Literacy for the 21st Century: Promoting Innovative Literacy Education in Coping with Natural Disasters, Indonesia

  • Date published:
    26 November 2015

Programme Overview

Programme Title Literacy for the 21st Century: Promoting Innovative Literacy Education in Coping with Natural Disasters
Implementing Organization Centre for the Development of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education
Language of Instruction Bahasa Indonesia, Javanese (and other local languages)
Funding Government, Directorate of Community Education Development, Ministry of Social Affairs, provincial government (Central Java, Jogjakarta and Lampung), National Courses Association, National Community Learning Centres (CLCs) Forum, Indonesian Red Cross, Indonesian SAR, UNESCO, small contributions by participants
Programme Partners Directorate General of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education, Ministry of Education and Culture, provincial and district education and health administrators, National Board of Disaster Management, Indonesian Red Cross
Annual Programme Costs Annual programme cost per learner: IDR 360,000 (US $36)
Date of Inception 2008 - present

Country Context

Indonesia is on course to meet the educational targets set by the Millennium Development Goals. The country has made great progress in improving access and equity in education. This is especially true of primary education, which is largely responsible for Indonesia's high overall literacy rates. Much of this progress is the result of increased spending on education, following the Indonesian government's constitutional amendment requiring that at least 20 per cent of the annual budget be allocated towards education. Despite this progress, challenges in education remain, not least with regards to equity. The poorest members of the population have less access to early-childhood, senior-secondary, tertiary and adult education than other segments of society. For example, only 4 per cent of higher education students aged between 19 and 22 come from the poorest 40 per cent of the population (World Bank, 2012).

Since the Asian financial crisis in 1998, Indonesia has achieved economic growth and substantially reduced the number of people living below the national poverty line of $1.25 per day. However, the number of people living below this line remains large - at around 30 million - while a further 65 million live just above it, at heightened risk to falling back into poverty. One of the reasons for the poors' vulnerability is Indonesia's exposure to natural disasters. Over the past 30 years, Indonesia has experienced an average of 289 natural disasters a year, with an annual death toll of around 8,000 people. In response, the Indonesian Government has made disaster risk management one of its priorities by introducing a comprehensive risk management approach, including prevention, preparation, emergency response and recovery plans. However, the country has struggled to implement regulations and to establish capacities to cope with natural disasters. Literacy for the 21st Century: Promoting Innovative Literacy Education in Coping with Natural Disasters fits well with Indonesia's ongoing efforts to enhance resilience against natural disasters and to improve education supporting this goal. The programme not only builds risk management capacities at community and family level, but also increases access to education for indigent adults (Worldbank, 2012).

Programme Overview

The Centre for the Development of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education implements the Literacy for the 21st Century: Promoting Innovative Literacy Education in Coping with Natural Disasters (hereafter referred to as the 'natural disaster literacy programme') in cooperation with the Directorate of Community Education Development. Both institutions are part of the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia. The role of the centre is to implement community education programmes to further literacy education, promote women's empowerment and poverty alleviation, and increase coverage of early childhood education. The natural disaster literacy programme is one of a series of literacy programmes promoting the empowerment and literacy attainment of disenfranchised populations, known as Aksara Agar Berdaya, the Literacy Empowerment Initiative. Other AkrAB! literacy programmes address subjects such as basic literacy, entrepreneurship skills and literacy, family literacy, folklore-based literacy and establishing a writing culture.

Delivered since 2008, the natural disaster literacy programme aims to mitigate the harmful effects of natural disaster on communities by equipping participants with the knowledge and skills they need to cope. The programme also raises awareness of the risks associated with natural disasters and helps communities in recover from disaster. In the five years between 2008 and 2013, the programme has reached around 44,000 learners in Central Java, Jogjakarta and Lampung provinces, all of which are prone to natural disasters. Most of the programme's beneficiaries were poor adults and out-of-school young people with low literacy levels.

Aims and Objectives

The geographic location of Indonesia puts the country at risk of natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and landslides. Indonesia's vulnerability to such disasters prompted the Centre for the Development of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education to develop the natural disaster literacy programme as a model of community education. By increasing literacy proficiency levels within communities affected by natural disasters, the programme aims to mitigate the effects and to increase awareness of natural disasters. Specifically, the programme aims to:

  • Guide victims in handling and coping with natural disasters;
  • Provide literacy education for victims of natural disasters;
  • Raise awareness for risks associated with natural disasters;
  • Expand access to literacy education by establishing community learning centres (CLCs) and community reading centres (CRCs);
  • Introduce training for quick disaster response (knowing the first steps to take when a natural disaster occurs) in communities;
  • Provide recovery and rehabilitation services to families and communities after natural disasters occur.

The main target groups of the programme are adults and out-of-school young people. The programme also provides services to indigenous and minority groups.

Programme Implementation

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

The teaching approach and lesson content are based on the needs of people who have experienced natural disasters. The learning approach is based on their experiences, an approach which incorporates the following:

  • A participatory approach integrating life skills into literacy education;
  • Teaching in mother tongue;
  • 'Joyful learning' through games, songs and dance;
  • An emphasis on empowering learners.

The natural disaster literacy programme's approach comprises the following:

  • CLCs and learning materials support training and learning programmes in disaster risk reduction;
  • CLCs advance disaster preparedness;
  • Local volunteers increase local capacities to mitigate and cope with disasters;
  • Emphasis on equal access to training and education, especially for women and out-of-school young people.

Teaching Content

The programme teaches basic literacy and entrepreneurship skills, with a focus on issues relevant to natural disasters. Participants learn about the causes and characteristics of natural disasters, while facilitators teach them about methods and strategies to cope, how to mitigate the effects, and how to recover from traumatic events. In addition, participants learn about safety measures concerning natural disasters. All literacy content follows the general guidelines set out in the national standards for basic literacy and entrepreneurship skills training.

