Democratizing Early Childhood Education

Building a continuous, adaptive learning environment for early learners anywhere, anytime.

Illustration of hand holding phone showing a children’s activity app

In the midst of this COVID-19 Pandemic, students, parents, and educators across the world are required to explore new ways of learning — at home.

UNESCO has discovered that “Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. These nationwide closures are affecting over 90% of the world’s student population. Several other countries have implemented localized closures impacting millions of additional learners,” and that’s probably without taking some of the pre-primary and marginalized learners into account.

Infographic featuring Indonesian school children, with cards showing “62% of 5–6 year olds and 37% of 3–6 year olds were enrolled in primary education in 2018”
Revised image from “The Promise of Education in Indonesia” report

According to the research report, The Promise of Education in Indonesia conducted by the World Bank and Australian Government, the statistics show that Early Childhood Education (ECED) is not accessible here in Indonesia, even before the impact of COVID-19. Only roughly 2% of the total education budget is spent in ECED, and the facility is uneven across provinces. So we asked ourselves:

How might we support existing institutions to make Early Childhood Education more accessible to people?

Together with our friends at HEI Schools Senayan, we’ve taken a stab at exploring new ways to improve the delivery of quality early childhood education to support local and eventually global communities to empowering kids to shape their future.

Knowing What Parents Need Most

Information architecture of a children’s homeschool learning platform
The information architecture of the multi-part platform

As part of finding out parental challenges and needs, we started by examining their experiences with helping their children to learn at home. In order to better understand the whole ecosystem of home-based education for early learners, we’ve conducted an online survey across parents and teachers. Our insights from the research enabled us to design a multi-part platform for solving home-based learning problems:

  • Not enough knowledge and time on how to facilitate their kids to learn
  • Parents, students, and teachers’ relationship is shifting
  • Lack of social development (sharing with others, learning to be patient, making friends and navigating boundaries with peers, etc.)
  • More practical learning is needed, especially activities that can be done together (there are a lot of apps that promote a child’s independent learning but less on practical activities with parents)

Establishing the Flexible Learning Framework

Sticky notes highlighting that “the main users of this service and the dominant user involvement are; parents for 0–3 year old children, both parent and child for 3–6 year olds, and more on children than parents for kids ages 6 and up.”

It is extremely challenging to manage work and Childcare at the same time, especially when young children need extra help at this stage of their development. Digitization of learning content will only solve 50% of the problem, as parents’ needs and involvement levels will need to be taken into account as well. Young children under 6 years old who have not developed their cognitive abilities yet cannot be left alone to their own devices in contrast to older children. Therefore, the development of a suitable curriculum for children this age is crucial so parents can take more responsibility as facilitators than as educators. Kids will be provided with more Kid-centered learning and motivated through their own initiative to foster individual engagement and in-depth learning. In that sense, it is important to introduce two modes of education as part of the solution to foster early childhood education at home, parents-guided activities and self-directed learning.

  • Parents-guided activities: to ensure children are spending enough time on a variety of practical activities (DIY) with their parents, rather than learning only with screens.
  • Self-directed learning: to empower kids to own their education and provide a sense of control in their learning journey.

Parent Readiness: more than ever before they needed that parenting 101

If you’re a full-time working parent with young children at home, you will probably resonate a lot with this picture in the New York Times article, titled “Three American Mothers, on the Brink”

Mother working on computer while watching over son playing in somewhat hectic closet room
Image from The New York Times

Most parents find it hard to juggle homeschooling and working at the same time. They also find it difficult to understand their children’s emotional and behavioral states as they grapple with overwhelming amounts of educational resources that are scattered across the web.

From our research, we also understand that most parents prefer to have their children still be under a school system when studying at home, to ensure the continuity of their kids’ learning (learning in accordance with the lessons he/she should get at their age).

Aside from the continuity of kid’s education, lack of time and confidence in teaching their kids is also a big reason that is stopping parents from being more involved in their child’s education (accounting the different types of parents that exists), so we want to prepare parents to better facilitate their kids.

I’m worried if she is getting enough stimulation or education with me.

The challenge was not only to scale a successful coaching model using technology in order to benefit as many parents as possible but with the goal of encouraging parents to be more involved in their child’s education.

Fueled by our insights from the research we conducted, our team created a set of experiences (features) that are tailored towards parents’ needs.

Card prompt graphic asking “How is Jayden’s mood today?”
Card prompt graphic asking “How is Jayden’s mood today?”
Mood tracking feature

Checking their kids’ mood before starting the day will help parents to cope with their kid’s emotions during the “school hours”.

Floating graphic cards of an article resource on how “Children are naturally creative and curious”
Floating graphic cards of an article resource on how “Children are naturally creative and curious”
Bite-sized guides and resources for parents

Meanwhile, bite-sized and easily consumable guiding materials will motivate parents and provide them with knowledge on effective teaching. For example, setting up the right learning environment at home will help their kids to “be at their optimal learning state of mind.”

Walkthrough experience of navigating through a children’s homeschool learning platform
Walkthrough experience of navigating through a children’s homeschool learning platform
Walkthrough of the activities tab

Parents can also schedule and plan activities for kids at different times of the day to accommodate their busy work schedules. That way they can start the day off a bit easier and avoid accidentally double booking or missing any important meetings.

Learning content & method

A challenge that parents face regarding home-based education from the research report conducted by HundrED.org stated that “Parents are planning daily activities but are not trying innovative educational practices at home.” Parents are also calling for more practical learning, since “the way subjects are taught ought to be more fun and show greater examples of knowledge applications.”

