WEST BANDUNG, WEST JAVA – Until early 2013, MTs AlMukhtariyah still used conventional teaching with students sitting in rows and teachers lecturing monotonously. The library was still far from a good standard. The environment tended not support an academic atmosphere and enjoyable learning.
The madrasah was filled with the spirit of change when USAID PRIORITAS arrived with a number of training packages. The teachers received training on Contextual Teaching and Learning (CTL). After the training, the teachers enjoyed a period during which they were mentored on an ongoing basis by local training facilitators to help them practice what was covered in the training and to evaluate their teaching. At the same time, the school principal, teachers, and school committee had the opportunity to attend training on School Based Management (SBM) which was also followed up with mentoring support.
The madrasah head immediately applied what he learned in the training. He formed a madrasah development team and a reading culture development team which comprised a combination of management, teachers' representatives, administrative staff, and members of the school committee. These teams put together programs, disseminated information about them, and then implemented them.
Teachers who had not attended the USAID PRIORITAS training were required to observe lessons conducted by teachers who had been trained in order to get an idea of the implementation of active learning. These teachers were then trained as part of the madrasah's own dissemination program, and practiced teaching in the classroom assisted by the teachers who had already been trained previously.
As a result, all teachers at MTs Al-Mukhtariyah have received training and are able to apply active learning, such as facilitating students to learn cooperatively, using high-level thinking skills, and students producing work from their own thinking.
The madrasah students seem to enjoy their lessons more than before because they are challenging and fun. The madrasah environment is a source of active learning that is very productive. Students learn the English language in an integrated way when they use it to conduct experiments in science. They learn Indonesian language outdoors while looking for inspiration from literature. They also meet and interview experts in the context of learning social studies and other subjects. Active learning is also applied in religious education.
Teachers have also become skillful at creating worksheets that use high-level questions and projectbased approaches that stimulate the creativity of students. Group discussions and presentations have become part of the everyday experience of students. The madrasah grounds are used by teachers so that students can learn while playing. Even the hallways of the school are used by teachers to make learning exciting for the students.
The students' work has been put on display in every classroom to make students feel proud, to create an academic atmosphere, and to give the students new learning resources in the form of the work on display. The students' work has also been collected in a gallery at the madrasah and has been exhibited at showcase events at the district and provincial levels, and even at the national level in the Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC).
The madrasah head has provided full support for teachers' needs during lessons ranging from stationary and facilities, to the classroom arrangement and furniture. All learning support needs are discussed at the planning and budgeting stage by management, teachers, and the school committee.
Partnerships with various external parties have been established to improve the quality of madrasah. Partnerships with PT Indonesia Power, TISERA, Islamic organizations, doctors in Korea, and the Rajamandala grand mosque are examples of partnerships that have been developed.
Now teachers and students often use the library as a learning space. It is laid out in a more attractive way; the collection of books and materials is more varied and regularly updated; and it is equipped with a digital service system. The students publish a wall magazine regularly and have formed a group for avid readers called the “reading club”. Reading corners have become a definitive feature of every classroom as well as areas in the corridors and hall that have also been fitted out with shelves of books that can be accessed any time by students.
To create reading habit, Al-Mukhtariyah schedules communal reading and silent reading activities which are held in the yard. This reading culture program has spawned a lot of student work in the form of book reviews, articles using Ishikawa fishbone diagrams, reading diaries, collections of short stories, and books published digitally. Teachers have helped publish the books in print and digital form. (Ds)?