Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Effective Speed Reading to Improve Literacy Rates in Indonesia

Dewi looks serious holding a piece of paper. He looks at every word before her. A moment later, she smiles and says, “Done.”

Ibu Santi, Dewi’s teacher who sits in front of her immediately clicks the stopwatch in her grasp. “One minute two seconds. Very good, Dewi. Now answer these questions on this sheet,” says Ibu Santi, as she hands Dewi a sheet of questions related to the reading she has just done.

Ibu Santi is a teacher a SDN 011 Peranap, Indragiri Hulu in Riau province. SDN 011 Peranap is one of the schools that partners with Tanoto Foundation in implementing a reading ability test called Effective Speed Reading (KEM) for its students.

 What is Effective Speed Reading?

Effective Speed Reading (KEM) combines motor skills (eye movement) or visual abilities with one’s cognitive reading skills.

KEM is therefore a combination of one’s average reading speed and accuracy in comprehending the words.

The average reading speed is calculated in words per minute (wpm).


If Student A reads 70 words in one minute, his reading speed is 70wpm.

Meanwhile, reading comprehension is determined by the number of correct answers from students, divided by the ideal score (the total number of all possible correct answers), multiplied by 100%.

Reading Comprehension = Correct Answers / Ideal Score x 100


Student B answers three out of four questions correctly, so her reading comprehension is:

3/4 x 100 = 75%

Effective Reading Ability is determined with a combination of both factors.


Standardization of Reading Speed

One person’s KEM with certainly different than that of someone else.  KEM is generally dependent on the level of education one has experienced. However, there are formulas which can be used as references or benchmarks to find out the average KEM a person should have.

Below are the Effective Speed Reading standards, based on level of education.

Education Level KEM
Elementary /Junior High School

Senior High School



Adult (who has not finished school)

200 words per minute

250 words per minute

325 words per minute

400 words per minute

200 words per minute

Some experts even say that children of different grades have varying reading speeds, as listed in the table below:

Grades KEM






60 – 80 words per minute

90 – 110 words per minute

120 – 140 words per minute

150 – 160 words per minute

170 – 180 words per minute

190 – 200 words per minute


Why KEM?

When this question was asked to several teachers who had used the KEM instrument, the answers were almost unanimous, with teachers stating that the instrument is inexpensive and easy to use for teachers and students.

“The method is simple. I only have to take data from the students. Ask them to read, record the time they take, and then get them to answer questions. Then I just have to input the information in a simple Excel spreadsheet, and the results can be viewed immediately.

“For example, whether a student’s reading fluency is low. As teachers, we just need to follow up based on what we find out,” Ibu Santi explains.

Similarly, Pak Rohim, a teacher who is also using KEM at SDS Permata Andalan Estate Ukui in Pelalawan, Riau, said that he did not face any obstacles in using the tool.

“I just enter the reading duration and the number of correct answers to get the results. We can even change the questions by ourselves if there is a need, and we don’t require special expertise to compute the results,” he said.

Written by: Sasmoyo Hermawan, Training Specialist at Tanoto Foundation

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