At Indonesia's first digital pre-school Mungilmu, kids learn by playing
The journey of Indonesian edutech startup Mungilmu began when Azka Madihah’s young daughter suddenly refused to go to the playgroup, even though she had only been enrolled for a month.
While looking for a new school that suits her child’s needs, Madihah then developed her own pre-school learning materials.
“I developed a curriculum for the duration of one year, with a thematic approach that includes all the practical skills that a child in pre-school age needs to have. Starting with the themes that they love, such as animals, family, transportation,” Madihah tells e27 in an email interview.
“And then I realised that other parents might also need this type of curriculum,” she adds.
Madihah also noticed an issue with Indonesian education sector, where children are being pushed to excel academically even before they enter kindergarten, with a strong emphasis on their reading, writing, and mathematical skills.
Children’s cognitive, motoric, language and social-emotional skills are often being left behind, thanks to this trend.
The young mother then teamed up with co-founder Siti Hanifah Muslikhah to build an O2O platform for early childhood education.
Mungilmu works on a subscription basis. It provides learning materials in form of contents that parents can download and print, for their children to study and play with.
An example of Mungilmu content is learning the alphabet by pretending to fish in fresh water, using make-shift fishing rod and paper fish. Another example is learning how to count by pretending to sell tickets to enter a zoo.
The contents are being sent to users on a weekly basis, with a different theme every time.
Mungilmu contents are suitable for both home-schooled children and children enrolling in conventional school, whose parents are looking for a better alternative to learn through play.
“Today there is a generation of young parents with increasing awareness of the importance of home-based early childhood education. But due to their busy schedule, they have no time to look for learning resource and a comprehensive curriculum for their children,” Madihah says.
“Mungilmu wants to help kids learn happily. By simply printing, cutting, and pasting materials from Mungilmu, parents can start playing with their children,” she adds.
An example of printed materials from Mungilmu. This one allows children to play by pretending to be veterinarians
Initially, Mungilmu contents are only available as digital material in PDF form for parents to download and print. But with Indonesia being a mobile-first market, many parents were unable to print the contents simply because they do not own a printer back at home.
Mungilmu then solves this challenge by providing the option to deliver the content as a printed material via post service.
The platform also offers licenses for playgroups and day-care to use their contents to teach and play with children in class.
“We are perhaps the only kindergarten in Indonesia which students and teachers have never met before. We are also a kindergarten without a school building,” Madihah says.
And the idea seems to have worked. The platform managed to secure more than 1,500 students, with the majority of them being in Greater Jakarta Area and Bandung.
It has also helped parents solve some common child developmental woes.
Several parents claimed that their children were able to get rid of their gadget addiction after using materials provided by Mungilmu, though the startup did not intend to solve this particular problem.
“There are also parents who said that their children had always refused to study in school, but when they are studying using Mungilmu content with their parents, the children were very excited about it. There are also many working parents who felt grateful as they no longer need to prepare materials to study and play; they only have to print the content from Mungilmu, and they can start playing with their children,” Madihah explains.
Mungilmu is run remotely by a team of 10 people who are deeply involved in early childhood education, from school teacher to children book author. Apart from a tech team, the startup also has its own team of psychologists.
Its team members are spread across different cities in Indonesia, such as Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Bekasi, and Pekanbaru.
In fact, many of the team members have never met each other in real life ever since the startup was founded.
“All of our meetings are conducted online. Sometimes we even have to do it until 3 AM because the majority of Mungilmu team members are mothers of babies and young children, and they have to wait until their kids are asleep to start working,” Madihah says.
The team also does not have any official work hour.
But the greatest challenge that the startup is facing in running their business has nothing to do with distance; it was the lack of awareness on the copyrights protection among the Indonesian public.
Madihah and her team have met cases where their printed contents are being distributed by users, often for a price, despite clear warnings on the site against redistribution.
“This is why our next target is to learn more about copyrights protection for digital businesses in Indonesia,” she says.
To solve this problem, Mungilmu team is developing a member-only login area on their site and creating a password-protected file. They are also currently filing for copyrights protection.
“We also provide free 24-hour child development consultation service for our customers. So that customers will feel that subscribing to the platform will give them more benefits, compared to asking for a friend to forward a Mungilmu content,” Madihah explains.
Towards the future
Mungilmu is currently running through bootstrapping, though the startup is open to the possibility of attracting external investors.
Particularly since Madihah believes in the prospect of “digital kindergarten” business.
“If we had to build a school building to facilitate the implementation of the curriculum that we have developed, then we wouldexperienced slower growth compared to what we have now as an online platform,” she explains.
The startup also has many great plans in store, which includes talent acquisition and a regional expansion into other Asian countries.
Currently available only in Bahasa Indonesia, the team is developing an English and Bahasa Melayu version of the platform’s contents.
“We also want to be able to visit children in rural areas, or in the borders of Indonesia to share Mungilmu materials, as well as to teach them how to play educative games with materials available in nature,” Madihah says.
“We can make this come true by partnering with institutions with similar vision, such as Indonesia Mengajar. We would also like to develop curriculum for children with special needs,” she ends.