In late November, 180 distinguished guests gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia, to celebrate the INOVASI program and witness the launch of ‘Insights from INOVASI’, a two-volume report which examines the program’s role in improving student learning outcomes and Indonesia’s own journey in education reform.
The Innovation for Indonesia’s School Children (INOVASI) program is an AUD 100 million investment that has run from 2016 to 2023. Funded by the Australian government and implemented by Palladium, it has gained a reputation (and recognition) for doing development differently.
At the event, powerful performances and mesmerising digital art paid tribute to Indonesia's rich cultural heritage and INOVASI’s work in its partner provinces. Stephen Scott, Australian Deputy Ambassador to Indonesia, took to the stage to share an announcement which immediately elicited applause.
“I commend the Government of Indonesia, as well as other partners and stakeholders for their on-going commitment to education reform, and successful collaboration with INOVASI to improve learning outcomes,” said Deputy Ambassador Scott. “Australia will continue to support this important work through a third phase of the INOVASI program.”
This third phase, which includes an investment valued at AUD 55 million over 4 years (2024-2027) with possible extension of another investment of AUD 55 million over another 4 years (2027-2031), will enable INOVASI to continue working hard to accelerate improved student learning outcomes. Indonesia is the fourth largest nation in the world and home to 4.2 million teachers and 44 million children in school.
Early Success and Pandemic Pivots
What works in schools and districts to improve learning outcomes for all students? This was the challenging question INOVASI set out to answer, and the team has done so by exploring local problems and solutions and generating evidence to inform government policy. INOVASI Director Mark Heyward explains that the program adopted flexible development approaches and brought stakeholders together to identify problems, pilot local solutions, and scale-out out tested strategies.
“At the start of our second phase program, our learning gap studies provided evidence of student literacy and numeracy skills,” says Heyward. “It was shocking to learn 98% of grade 3 students did not meet K-13 standards for literacy and numeracy skills in the 2020/2021 school year."
"This may also be linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which students faced school closures. In response, we collaborated with our partners to co-develop strategies aimed at promoting learning recovery. We then extensively disseminated these findings across districts and at the national level to help inform educational policy.”
The government requested INOVASI’s support with alternative schooling options to address learning loss, and then to support the launch of an ambitious reform agenda for basic education. Throughout the program, INOVASI was a critical friend of government and ensured the program’s long-term sustainability by collaborating with more than 1,000 partners.
Expanding in Phase III
The program has already proven that development assistance can have a massive impact when it works within the system and adapts to the evolving context. As announced by Deputy Ambassador Steve Scott, INOVASI Phase III will commence in early January 2024 and will build on the successful approaches from INOVASI Phase II, including expanding its partnership from four to six provinces.
The program will encompass a number of exciting evolutions, including an increased focus on the challenge of policy implementation and the gaps that exist between national policies and implementation at district and school levels; expanded focus on the development of foundational skills in the upper grades of primary; and response to the climate change challenge in education.
“I am excited to have launched our report, Insights from INOVASI, which highlights Indonesia’s remarkable progress in education reforms over the past two decades, and simultaneously look forward to the next phase of the program,” says Heyward.
“I am especially excited to see how we can build on our existing approaches; making problems matter with decision makers and implementers, co-designing and piloting solutions, and scaling out our programs and initiatives to support children’s learning. In such a massive county, we need ambitious goals backed by long-term and committed partners, to ensure all students have the opportunity to excel.”
The event celebrated not only the success of the INOVASI program, but also those working hard in the education ecosystem to support education transformation. Anindito Aditomo, Head of the Curriculum Standards and Educational Assessment Agency joined a panel discussion alongside Dr. H. Mastuki from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Dr. Itje Chodidjah from UNESCO, and INOVASI’s Mark Heyward to speak on the importance of educational landscape in Indonesia.
“Gotong royong (collaboration) is the spirit of Indonesia’s education transformation,” said Aditomo. “The partnership between the Governments of Australia and Indonesia through the INOVASI program has resulted in significant progress in accelerating learning outcomes for Indonesian children.”
To conclude the evening, awards of appreciation were presented to key partners, a children’s choir paid a heart-warming tribute to teachers, and guests took to the dancefloor as the beats of Benggong Banggong reverberated around the dome. There was much to celebrate.
Download the ‘Insights from INOVASI’ reports. The INOVASI program is funded by the Australian government and implemented by Palladium, and works with the Indonesian government and non-government partners to improve children's learning outcomes.