March 8, 2010

Abstract Home, school, and classroom are three different loci of learning that can operate simultaneously to affect the development of the student reading ability. However, the positive effects of these factors can only be optimized if home, school, and classroom provide conducive environments for activities related to learning and reading development. The effects of factors related to student, home, school, and teacher characteristics on the reading ability of 4th grade students in Indonesia are examined. Results of regression analysis on Indonesia’s PIRLS 2006 data involving 4,774 samples show that the gender of both student and teacher has significant effects on student reading ability, in that female students outperform males. Parents’ economic and cultural capital also significantly influence student performance, where parents who are university graduates, like professionals and clerical workers, are more likely to facilitate students’ reading competence. Unexpectedly, the financial capacity of the family, the use of Bahasa Indonesia at home by children prior to schooling, and school location do not demonstrate any significant effects on student reading ability. Some sociological explanations and policy implications are proposed in this study.

Keywords: reading ability, student, Indonesia, school, sociology


Factors Affecting Reading Ability of the 4th Grade Students in Indonesia: A Sociological Perspective
Introduction This study examines the effects of factors related to student, home, school, and teacher characteristics on reading ability of the 4th grade students in Indonesia. The 4th graders are, according to Joncas (2007), in the process of becoming independent readers after four years of formal instructions. It is therefore an appropriate stage for assessing their reading ability in order to allow educators for further improvement through educational interventions. Home, school and classroom are three different loci of learning that can operate together to generate effects on the development of the student reading ability. However, the positive effects of these factors can only be optimized if home, school, and classroom have conducive environments, which are equipped with supporting resources that are used in activities related to learning development in general and reading in particular. In order to be able to provide such resources, it is necessary to have economic and cultural resources at home, school, and classroom. Therefore, for instance, a school that is located in an affluent community and attended by students from this type of community tends to have better teaching resources and well-qualified teachers. As a result, students are more likely to have better learning outcomes, including reading ability. However, cultural and social specificity of a country might also make a difference in terms of learning environment and its effects on student attainment. This study seeks answer “what factors related to student, home, and teacher characteristics do significantly affect the 4th grader’s reading ability? And what sociological explanations are possible to understand the underlying meanings behind these effects?” This study is an exploratory study to one facet of educational process in Indonesia. Background and Literature Review

The Promise of Democracy Reading ability has increasingly become a very important tool to access information and knowledge through variety of media, such as internet and newspapers. Literacy is also strongly associated with the development of a country. A high rate of literacy often becomes one of the most significant indicators of a country development in general. Literacy has in addition becomes an important form of communication skill that may locate someone in the market place, a place where life chances are determined (Weber 2006), and social mobility is enabled (Mitch 2005). It is furthermore a manifestation of the developmental and egalitarian function of education (Carnoy and Levin 1986; and Bowels and Gintis 1976) in democratic society. Thus, it is necessary to understand factors that might be associated with children ability to read in order to be able to generate learning environment that can facilitate higher reading attainment. This, in turn, allows policy makers to create an educational arrangement that is capable of realizing a modernized and egalitarian society. Indonesia since 70s has given a large scale effort to increase its people reading ability across age groups. As a result, it has succeeded to increase its population literacy rate from 50 percent in 1970 (Jalal and Sardjunani 2007) to 98.7 percent in 2004 (Unesco 2007). There is no need to problematize this literacy rate if this high percentage is socially taken for granted. Within this high percentage there are disparities in terms of the level of reading skill stemming from social class differences. The reading ability of the Indonesia’s fourth graders is also still below the average at the global level (Québec 2007). The real challenge for the government is how to maintain and transform this developmental achievement into an egalitarian achievement by which, regardless of social and economic backgrounds, students can gain relatively equal level of individual reading skill.

