Aris was born into a family where his grandfather, father, and mother were teachers – and as he grew older, he decided to follow in their footsteps. When he first qualified as a teacher, he was appointed to a remote elementary school in Penawangan village, where the majority of the people were farmers. Road access was poor, and the drop-out rate was high as children had to help their parents work. From the start, however, Aris attempted to reverse these trends by proactively approaching dropout students through a home-visit program to persuade them to return to school. As a result, 6 out of 10 enrolled again: this was the first step in improving the entire educational prospects of the area.
Together with support from the headmaster, Aris then began to help improve the school’s facilities. Knowing that the environment is a significant factor in students’ motivation, he bought several trees and planted them in the school. He also trained the students to recycle the water hyacinth plants from the nearby swamp into bags, crafts, and eco-briquettes as an alternative energy source at home, and created a hydraulic robot to clean the polluted swamp. After graduation from school, some students have become agents of change by creating a tourism community in the village so that the natural area can be preserved.
Aris has also encouraged other teachers to keep studying themselves and become better qualified so that they could help their students more. In 2010, only 30 per cent of teachers at the school had completed their bachelor degrees, so Aris gave the others training to finish their university assignments and final theses online. Four years later, when Aris was moved to another school, 70 per cent now had their degrees, with others still in the process of completion.
Aris’ contributions have been recognised in the 2015 Teachers’ Symposium, presented by the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo. He was also nominated for the 2016 award for Best Science Teacher in South East Asia, as well as the 2016 Constitution Award from The Ministry of Education.
If Aris wins the Global Teacher Prize, he would first use the funds to build a start-up that would develop an online learning platform connecting students and teachers for quizzes, games, courses, and tuition. Second, he would want to work towards creating at least one school for every regency in Indonesia – especially rural areas – for children with special educational needs such as autism and Down’s syndrome. (Access to education for these children is still very limited in Indonesia.) Third, he would help build a GTP Alumni community that would create workshops for teachers to share knowledge.