Human Interest Stories: A Struggle for Elementary Students in Kaimana, Papua Barat

Following a recent socialization of KIAT Guru’s study in Kabupaten Kaimana, Papua Barat, a team from TNP2K paid a visit to two of the study’s participating villages in the district. Agenda of the visit included assessment of student’s learning, specifically on their level of reading in Bahasa Indonesia and math competencies at the two visited villages.

One of the KIAT Guru’s main objectives is to assess impact of teacher’s attendance and quality of service delivery on student’s learning competencies. To do this, a simple test is developed to detect basic skills in reading and Math that are equivalent to Grade 1 and Grade 2 level competencies set by the 2006 national curriculum (or KTSP 2006). These basic competencies will determine students’ ability and potential to further their learning in literacy, Math as well as other subjects. In the reading test for instance, students were assessed in their ability to read at the letter level, word level, short paragraph level and short story passage level. For math on the other hand, students were tested in their ability to read at the 0-9 number level, 10-20 number level, subtraction level and division level.

Murid SD di Kaimana Belajar Membaca

SD students of YPK Sawatewera of Kabupaten Kaimana learning to read their textbook


The test was administered to a sample of elementary school students at the two visited villages. Every student was assessed individually, allowing a more comprehensive observation of the particular challenges and advances that they each have for of the reading and math competencies tested. Results from this assessment showed below average learning performance of the sampled students from these villages.Even the upper grade students who were seating at the Grade 4 through 6 levels for example, were struggling to read and comprehend a short story passage (with 7 paragraphs and less than 50 words) reading material that, according to the KTSP 2006, was supposed to be taught and mastered by students by the end of grade 2. This outcome is a contrast to results achieved in a pre-testing of the same test on a sample of elementary school students in a kampong of South Jakarta, where majority of grade 3 through 6 students were able to read and comprehend the same short story passage.

The students’ competency in Math unfortunately wasn’t any better. Majority of the tested students, from all elementary grades, struggled with subtraction and addition problems that involve borrowing and carrying, respectively. This as well is a level of arithmetic capacity that should have been mastered by students by the end of grade 2.

A particular heartbreaking case occurred when the team sat down with a young 7-year-old girl, who was seating in grade 1, and attempted to assess her on these reading and math test. As she was given the letter items, she just looked at the test paper blankly. She was struggling to read even a single letter. And the test got even tougher for her as she was given the number items to read. This one girl wasn’t able to differentiate the 1-digit number items with the letters that she just read; she kept calling out letters she had recently read to all the 1-digit number item that was pointed for her to read.   

This snapshot of learning outcome, although brief and of a small sample, already indicated the disadvantage that students at these two villages have from the education service they are receiving in school. With the aim of this study to motivate both education providers and the community to collaborate in ensuring regular teacher’s attendance and quality education service they provided.