Into Standardized Bahasa Indonesia What does standardized Bahasa Indonesia literacy mean? At the global level, it means catching up with modernization by which human beings have been divided in two types, i.e., literate and non-literate (McCarty 2005). At the national level, on the other hand, Bahasa Indonesia was selected by the national elite in 1928 to become the unifying language of the Indonesian people who possessed about 550 indigenous languages (Arka 2007); two decades before Indonesia proclaimed its independence from foreign imperialism in 1945. Since then, Bahasa Indonesia had been promoted to become the official language of the newly formed nation-state to the present. This language-based unification, nevertheless, is often not sensitive to the local languages. As a result, many of these languages have become endangered and those who speak them have been devalued in the market. Both at the global and national level, then, language competence may intersect with merit and privilege by which social hierarchies are generated through education. Those who are capable of coping with the designated standard would be counted as competent citizens, whereas those who do not would be classified as disable ones (McCarty 2005). Language (i.e., Bahasa Indonesia) acquisition and competence has then been constructed to support some, while depriving others. Most likely those who have lower socioeconomic position will be excluded or ought to have extra perseverance to learn Bahasa Indonesia to compete in job market. Otherwise, they will be labeled illiterate, even though they speak and write in their own local languages. Thus, it is not only about how demanding it is to communicate with people in a language that they understand as Brock-Utne (2008) argued, but also about privileges enjoyed by the Bahasa Indonesia speakers. It is worth noting that schooling, accessed more by the have, plays the most significant role in transmitting Bahasa Indonesia to the Indonesian citizens.

This study within its exploratory question tries to problematize the Indonesian state’s promise of democracy for its citizens through knowledge distribution in the form of equal reading ability. Some sociological understanding on factors affecting children reading ability will be capitalized to generate several policy implications. Many factors at different levels of social domains may contribute to the development of this ability, but this study will only examine several factors associated with student, home, school and teacher characteristics. This explicitly expresses its limitation. However, it is optimistic to reveal some significant insights into the questions it raises and objectives it pursues. Educational Literature Studies conducted on children reading ability showed that cultural capital, such as parents’ education and occupation, had a significant role in supporting children ability to read (Myrberg and Rosén 2008; and Mullis and Martin 2007). Parents who have higher level of education and occupation can provide inspiring environment for their children to read by becoming a role model for them. On the other hand, this group of parents is more likely to have enough economic capacity to provide their children with educational resources, such as home library. Parents can also engage children in earlier home literacy activities. Stephenson and Georgiou (2008) argued that letter knowledge was one of the most obvious indicators of children reading skill. This type of knowledge can be developed by engaging children in their early age in shared book reading activities. Its effect can be maximized through more specific activities, such as teaching letter names, sounds and printing. Other research reported that children, on the other hand, had their own agency to develop their own literacy. Tse et al. (2006) reported that attitude and self-concept of students in China and Hong Kong made a difference in their reading achievement, where girls outperformed boys on these attributes. Students in their fourth year of formal schooling are transitioning from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” (Mullis and Martin 2007:1) Thus, school experiences at this point,

not to undermine the enrichment effect of home environment, can play important roles. School factors such as school environment and resources can contribute to the acquisition of reading literacy. Within classroom context, Perry, Hutchinson, and Thauberger (2007) argued that it was very crucial for teachers to design literacy tasks that would allow students to be selfregulated and independent learners. Such learners have a capacity to become more motivated to learn because they tend to behave in a way that will optimize their learning processes and products. In general, classroom activities are likely to have a more direct impact on students reading development. Therefore, choosing effective and productive instructional approaches and materials is necessary. In terms of student gender, Klecker (2006) found that differences in reading ability by gender were consistent across grade level, where female reading achievement was higher than male’s. Chiu and Chang (2006) argued that this discrepancy was the function of female peer influence, where girls inclined to have more peers. Brozo (2005), on the other hand, provided three reasons behind this variation. First, television and other popular electronic media have genderized the way boys and girls behave and interact. Girls are assumed to spend more time with the traditional print resouces. Second, school environemnt has been feminized, where female teachers dominate teaching jobs at schools. Third, it is related to student engagement in teaching process. Girls in general are more engaged and interested in reading materials. With respect to the difference between rural and urban students, Zhang (2006) reported that urban children in Sub-Saharan Africa outperformed their rural counterparts due to their inferior learning experiences and school resources.