Programme content for each locality reflects the situation following a natural disaster. The learning activities, syllabus and learning materials vary from locality to locality. For example, in Central Java, participants learn more about characteristics of volcanoes because this area is prone to volcanic eruptions. Teaching content in Jogjakarta Province, on the other hand, focuses on earthquakes, which are more likely to occur in this area. The programme in villages in Lampung province emphasises landslides due to the location's vulnerability to such natural disasters.

To make the programme accessible to participants, facilitators employ locals to work as tutors to support learners. Learning materials include books, posters, magazines, newspapers leaflets, DVDs and CDs. Facilitators use computers, radio and TV as teaching media to transmit information about natural disasters. For example, an assignment could require groups of learners to search the internet for information on natural disasters. The teaching materials are developed by the Centre for the Development of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education in cooperation with the National CLCs Forum and the National Courses Association, as well as education administrators and local advisors.

Structure and Process

Lessons take place three times a week in a CLC of a community learning hub. Courses are also offered in the homes of villagers. The programme's courses last 10 months, with, on average, between 10 and 15 participants. Besides literacy training, courses also teach learners vocational skills such as cooking, sewing, farming, cattle breeding and fertilization techniques.

Accreditation, Monitoring and Evaluation

As part of the monitoring and evaluation process, CLCs are required to become accredited by an independent accreditation board, made up of government officials coordinated by the Community Education Directorate. The accreditation process for the natural disaster literacy programme is based on evaluation against eight national education standards: content, process (teaching and learning), graduate competency, personnel, facility, governance, finance, and evaluation standards. At the outset of the accreditation process, CLCs fill out a form, which is reviewed by the accreditation board. Board members also visit CLCs as part of the accreditation process and interview local programme facilitators. The board holds in a plenary meeting to decide which CLCs are to be accredited.

The programme administrators track outcomes through anecdotal evidence with the aim of improving the curriculum over time. The Centre for the Development of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education interviews participants, teachers and members of local communities to ascertain the effect of the programme on learners. Learners do not have to complete an exam at the end of the programme.


The programme employs volunteer and paid facilitators. Each facilitators teaches between 10 and 15 learners. Paid volunteers receive a salary of US $1 per hour. The Centre for the Development of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education provides training for facilitators. The most competent facilitators are invited by the centre to become trainers for future facilitators.

Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

The natural disaster literacy programme served 43,449 people between 2008 and 2013. In addition, its two partner programmes, in basic literacy and entrepreneurship skills training, reached 371,000 and 102,000 people respectively over the same period. The basic literacy and entrepreneurship skills training programmes are similar to the natural disaster literacy programme in their aim to improve the literacy skills of learners. However, these programmes do not focus on natural disaster mitigation techniques in their teaching content. Participants benefit from the literacy training, while, through the entrepreneurship programme, they gain life skills, which increases their chances of earning a decent income in the future. The programme helps communities to be better prepared for natural disasters and it assists families in the process of recovery following a natural disaster.

Lessons Learned

  • To make the natural disaster literacy programme successful, facilitators need to make sure that learners are fully acquainted with the programme as it takes time for learners to warm to new content.
  • Support from local leaders is necessary to effectively implement a programme, because it maintains the motivation of learners and prevents conflicts among facilitators.
  • It is necessary to maintain learners' motivation during periods when they are not affected by natural disasters so that they can continue to learn and be prepared. That is why new programmes should be delivered. The micro finance unit programme, for example, established a mini bank, which participants joined in order to save money and lend it at very small rates of interest. At the end of the year, the organization distributes the benefits of the micro finance unit to each member, based on the sum of the saving and loans.
  • People who have lived through a natural disaster need to be treated with respect and be given time to cope before new elements of the programme are introduced. They tend to have reservations about new programmes as their immediate concern is often their own physical circumstance.

Indications that a programme is running well include:

  • Learners are more actively participating;
  • Learners show enthusiasm in learning new things;
  • Stakeholders are supportive of the programme.


The facilitators face a number of challenges in implementing the programme:

  • Not all programme personnel have the full range of required competencies;
  • Limited infrastructure and facilities to support the natural literacy disaster programme, which requires communities to help by providing facilities;
  • Limited funding for literacy programmes in general and for the natural disaster literacy programme in particular;
  • Difficulty in raising awareness of the programme in villages, including in recruiting volunteers and tutors for the programme in rural areas;
  • Challenging to use ICTs with limited funding;
  • Learners tend to leave the basic literacy component of programme once they are able to read and write as they prefer to learn other skills such as planting, cooking and making natural fertilizers;
  • Local leaders' strong commitment towards their communities can lead to conflict that can negatively affect the implementation of programmes.


The community learning centres are central to the sustainability of the programme since they provide learners with long-term access to training and learning materials. In terms of financial sustainability, the programme is supported by local government. Further financial support comes from local businesses, which donate money to the programme. The programme's approach and focus on natural disaster recovery also supports the sustainability of the programme as the model applies to many other areas in Indonesia with similar natural disaster problems.



Dr Ade Kusmiadi
Chief Executive Officer
Centre for the Development of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education Regional 2, Directorate General of Early Childhood, Non-formal and Informal Education, Ministry of Education and Culture, Republic of Indonesia
Diponegoro Street, No. 250 Ungaran, Semarang
Central Java, Indonesia
Telephone: +62 24 6921187
Fax: +62 24 6922884

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.). Last update: 25 July 2017. Literacy for the 21st Century: Promoting Innovative Literacy Education in Coping with Natural Disasters, Indonesia. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 29 November 2020, 20:59 CET)

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