NEWTON, MA | November 20, 2006
During a diplomatic visit to Bogor, Indonesia, today President George W. Bush met with students and teachers who are at the forefront of a new education approach in that country. The $157 million U.S. Presidential Initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) focuses on basic education throughout Indonesia, developing school leaders and local management policy, improving teaching and learning in the classroom, and strengthening non-formal education at the junior secondary school level. A major component of the five-year program is managed by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), a U.S.-based education development organization.
The initiative, known as the “Decentralized Basic Education,” or DBE program, is now working with 29 local governments (100 by the end of the project) in eight provinces, reaching more than half of Indonesia ‘s population of 250 million, to help local districts take on management of schools previously run by the national government. The program works with more than 532 schools and 5,600 educators serving more than 110,000 students.
During his six-hour stop in Indonesia to meet with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr. Bush visited a DBE classroom demonstration where he spoke with primary school students working on science and literacy lessons. Mr. Bush, calling the lesson activities “creative and joyful,” met with teachers and others working on the DBE program. He was photographed speaking with schoolgirls in the classroom set up for the event on the grounds of the presidential palace in Bogor. First Lady Laura Bush, joined by Indonesia’s First Lady, Mrs. Ani Yudhoyono, also met with educators and students.
“The project works with local teachers to move away from traditional rote-memorization learning to a more active, student-centered approach,” said EDC’s Michael Calvano, chief of party for the project. “We are seeing more creativity in the classroom. Students don’t just give back what the teacher gave to them; they think things through and provide their own responses,” Calvano said.
Through the DBE initiative, educators learn new instructional strategies in math, science, literacy and civics education, with public, private, and religious schools all involved in the programs. For example, fifth grade science lectures have been replaced with student-led projects carried out in small groups. A lesson on human anatomy challenges students to make a functioning model of human lungs out of plastic water bottles, balloons, straws and tape. In the process, students learn that collaborative problem-solving is often more productive and efficient than individual work.
In a related initiative, EDC recently finalized an agreement to collaborate with 15 Indonesian universities and three U.S. universities to create teacher education modules that are responsive to local conditions and concerns. Based on the EDC approach, the work involves partners including the Academy for Educational Development, Research Triangle Institute, Florida State University, University of Massachusetts, and University of Pittsburgh.