Method Data Data used in this study is Indonesia’s data obtained from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006.1 There were 4774 Indonesia’s fourth graders from 168 schools participated in this study. Hypotheses It is hypothesized that student reading ability is influenced by factors related to student, school, teacher and home characteristics. While student related variables include three variables, i.e., sex, age, and the use of Bahasa Indonesia before schooling, teacher related variables comprise of four variables, i.e., sex, age, part or full time teachers, and teachers’ usage of different teaching resources in their teaching. School related variables include only one variable, i.e., school location (rural, sub-urban, and urban), whereas home related variables consist of four variables, i.e., things owned at home, level of family financial capacity, parents’ occupation, and parents’ education. It is expected that the effect of the economic and cultural resources of parents and teachers can provide us with findings where social class (Myrberg and Rosén 2008; Mullis et al. 2007; and Bourdieu and Thompson 1991) and gender (Chiu and Chang 2006; Klecker 2006; and Brozo 2005) matter for student reading competence. Teacher effect, on the other hand, is anticipated to highlight some structure of power relation within school organization that might affect student learning outcome (Perry at. al 2007). Variables Dependent Variable: Student Reading Ability Student reading ability is used to represent reading literacy of the fourth graders. PIRLS defined reading literacy as

PIRLS is an international study of reading literacy among fourth grade students conducted by the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

“The ability to understand and use those written language forms required by society and/or valued by the individual. Young readers can construct meaning from a variety of texts. They read to learn, to participate in communities of readers in school and everyday life, and for enjoyment” (Kennedy and Sainsbury 2007:11). PIRLS 2006 framework defines two major aspects of students’ reading literacy, i.e., purposes for reading and processes of comprehension. “Reading for literary experience and reading to acquire and use information are two major purposes that account for the majority of reading experiences of young children. Readers make meaning of texts in a variety of ways, depending not only on the purpose for reading, but also on the difficulty of the text and the reader’s prior knowledge. Therefore, there is a need to look at four processes of comprehension: focus on and retrieve explicitly stated information; make straightforward inferences; interpret and integrate ideas and information; and examine and evaluate content, language, and textual elements. These processes are the basis for developing comprehension questions in the reading assessment” (Kennedy and Sainsbury 2007:12). In this study, the total standardized scores of students (see Table 1) available in PIRLS 2006 database are used as a dependent variable in the analysis, representing student reading ability (min. 31.73; max. 87.84). Independent Variables There are 11 explanatory variables (see Table 1) that would be examined in the model of this study. Three of them are related to the student characteristics, four to teacher or classroom characteristics, one to school characteristics, and three to home characteristics. Student Related Variable: Student characteristics include student sex, age and language used at home before schooling.

Table 1: Variable Description
No. Category Variable DEPENDENT 1 Reading Student Reading Ability INDEPENDENT STUDENT 2 3 Sex Age Female Student Student Age Student Age Squared Student Age Missing Values 0.3 % 3 Language Language before School/Indonesian Language before School/other than Indonesian Language before School/Missing 13 % SCHOOL 4 Location School Location Area/Rural School Location Area/Suburban School Location Area/Urban School Location Area/Missing 1% HOME 5 Resource Things at Home Things at Home/Missing 8 % 6 Economy Well off Family Financially/Very Well off Family Financially/Average Well off Family Financially/Not Very Well Well off Family Financially/Missing 5% 7 Parents' Education Parents' Highest Education Level/University Parents' Highest Education Level/PostSecondary Parents' Highest Education Level/UpperSecondary Parents' Highest Education Level/LowerSecondary Parents' Highest Education Level/No Schooling Parents' Highest Education Level/Missing6% 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 6.26 0.08 0.22 0.52 0.20 0.05 0.07 0.04 0.24 0.18 0.41 0.06 1.07 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 continued 8 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 0.16 0.15 0.67 0.01 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 0.50 10.33 107.63 0.00 0.62 0.25 0.13 1.04 19.43 0 6.58 43.34 0 0 0 0 1 14.92 222.51 1 1 1 1 477 4 50.11 9.99 31.73 87.84 Obs. Mean Std. Dev. Min. Max.

