Introducing Dayak Culture-Based Education: Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino


By Dia Marganita

A culture-based school where children, youths, and adults of Dayak tribes in West Kalimantan learn about literacy, local wisdom, rights, and culture.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘school’? Learning in a classroom? Or doing homework and taking exams? If any of these come to mind, then you must be thinking about formal schools. It might surprise you to learn that there are diverse types of schools beyond the conventional model. One such example is a culture-based school called Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino from Indonesia.

Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino is an informal school where children and adults from Dayak indigenous peoples can learn basic literacy, numeracy, local wisdom, and culture. This school was created by Jhonatan Yuditya Pratama, or Jho, as a platform to educate and encourage local communities of West Kalimantan to fight for their rights and lands. This platform was inspired by Jho’s father and created due to his concern regarding environmental and land rights issues in West Kalimantan.

How It Started

In 1998, Jho’s family moved to West Kalimantan due to his father’s job as a medical doctor. At the time, Jho’s father had been appointed as the head of the clinic in Sebangki Village. When Jho was in elementary school in 2005, he sometimes accompanied his father to visit local communities and learned how challenging his job was. Poor health facilities, bad road conditions, inclement weather, and poor signal were among the challenges Jho and his father experienced at that time.

Despite those challenges, Jho’s father got a low salary. Some families had trouble with money and could only pay with rice, vegetables, and fruits for his father’s service. If there was a family that couldn’t afford any sort of compensation, Jho’s father would make his service free of charge.

Little Jho got curious about this act of kindness by his father, and one day asked him why he did it.

He answered, “Jho, not everything we do [has] to make money. If we work and help people sincerely, we will be blessed and get things that cannot be bought with money. One of them is happiness. I believe that happiness is important as it can help raise the immune system so people can continue working. I feel happy when I help people, and I believe you will also feel the same one day.” His father’s answer impressed Jho, and it continues to stay with Jho to this day.

A few years later, 14-year-old Jho started to teach children and parents of Dayak indigenous people who could not attend formal school. He taught them how to read and count until he graduated senior high school. After witnessing how the local communities were negatively affected by unjust land contracts and deforestation in West Kalimantan, Jho wanted to enable the Dayak indigenous peoples to be the voice for their land and communities. As a member of an indigenous community himself, Jho recognizes that local knowledge passed down generations should be used to inspire indigenous people to fight for their rights. Local knowledge has been known to enlighten local communities to understand the connection between humans and nature. Thus, Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino was created.

How It’s Going

Unlike your typical school that has buildings for classrooms and teachers’ offices, Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino does not have any fixed buildings. In this school, everyone can be both the teacher and the student, teaching and learning in different locations. To this date, Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino has around 14 schools across 4 regencies in West Kalimantan: Landak Regency, Kubu Raya Regency, Kapuas Hulu Regency, and Sanggau Regency. The very first school is located in Sebangki Village of Landak Regency, and it has become the headquarters for Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino’s activities until now.

In Sebangki Village, there is a particular type of building that Jho and his friends use for indoor learning activities called a longhouse (Bahasa Indonesia: Rumah Panjang). A longhouse is a traditional house used by Dayak tribes and built for extended or communal families. In the longhouse, Jho and the volunteers teach children how to read, write, count, and learn about the local culture.

The children and youths of Dayak indigenous people learn literacy, traditional waving, and traditional dancing. Photos courtesy of Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino.

As the students of Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino are children of Dayak indigenous people, they also learn about Dayak communities’ cultures and local wisdom. They learn traditional dances, music, and also rituals. For example, there is this ritual called Nyangahatn. This ritual asks for the blessing of God—or, in the local language, Jubata—in farming and getting a good harvest. This ritual is usually also done as thanksgiving for weddings and childbirths. Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino wants to emphasize knowing one’s own culture to be aware of the community’s capacity to care for themselves and the environment.

Jho holds a mic for the Panyangahatn—a term for the traditional ritual leader in the local language of Dayak Kanayatn tribe—in a Nyangahatn ritual. Photos courtesy of Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino.

Besides learning about cultures, the students also learn about the environment through outdoor activities. These encourage interaction with rivers and forests to make the children active and form a bond with nature. Jho would take students on a riverboat ride to learn about water transportation or the river ecosystem. He would also bring the students to the forest to forage for fruits and vegetables. There are also tree-planting activities surrounding the area affected by mining operations. As a nursing school graduate, Jho also teaches children the importance of protecting the environment and how the environment can affect human health.

Children and youths of Dayak indigenous people learn through outdoor activities. Photos courtesy of Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino.

“There is this statement from [our] ancestor: the forest is our father, the land is our mother, and the river is our blood. That means that [our lives] heavily depend on nature and are also part of it, so it is our responsibility to look after it together,” explains Jho.

Hope for the Future

For now, Jho wishes to focus on his programs at Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino. He wants to grow this platform and collaborate with more people and organizations who share the same vision. In the future, Jho specifically hopes to be able to have one building as the headquarters of Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino’s activities. In the long run, he also plans to build a small clinic to help disadvantaged people in his local community gain access to healthcare and medicines.

“We realize that, as [humans], we cannot live alone. We need people, we need the environment, we need anything to help us to be strong to continue our lives in this world. So, I want to say to you to believe in yourself and to believe in your potential. To become an inspiration and to work and save this planet through your actions,” Jho says.

From Jho’s story, we get to learn the importance of learning based on the traditional context and local culture. We may learn about math and science from formal schools, but we can only learn about generations worth of wisdom and culture through informal schools like Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino. Keep up the excellent work, Jho!

(Edited by Bryan Yong and Amanda Tolentino)

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Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino is a culture-based education program that preserves Indigenous Dayak culture while teaching youths about human rights and land rights. Based in West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia, Sakolah Budaya Patamuan Talino focuses on helping children, youths, and adults of Dayak tribes learn about literacy, numeracy, local wisdom, and culture. You can reach out to them at


This article was produced with support from YSEALI SEEDS for the Future grant 2023.

Dia Marganita

Dia Marganita is a recent graduate majoring in Oceanography from Indonesia. She enjoys taking long walks and playing with stray cats in her free time. She also loves to read, and it motivates her to create stories that can inspire and move people.

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