United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Improving Early Grade Literacy in Rural and Remote Schools


    In support of the Indonesian government's efforts to improve learning outcomes, UNICEF with support from the Australian Government implemented an Education Programme Initiative for Remote and Rural Areas in Papua and West Papua Provinces. Aiming to test approaches for improving learning outcomes in early grade literacy in rural and remote areas, the pilot targeted 120 schools in six districts and compared them with a control group. Two models were tested. Model A, for rural schools, combined cluster training with school-based support and supervision by mobile training teams. Model B, for remote and isolated schools, provided on-the-job training (OJT) in schools.


    The programme is designed to reach students learning in remote and isolated areas in Papua and West Papua Province, using a mixed of school-based (pillar 1) and cluster-based (pillar 2) activities. The activities are directed to contribute to SDGs 4, by focusing on institutional change and capacity building of the beneficiary.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    The importance of literacy for full economic and social development has been recognised and supported through the Education for All movement since 2000 and the SDGs since 2015. SDGs 4 encapsulates commitment to provide inclusive and equitable quality education. It recognised that literacy is at the core of learning and is a foundational skill that all children need to acquire through basic education. Target 4.1 and indicator 4.1.1(a)(i) are oriented to early grade literacy, measuring the percentage of children in grades 2/3, achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading.

    Implementation methodologies

    The programme partnered with district and provincial governments in the planning and implementation according to the local contexts and needs. The pilot targeted 120 schools and compared them with a control group. Two models were designed and tested depending on the accessibility schools. Model A, for rural schools, combined cluster training with school-based support and supervision provided by mobile training teams. Model B, for remote and isolated schools, provided on-the-job training at school level through a mentor. Both models were based on two pillars: Pillar 1 (school level) to address challenges to quality teaching and learning due to the low capacity of teachers and scarcity of reading material. As identified in a baseline study, around half of all teachers in target districts never received training to teach reading and did not develop or use lesson plans for their teaching. The programme set out to improve the quality of teaching, design and delivery of a range of culturally relevant learning materials; raise awareness through community campaigns and initiatives and support school principals and school committees to prepare school plans and budgets. Pillar 2 (government/ system level) to raise awareness among parliamentarians and education officials; disseminate evidence about the effectiveness of the models; and provide technical support for the inclusion of literacy programme in district planning and budgeting. The goal is to promote planning and budgeting decisions that would increase the quality of basic education. UNICEF implemented the programme through partnership with CSOs based on their field presence and expertise. Monitoring of the programme were conducted through classroom observation and regular monitoring by CSOs, UNICEF and government.


    Changes in teacher behaviour: improved classroom environment; improved access to reading and learning materials; significant shift from teacher-centred to student-centred approaches; more structured processes of teaching and learning and use of lesson plans increased from around 50 to over 80 per cent; 75 per cent of teachers were able to conduct student assessments on literacy. Improved literacy skills for grade 2 and 3 students in all intervention schools compared with control schools: Percentage of non-readers dropped from 62 to 26 per cent; oral fluency increased from 5.6 to 12-13 words per minute; reading comprehension increased from 6 to 18 per cent. Governments used programme evidence and implemented strategies to improve literacy: Dissemination of the mid-line evaluation findings created interest in replicating the programme. The Ministry of Home Affairs disseminated a Circular Letter encouraging local governments to prioritize in improving literacy and allocate budget citing the programme as a model.

    Factors and Constraints

    One major constraint in Papua and West Papua is the high rate of teacher absenteeism. Analysis of the causal chain linking various determinants of absenteeism with specific policy is needed to address the issue. On the other hand, there are several enablers. Engagement with curriculum development at the national level is essential to ensuring that pre-literacy skills are built into the earliest moments of primary education. Also, programme implementation in the most challenging context has been effective, partly due to a distinct design that fits to the context of Papua and West Papua.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The pathway from pilot to scale depends on sound design, generation of evidence and partnership with various stakeholders. Close partnership with government ensured ownership of the programme and its achievements. National level support for the development of a policy framework for adoption of the literacy model led to the issuance of Ministry of Home Affairs’ circular letters in 2018, encouraging provincial and district governments to implement education literacy. A replication guideline was developed and shared with education offices. By 2020, replications were ongoing in Supiori and Mamberamo Tengah districts as well as more new schools in intervention districts. Partnership with CSOs allowed greater quality control closer engagement with communities. At the same time, it encouraged partnerships to build between government and CSOs. While the pilot has ended, government continue to partner with CSOs in replicating the literacy programme.

    COVID-19 Impact

    In 2020, the early grade literacy programme faced dramatic challenges due to COVID-19 and the subsequent closure of schools. Continuing to build teachers’ capacity and ensuring access to reading and learning materials were crucial in ensuring the continuity of learning and the efforts to build back better. However, with social distancing, traditional methods of face to face trainings were not feasible. As students learn from home, many could not access reading materials due to the limited supply of books. Therefore, the programme adjusted the delivery modalities by providing online webinars, technical support through calls and home visits. Reading materials were also reprinted by the local government and distributed to schools so that children have reading materials at home.

    Contact Name
    UNICEF Indonesia Country Office
    Geographical coverage

    Papua: Jayapura City, Biak Numfor, Jayawijaya & Mimika District; West Papua: Manokwari & Sorong City

    01 July 2015 (start date)
    31 December 2019 (date of completion)
    More information
    Contact Information

    Eliza, Education Specialist