Table 1 continued No. 8 Category Parents' Occupation Variable Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Professional Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Small Business Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Clerical Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Skilled Worker Parents' Highest Occupation Level/General Labor Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Not Work outside Home for Pay Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Not Applicable Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Missing 16% TEACHER 9 Age Age of Teachers/29 or less Age of Teachers/Between 30 and 39 Age of Teachers/Between 40 and 59 Age of Teachers/Missing 0.9% 10 Sex Sex of Teachers/Female Sex of Teachers/Male Sex of Teachers/Missing 0.1% 11 Work Part or Full Time Work/Full Part or Full Time Work/Part Part or Full Time Work/Missing 2% 12 School Resource Usage Using School Resources by Teachers Using School Resources by Teachers/Missing 4% 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 0.12 0.29 0.58 0.01 0.58 0.42 0.00 0.70 0.28 0.02 7.68 0.04 1.41 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 11 1 Obs. 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 477 4 Mean 0.05 0.08 0.12 0.30 0.21 0.06 0.03 0.16 Std. Dev. Min. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Max. 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1


Sex: A dichotomous variable where female is used as the main category and male is set to be a reference category.


Age: As age (min. 6.58; max. 14.92) turns out in the preliminary analysis to become a curvilinear variable, an age squared variable is created in order to indentify a point where age starts having a negative behavior on student reading ability.


Use of Bahasa Indonesia: Language of testing is Bahasa Indonesia. Under the assumption that student who use Bahasa Indonesia at home might outperform those who do not use it, a variable whether students use Bahasa at home before schooling or not is included.

School Related Variable:

School Location: School location is the only school related variable included in the analysis. It is assumed that students from urban and suburban schools have better reading ability compared to those who are in rural schools. This is constructed as a dummy variable where suburban school category is assigned to become the reference category.

Home Related Variable: Home related variables include things owned at home, level of family financial capacity, parents’ occupation level, and parents’ education level. All variables in this section, except ‘things owned at home’ (min. 4; max. 8), are constructed to become dummy variables.

Things Owned at Home: This continuous variable indicates facilities owned at home that might generate a well equipped learning environment for children to develop reading ability, such as computer, study room, book, cell phone and daily newspaper.


Level of Family Financial Capacity: This dummy variable indicates the level of student family’s financial wellness where ‘not well off’ category is set to become the reference category.


Parents’ Occupation Level: This dummy variable represents parents’ occupation level where ‘never work outside home’ is set to become the reference category.


Parents’ Education Level: This dummy variable represents parents’ education level where ‘no schooling’ category is set to become the reference category.

Teacher Related Variable: Teacher related variables include teacher age, sex, type of work, and the usage of teaching resources by teachers. In this section, the usage of teaching resources by teachers at school is the only continuous variable. Others are categorical and constructed to become dummy variables in the analysis.

Teacher Age: Teacher age variable is grouped to become three categories (i.e., 29 or less, between 30 and 39, and between 40 and 59). ‘Between 4059’ is set to become the reference category.


Teacher Sex: This is a dichotomous variable where female is used as the main category and male is set to be the reference category.


Teacher Work Type: Teacher work type is divided in two categories, i.e., part time and full time. ‘Part time’ category is set to become the reference category.


Teacher’s Use of School Resources: This variable is constructed to become a continuous variable (min. 3; max. 11).

