Papua students learn local language

Jakarta Post, page 2

Research supports the idea that young children learn better in their native tongue. For Indonesia, where local languages amount to about 2,500, according to data from a 2010 publication by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), using Indonesian as the language of unity may not best support learning for students.

For Papua, native languages might be what the province needs to boost education quality as well as preserve local culture as data from the Education Ministry in 2013 showed that Papua accounted for 36.31 percent of the nation’s illiteracy, with 3.6 million people, the highest in the country.

There is a project that aims to turn the situation around by teaching students in their native languages.

Executed under the collaboration of think tank Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership (ACDP) Indonesia, Papua administration and Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), the two-year pilot project that was launched in 2015 and concluded recently used a specialized approach for children as young as 3 years of age in preschool up to second grade. In the project, held in 13 preschools and three local elementary schools, students studied in their native language of Lanny Jaya, the Lani language. Lani is among more than 300 local languages in Papua.

The teachers used it in introducing letters to the students to teach them how to read. The methods were based on a survey conducted by the ACDP that revealed the Lani language was primarily used by local children. From 184 first and second grade students, 75 percent consider Indonesian to be difficult while 88 percent say Lani is easy.

After learning in their mother tongue, the student then will begin to learn Indonesian in third grade, Joost Pikkert from SIL, who also chaired the pilot project’s study, said. Meanwhile, ACDP Indonesia’s lead adviser for education research and knowledge management David C. Harding said students who were introduced to subjects in their mother tongue could advance more quickly in developing their linguistic skills.

He said that he believes mother tongue and multilingual education can help the students’ achievements, lower the dropout rate, increase learning in all subjects, encourages students’ critical thinking while also preventing the extinction of Papua’s local languages and cultures.

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