Indonesian teacher earns global recognition

An early childhood teacher who founded her own preschools in Indonesia has beaten more than 10 000 nominees to be named one of the top 50 educators in this year's Global Teacher Prize.

The annual award has been referred to as ‘the Nobel Prize of teaching'. It recognises an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

Hikmah Mulia Dewi set up the Rainbow Preschool in 2011 with a mission to prove that early years education is just as important and valuable as working with older children. There were just three students when it first opened. Today, 150 students attend the school and a second Rainbow Preschool she has set up, both in the city of Pekalongan, Central Java.

Hikmah says child development and skills in the early years are often underestimated. Teaching at Rainbow Preschool is based on scientific investigation and project learning. Students are encouraged to express their ideas, discuss a theme, make observations, ask questions, collect information, play and make a product. Tasks include making journals and simple books, some of which have been published.

Alongside her passion to support students and parents, Hikmah is focused on helping fellow educators. She has designed a teacher improvement program called the ‘Noble Educator Academy'. The aim is to create expert preschool teachers. Educators are given an opportunity to intern and study at Rainbow Preschool and Hikmah has also shared training and teaching tools with other schools.

The Global Teacher Prize top 50 nomination has capped an exciting few years for the educator. In 2015 the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture presented her with an award for innovation as the first national-level early childhood educator. Rainbow Preschool also received awards in the 2015 national Early Childhood Education competition, won fourth place in the 2018 national Preschool Management competition and took out first place at the School Parenting Program in 2018.

The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize is now in its fifth year. The 2019 top 50 shortlist featured representatives from 39 countries. Maths and Science teacher Peter Tabichi – a Kenyan educator who gives away 80 per cent of his monthly salary to help his community – was named winner of the $1 million prize for 2019.

Hikmah says she would like to keep developing the school, fund more scholarships for poor children, develop a parenting program and community education centre, and set up a library carrying works produced by children, parents, educators and the community. She adds the dream is to open other preschools in poor and remote areas of Indonesia with free tuition fees.

Stay tuned: Teacher will be speaking to Hikmah Mulia Dewi about the award nomination, and her work to support students, teachers, parents and the wider community. She'll also be sharing details of a hands-on activity she's using with her students.

Visit for more information about all of the 2019 finalists, this year’s winner and the latest on the 2020 awards.