In order to avoid confusion in the data interpretation, each missing value category is included in the analysis. The percentage of missing values in each single variable varies from about 0.1 to 16 percent. Analysis Procedure Multiple regression analysis is applied to examine variables that might have effects on students’ reading ability. This method is selected because student reading ability in this study is constructed as a continuous variable predicted by more than one explanatory variables, both categorical (e.g., sex, parents’ occupation category) and

continuous (e.g., things owned at home). This statistical procedure assumes the normality and linearity of the data used, homoscedasticity, and sample randomness (see Agresti and Finlay 2009: 448).

Findings and Discussions Student Related Variable Gender and Public Schooling Matter The results (Table 2) show that gender of students has a significant effect on the 4th grade student reading ability. Females on average outperform their male counterparts in reading test by 1.907 (se 0.262; p < .001) points. This is consistent with other findings, such as Ziming and Xiaobin (2008) and Klecker’s (2006) reports. Chiu and Chang (2006) argue that gender based differences in reading ability might be a function of female peers. Female students in general tend to have more friends than male students. Through friendship networks, they are involved more in engaging learning activities. Others, like Brozo (2005), argue that female teacher domination in school and classroom environment might lie behind this discrepancy. Female teacher domination attracts female students more to participate in reading activities than male students. Another factor, according to Brozo, is media, where female students might have less interest in spending times watching television and other electronic resources. As a result, they are more immersed in non-electronic learning materials, such as school textbooks and newspapers. Interestingly, this gender based difference, as Brozo (2005) argues, does not occur so much in science or math achievement across countries as in reading literacy. This might be related to the subject interest of

Table 2: Regression Results of the Grade 4th Student Reading Ability Independent Variables Student Characteristics Sex (Male= 0) Female Student Age Student Age Student Age Squared, Peak Value = 9.82 Student Age/Missing Values 0.3 % Language before School (Omitted = Other than Indonesian) Language before School/Indonesian Language before School/Missing 13 % School Characteristics Location (Suburban= 0) School Location Area/Rural School Location Area/Urban School Location Area/Missing 1% Home Characteristics Things at Home(Continuous 0-5) Things at Home Things at Home/Missing Values 8 % Financial Level (Not Very Well off= 0) Well off Family Financially/Very Well off Family Financially/Average Well off Family Financially/Missing 5% Parents' Education Level (No Schooling= 0) Parents' Highest Education Level/University Parents' Highest Education Level/Post-Secondary Parents' Highest Education Level/Upper-Secondary Parents' Highest Education Level/Lower-Secondary Parents' Highest Education Level/Missing 6% Parents' Highest Occupation Level (Never Work outside Home for Pay= 0) Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Professional Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Small Business Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Clerical Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Skilled Worker Parents' Highest Occupation Level/General Labor Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Not Applicable Parents' Highest Occupation Level/Missing 16% Model A Model C

1.910 (.261)*** 6.411 (2.025)** -.327 (.094)** -2.980 (2.320) -

1.907 (0.262)*** 6.380 (2.026)** -.325 (.094)** -3.035 (2.320) .387 (.325) .487 (.457)

2.050 (.477)*** -1.773 (.390)*** 3.945 (1.214)**

2.064 (.478)*** -1.760 (.392)*** 3.841 (1.215)**

- .667 (.125)*** -2.963 (.475)*** -

- .666 (.125)*** -2.983 (.475)*** -.229 (.427) .418 (.352) -.347 (.685)

7.380 (.651)*** 4.092 (.740)*** 2.846 (.372)*** 1.590 (.372)*** -.488 (.603)

7.387 (.659)*** 4.074 (.743)*** 2.789 (.377)*** 1.549 (.374)*** -.379 (.628)

2.408 (.864)** .805 (.692) 2.255 (.667)** -.326 (.569) .199 (.587) 1.211 (.926) -.268 (.619)