Besides having hands-on activities available on the platform, we wanted to stress the importance of “not being stuck on what is the proper way to learn”, instead of focusing more on helping kids to develop the essential skills for life.

Matrix showing HEI Schools’ curriculum and how they are derivate into 4 major key themes; “Creative, Physical Exercise, Respect, and Mindfulness”
HEI Schools curriculum

Derived from HEI Schools’ holistic approach to early childhood education, we want parents to understand that learning should go “beyond academic skills.” Therefore, activity topics such as creativity, physical exercise, respect, and mindfulness, etc. are introduced as key learning subjects.

So what if your education platform can make learning more personalized and help children to bring out their fullest potential to learn at their best?

Grid illustration showing a calendar program of activities for children
Grid illustration showing a calendar program of activities for children
Personalized curriculum program with different key learning subjects

Based on the crucial premise that not only children, but everyone “enjoys learning better when guided within their own interests”, we want to ensure kids are getting the right sort of balance between learning and purposeful play through project-based learning.

For example, from the information provided by users or from machine learning algorithms, insights can be inferred how one child user is more comfortable with drawing, whereas another might be more comfortable in keeping physically active.

Kid-Centered Design

Children do not play so that they can learn, but rather they learn while they play.

The kid’s platform is built around the understanding of what drives kids’ engagement, increases their curiosity, and changes their behaviors, which initiated the design of its architecture and visual representation.

Because play and the physical building is an important way in which many kids develop skills, we’ve explored different methods of presenting the activities for a more impactful learning experience.

Little girl doing yoga with a virtual panda as part of a digital platform for children’s learning and play activity
Little girl doing yoga with a virtual panda as part of a digital platform for children’s learning and play activity
Example of the activity program for kids

For example, designing for early learners forced the team to rethink how learning vocabulary could be taught visually along with audio, as well as exploring new ways on how Augmented Reality (AR) can be implemented in children’s storybooks.

Progress Tracker

Radar chart displaying children’s learning and development progress, with key focuses on “Focus, Creativity, Problem Solving, Multiliteracy, Resilience, and Expression“ and a tip prompt on how parents “can help by scheduling shorter activities”
Progress tracker visualizer for students

The progress tracker feature was imagined to help parents better engage in their children’s learning process and foster personalized learning to the maximum extent.

Visualizing performance data forms a supportive layer that helps parents get a quick overview of their child’s learning progress and stay up to date with any outstanding situations (can be good/bad) that they need to be aware of. Parents who need more assistance can also connect directly with coaches on the platform to gain professional guidance.

Table showing 3 types of parents in a school system context, that “Completely rely on school system, has some interest in home based learning if they have the time and ability, and those that have time to teach their children but are not professionally trained”
Table showing 3 types of parents in a school system context, that “Completely rely on school system, has some interest in home based learning if they have the time and ability, and those that have time to teach their children but are not professionally trained”

Recognizing that parental involvement varies for everyone, the team wants to help parents from a minimum level of involvement to a maximum level with a framework that helps parents to be involved in their child’s learning.

What if we can automatically save any progress, therefore allowing parents to “catch up” on their child’s progress anytime? And having a feature that allows the report to be available in audio and video format so that parents can digest their child’s progress in a more intuitive and convenient way, where they can listen or watch at their most convenient time (e.g. while doing dishes, they can “listen” to an audio report generated by the platform/teachers)

Phone showing notification reporting children’s finished activity and how parents can do a post-learning activity or follow up question
Phone showing notification reporting children’s finished activity and how parents can do a post-learning activity or follow up question
Post-learning feature

The “post-learning” feature empowers parents to ensure that their child has meaningful screen time during the day.

Parents could receive notifications when their child has finished an activity and follow up with questions to ask to help them use the skills in the real world.

For example, if the kids played a matching game earlier in the day during their individual learning block, parents can invite them to play it again together by matching same-colored shirts while putting laundry away together.

In our conclusions, it’s always better to use practical evidence to keep track of a child’s learning progress rather than using a point or score-based system.

Community

Survey displaying the most dominant results as; Teachers, Community, Parents or Parent-in-laws, followed by Tutors, Siblings, Nanny, My Spouse, and No difficulties.
Survey results when asked, “Who do you reach out to when you’re having difficulties teaching your kids?”

Fueled by our online survey results and observation from parents on social media or other online platforms, we’ve noticed that there is definitely a need to create a community committed to home-based education.

Section of digital platform displaying option to “Find other parents with 2 year old kids” and related topics, and a community entry on their struggles on teaching their 2.5 year old child
Section of digital platform displaying option to “Find other parents with 2 year old kids” and related topics, and a community entry on their struggles on teaching their 2.5 year old child
Community feature

A comfortable space where parents can connect with one another, share resources, even schedule “playdates”. For example, schedule a time when kids of the same age can gather at a central location (perhaps a virtual meet-up, during the pandemic season) to do a science experiment together.

Moreover, parents can find support from other parents’ experiences whose children share similar learning behaviors and patterns. And to take this even further, imagine if parents can have access to their own coaches to get instant advice from professionals?

Moving forward: enabling innovation for education

Educating the next generation requires attention and consideration for a variety of factors, of which educators are the most important. Teachers simply have one of the most important roles, and ultimately, this is just the beginning of the process.

Ecosystem map from the team

More research geared towards teachers is underway as part of the multi-part platform, which will reach all kinds of educators in need and increase education system resilience.

We’re excited to learn more topics and to keep developing impactful solutions and experiences. To learn more about this project or explore ways to collaborate with us, reach out to hi@sixtytwo.co!

Group of digital product strategists & designers committed in creating highly relevant and well-designed products! http://sixtytwo.co hi@sixtytwo.co @sixtytwo

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