Papuan children show-off their math skills

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Wed, 09/16/2009 2:19 PM

Demira and Merlin, both third-grade students and foster children of renowned physicist Prof. Yohanes Surya, stunned an audience at a seminar in Jayapura, Papua, by solving complex math problems in their heads without any assistance.

The one-day World Vision Indonesia (WVI) seminar was held Monday in celebration of the 30th anniversary of WVI in Papua.

Those attending were amazed by the mathematical feats of the two children, both aged nine, who came from a remote area in the Tolikara regency in Papua.

The children, along with three others from remote locations, are currently participating in an 18-month education program at the Surya Institute in Tangerang, Banten, with a focus on mathematics.

Surya claimed the two children were unable to count before the started the program, but had now developed a passion for maths.

“Parents often regard mathematics as a difficult subject, but they should not be afraid of it. Demira and Merlin, who were once unable to count, have proved that through guidance and lessons they are capable of doing so eventually,” said Surya.

Surya said Papua – where education levels are generally very poor – was in need of an accelerated education program for children that would focus on mathematics. If taught mathematics four hours per day, he claimed, within six months children could be proficient in maths and subsequently in learning skills from other fields.

The program at the Surya Institute, which provides education for 15 children from remote areas in Papua, is part of a cooperative effort by WVI and the Tolikara and Jayawijaya regency administrations. The children will continue their training for the next two years in preparation for the Mathematics Olympics.

The Surya Institute and WVI Papua will also post 15 teachers, trained specifically at the Surya Institute in mathematics, to schools in Tolikara, Jayawijaya and Keerom to assist teachers in those regencies with running classes. The hope is that within two years, the children there will be competent in maths.

WVI has launched many programs and initiatives during its 30 years in Papua, and is currently assisting nearly 20,000 students with their learning from elementary school until university.

“We expect a leap in education standards in Papuan schools to take place in the next few years so the education standard in Papua will be on par with other provinces in Indonesia,” WVI Indonesia national director, Trihadi Saptoadi, said.

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