2.353 (.864)** .796 (.693) 2.224 (.668)** -.379 (.570) .150 (.590) 1.172 (.927) -.201 (.622) (continued)

Table 2 continued

Teacher Characteristics
Age (Between 40-59= 0) Age of Teachers/29 or less Age of Teachers/Between 30 and 39 Age of Teachers/Missing 0.9% Sex (Male= 0) Sex of Teachers/Female Sex of Teachers/Missing 0.1% Work Type (Part Time= 0 ) Part or Full Time Work/Full Part or Full Time Work/Missing 2% Using School Resources (Continuous = 0-10) Using School Resources by Teachers Using School Resources by Teachers/Missing 4% Constant R-Squared N *p < .05 **p< .01 -1.346 (.428)** 1.732 (.303)*** 1.007 (1.553) 1.209 (.280)*** 4.110 (3.424) -.634 (.304)* -1.175 (.897) .852 (.095)*** -.831 (.651) 18.958 .205 4774 *** p< .001 (two-tailed tests) 4774 -1.311 (.431)** 1.748 (.305)*** .979 (1.559) 1.205 (.281)*** 4.328 (3.433) -.636 (.305)* -1.185 (.897) .848 (.095)*** -.900 (.653) 18.631 .206

Note: Numbers in parentheses are standard errors. Missing values are not interpreted. N = 4774

the students, where male students have similar inclination toward math and science with their female counterparts. Another possibility is a biological factor, where girls in terms of age tend to gain communication skills, including reading ability, earlier compared to boys. Mechtenberg (2009) differently argue that gender based difference in student achievement, including reading, is related to the biased grading exercised by teachers. Grading expectation may influence student attitude and preference toward certain subjects. Age also shows a significant effect on reading ability. However, this effect turns to become negative among the 4th grade students who are more than 9.82 year old. The estimated age of effect change was calculated using the following equation x = = 6.380/2(-.325) = 9.82. This finding might be explained by the fact that

older students are more likely to come from the repeater group, taken into account that most students in Indonesia start attending primary school when they are 6 year old. They will normally reach the 4th grade when they are 9 year old. Thus, the 4th graders who are more than 10 year old are mainly repeaters. Students who have a

reading problem often have difficulties to access other subjects, especially math and sciences. Furthermore, students who have such issues are mainly from less advantaged families, both in economic and cultural resources. Their parents cannot provide them with supportive learning environment, let alone learning resources at home. The use of Bahasa Indonesia (language of testing) at home by children prior to attending school does not prove any significant effects on student reading ability. This implies the ability of public schooling in Indonesia to equalize students’ reading literacy as its use at home does not bring about a differential effect. This also conveys the importance of educational governance (Unesco 2008). This finding might be explicated by the fact that the 168 schools involved in the study were public schools that received relatively equal amount of resources and financial supports from the government. They are also run on the same model of schooling governance. As a result, prior exposure of some students to Bahasa Indonesia at home does not cause any variation as far as reading ability is concerned. This national language equalization might benefit all students regardless of their social and economic conditions because it may allow them as far as Bahasa Indonesia skill is concerned to have equal life chance in the future. However, this equalizing effect is also more likely to decrease student appreciation toward their local languages. In addition, mastering Bahasa Indonesia is not the only factor that will determine their market position in the future. Social class and economic system will in the course of their life experiences have crucial effects. Furthermore, tested reading ability only consists of student competence to apprehend texts that is receptive in nature. It does not, following Saussure (1966) and Chomsky’s (1965) definition of language, incorporate the whole system of signs as a life skill required

