skilling of community teachers in rural and remote areas of Indonesia, to ensure that the future generation has an equal start, no matter where they are born.