Strategies to Solve Indonesian Students’ Reading Crisis

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

If you want different results than what you’re getting, you have to try different approaches. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein).

Key takeaways:

  1. Improving the current instruction practice of learning to read 
  2. Transforming the oral culture into literacy
  3. Improving the national education system, esp. the objectives and learning processes
  4. Improving reading facilities and infrastructure
  5. Guiding students to use technology wisely
  6. Increasing family support. 

The previous articleReading Crisis: The Culprit of Indonesian Education Low Quality, shows that Indonesia’s national education that had lasted for almost 75 years has been successful in various quantitative aspects but is still slumped in terms of quality. One of the main cause of the low quality is the crisis reading in reading skills and interest. The neglect of reading as a foundation and a success factor in learning has a detrimental impact on the other aspects of learning. When students’ reading interest and proficiency are in crisis, the other aspects of learning are also in crisis. The second article, Why Indonesian students are suffering fromreading crisis, identifies six causes of reading crisis among Indonesian students. Based on this identification, the discussion in this article focuses on several strategies to overcome the crisis to improve the quality of learning.

The first strategy to overcome the crisis of reading among Indonesian students is to improve the current practice of learning to read. The discussion in the previous has revealed that recent learning practices failed to develop students’ basic reading skills and interest in reading for pleasure. ACDP’s (2012) study revealed that only 50% of the third graders of 184 elementary schools in 7 provinces in Indonesia could read fluently and understood most of the contents of the text they read and only 29% of the teachers used effective methods and student-centered approach in learning to read. This finding indicates that improving the basic reading instruction in the primary schools in Indonesia is very urgent.

Basic reading is the foundation for developing the other three types of reading (reading to learn, functional reading, and reading for pleasure). In general, the most effective time to learn basic reading is when children are 6 to 9 years old. That is why the period when students are in grades 1 to 3 must be optimized for basic reading mastery. The activities of learning to read usually begin with one’s understanding of language sounds and written symbols relationship, decoding, and basic vocabulary development. After that, in grades 2 and 3, the learning activities focus on fluency and comprehension (meaning-making) improvement conducted by dealing with the texts having an increasing level of difficulty.

The activities to improve fluency and understanding in grades 2 and 3, however, should be facilitated with the program of reading for pleasure. It is carried out by offering various types of storybooks interesting to them. The students should have the freedom to choose the books they like. During this period, assigning students to read difficult textbooks should be avoided because it can create the impression that reading is a burdensome experience which can lead to students’ loss of pleasure to read. If the third-graders have already got around 100 common vocabularies that allow them to fluently read (with appropriate understanding) a simple story when they are in grade 4 they can start to develop reading strategies/techniques to learn. Meanwhile, students should be continuously facilitated to read for pleasure.

Realizing the importance of basic reading skills mastery for the lower graders, why do some teachers tend to “ignore” that some of their students lack the basic skills? One of the reasons is the view that these students will master the skills naturally as they deal with more and more texts. This view holds that the process of reading skills mastery is similar to speaking skills acquisition. Recent research, however, has shown that this view is unjustified. According to …

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