by society. This type of language testing excludes the ability to creatively generate ideas in writing and express them orally from consideration. Writing and oral skills are of the essence to build social networking and to gain market chances. Such creative skills are highly predetermined by a set of student social, historical and political conditions (Bourdieu and Thompson 1991) in which they live. Home Related Variable Financial Capacity and Facilities are Important, but Not Enough Controlling for parents’ occupation and education, financial capacity does not establish any significant effects on student reading ability. More importantly, things at home, such as computer and study room, are negatively correlated to the reading ability. Given that a basic test of multicollinearity analysis had been conducted prior to the main analysis, the absence of financial capacity effect and the occurrence of negative correlation of ‘things at home’ (- .666 at p < .001) to the reading ability might indicate an issue of suppressor effect (see Lancaster 1999). This statistical issue might exist among financial capacity, things at home, and parents’ occupation and education. Nonetheless, this result might imply that financial capacity is not the only mechanism that mediates between parents’ occupation and education and the children learning development, including reading ability. In other words, when parents have higher financial capacity and provide children with enough facilities at home by virtue of their occupation and education level, it is not necessarily that this capacity will help children develop their reading ability. Parents should have certain strategies to bridge between economic capacity and learning activities to support children reading ability. Children can then develop interests in learning and reading resources. Students whose parents have university, post-secondary, upper-secondary, and lower-secondary education perform better in reading test compared to those whose

parents have no schooling by 7.387 (se .659; p < .001), 4.074 (se .743; p < .001), 2.789 (se .377; p < .001) and 1.549 (se .374; p < .001) points respectively. This parents’ education effect on student reading achievement is consistent with some findings, such as Myrberg and Rosén (2008) who reported that parents’ education had significant effects on student reading ability. Interestingly, this effect is strongly predominant among students whose parents are university graduates. Similarly, parents’ occupation level shows a significant effect on student reading ability. Students whose parents are professionals and clerical workers are found to have better reading ability compared to students whose parents are small business owners, skilled workers, general labors, and others. While students whose parents are professionals and clerical outperform those whose parents never work outside home for pay by 2.35 (se .864; p < .01) and 2.22 (se .668; p < .01) points respectively, students whose parents are small business owners, skilled-workers, general labor, and others are not significantly different from them (i.e., students whose parents never work outside home for pay). Apart from their better economic and cultural resources, these types of students have better parental attention and aspiration in education. Even though professional parents spend more time outside home, they have economic ability to hire someone to take care of their children and to send them to better pre-school programs. On the other hand, clerical staff is more likely to have less economic and cultural resources compared to the professional, but have more time to spend for their children at home due to their stable work patterns. It is important to note that most clerical jobs in Indonesia are in public sectors and are mainly occupied by secondary school and college graduates.

School Related Variable Social Class and Aspiration Make a Difference It is interesting that rural students on average outperform their suburban (2.064 at p < .001) and urban (-1.706 at p < .001) counterparts in reading ability. This finding is not consistent with other studies, such as Zhang (2006) and Webber et. al (2003) reports. They found that urban students often had higher reading ability than rural students due to their greater exposure to media, reading resources, and learning technologies. This is also not in line with the fact that most parents with college degrees live in urban and suburban areas. In order to understand this finding, it is necessary to view it from within the specific context of Indonesia. Rural children in Indonesia relatively have more attention to their school reading materials because these are the only learning resources available for them. On the other hand, rural children who manage to go to school are more likely to come from families that have higher aspiration to perform social class and education mobility (see Agnew 1983). Rural parents view education as the only way to help their children perform class mobility in the future. Therefore, parents who manage to facilitate their children to finish secondary school are more likely to have their children to move to the city to undertake college education. It is worth noting that college and university are mainly founded in main provincial cities and there are not any colleges located in rural areas. On the contrary, parents who cannot envisage any possibilities to provide financial supports for their children will not let them to start schooling. If they let them go to school, they will not be supportive enough. Thus, those children who can reach fourth grade in rural schools are actually aspired and somehow selected children.

It might be argued that this is also true for poor urban children. However, poor and less educated parents in the urban areas are interested to send their children to the primary schools to obtain only a minimum ability to read, write, and count. These skills are necessary for them to survive in the city. Unlike urban children, rural children can survive without being able to read, write and count by becoming illiterate farmers. In addition, not being able to have higher education for rural parents does not necessarily mean that they are poor. Their livelihood is somehow determined by how many acres of land they have, not on how high their education level is. Thus, sending kids to school for them is a way to anticipate economic life change from agriculture to other forms of fields. Thus, schooling for urban and rural parents has different meaning. Teacher Related Variable Gender and Power Relation at Work Place Teachers’ sex, age, and the use of learning resources at school show significant effects on student reading ability. Interestingly, students taught by female teachers are found outperforming those whose teachers are males by 1.205 (se .281; p < .001) points. This is in accord with the initial finding suggesting that female students’ reading achievement exceeds their male counterparts’ as a consequence of their feminized school environment (Brozo 2005). Similarly, teachers’ age indicates a significant effect on student reading ability. Students taught by teachers who are between 30 and 39 year old have better reading ability by 1.748 (se .305; p <.001) points compared to those whose teachers are between 40 and 59 year old. Similarly, they are better at reading from those whose teachers are less than 30 year old. This can be understood based on the culture of teaching job in Indonesia. Often, teachers who are less than 30 year old lack experiences, but they have higher career

orientation. On the contrary, teachers who are between 40 and 59 year old often have more experiences, but less enthusiastic in career orientation. They somehow feel that they do not need to work harder anymore because they have reached career stability. Only teachers who are between 30 and 39 year old are more likely to combine both experiences and strong career orientation. Therefore, this group of teachers can make a difference in student reading ability. These teacher-related results are not in agreement with Myrberg’s (2007) finding for Sweden case in PIRLS 2001. She concluded that there were no significant effects of teacher experience, age, gender, in-service training or cooperation on student reading ability that could be established. This is not surprising because Sweden has different community characteristics. For instance, gender differentiation in Sweden is not anymore, to some extent, an issue in school environment. Both male and female students can participate in learning process as effective as possible, regardless of their teacher gender. Also, Sweden might have strong teacher education training by which teacher expertise is comparable regardless of their teaching or inservice experiences. Surprisingly, students who are taught by full time teachers have lower reading attainment compared to those who are taught by part time teachers by -.636 (se .305; p <.05) points. Here, it is suggested that this finding is corresponding to the teaching job culture as well as reward bureaucracy in Indonesia. Teachers who have established their career as long serving teachers incline to become less motivated to perform as effective as possible. They are less competitive because they do not worry about losing job. Government bureaucracy provides job security for those who have obtained civil servant status and served as teachers for a long period of time. On the other hand, students whose teachers use more teaching resources in classroom have

better reading ability by .848 (se .095 ; p < .001) points compared to those whose teachers use them less. This might be explained by the assumption that the more resources to read, the more practices students can have. More importantly, the more efffective teachers use them, the more likely students become engaged in learning processes. Conclusions The results of the analysis show that the gender of both student and teacher has significant effects on student reading ability, where female students outperform males as a consequence of gendered social interaction in their learning environment at school (Chiu and Chang 2006; and Brozo 2005). Economic and cultural capital also demonstrates significant effects on reading ability. As with students whose parents are professionals and clerical staff, students whose parents are university graduates are more competent at reading. Unexpectedly, the use of Bahasa Indonesia (the language of testing) at home by children prior to attending school does not establish any significant effects on student reading ability. Public schooling then demonstrates relative success at equalizing student reading ability. Similarly, the level of the student’s family financial capacity does not indicate any influence on reading ability, when controlled for parents’ education and occupation level. However, this finding should be read carefully because financial capacity might have a suppressor effect on reading ability. Furthermore, urban students and those who are taught by full time teachers or either younger or older teachers are surprisingly less competent in reading. This signifies the effects of work cultures and power relations among teacher groups in work places on reading activities. Some policy implications are suggested based on these findings. Unhealthy work culture created by the government bureaucracy tends to have negative effects on

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