A mobile app serves as an alternative to stay updated on progress in childcare centres, writes Nur Zarina Othman
PRESCHOOL teachers and childcare providers play a critical role in promoting literacy and preparing young children for school.
Understanding the basis of the programmes conducted in a preschool — what the children learn, what activities they take part in, and their learning progress — is important information parents would want to know.
It is also part of a requirement set by the government for childcare centres in Malaysia to keep a detailed log on the children’s daily routine and progress, which is to be handed to parents every day. The updates provided by centres also work as a logbook for parents to know more about their children’s learning ability.
Keeping a daily logbook is time-consuming and can be a challenging task for childcare centres to perform daily. There is a need to have a consolidated platform where both parents and childcare centre operators can keep track on the children’s progress and as required, a trio developed a progress update platform called Anak2U.
Keeping this in mind, three parties came together to meet this gap.
They are members of tech solution company MDR Tech, founded by Wan Muzaffar Wan Hashim and his team, programming and software engineer Faizal Razak, and graduate in artificial intelligence Aniq Aiman. They joined a hackathon — Industry 4.0 (organised by The German-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Agorize, Arts & Metiers Acceleration and GL Events) — in Paris in 2018.
During the event, the three presented the prototype of Anak2U, which was called 2Eazy then.
2Eazy consisted of two products — a mobile application for parents and teachers, and a Content Management System for administration purposes. The system will allow administrators to view the activities in a web portal while the app works as an online progress diary.
After getting positive feedback from the judges during the presentation, Wan Muzaffar, who is an IT graduate from Telecom Lille France (currently known as IMT Lille Douai), along with Faizal and Aniq, decided to further develop the platform, tweaking it to suit the local market.
A PROBLEM SOLVER
Just months after the hackathon event, the 2Eazy app was tweaked and given a new name, Anak2U. “We agreed on Anak2U to give it a more localised feel and image,” says Wan Muzaffar.
The Anak2U mobile application is divided into two — for parents and childcare personnel. The app’s main aim is to save childcare personnel from spending more time on administrative work than on the children. The app provides a simple reporting format compared to the current practise of updating individual logbooks manually.
“We’re trying to enable care centres to spend more time on the children rather than on administrative work. Our mobile application will improve logbook reporting which is done manually today. We are also developing more features such as smart attendance and student performance tracking,” adds Wan Muzaffar.
KEEPING UP WITH THE INTERNET OF THINGS
In line with the Education Ministry’s aspiration for a digital centric education, Anak2U does not only ease a caretaker’s administrative duty, it also simplifies parent-teacher-children interaction by bringing the classroom experience to parents remotely.
The Anak2U platform integrates Internet of Things solutions with built-in features such as automated facial recognition and live individual updates on the app.
Besides that, it also plans to include “smart attendance” as part of its services where children’s attendance will be recorded using an IoT device carried by the children.
“The children will carry a small device with them at all times. It not only allows childcare centres to track their attendance, it can also track their whereabouts in the facility,” says Wan Muzaffar, adding that this should allow children to have freedom to explore their creativity while caretakers can focus on other tasks.
Another soon-to-be-available function on the platform is the live update. In accordance with the minimum requirement as published on the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development’s website under the Department of Social Welfare, all kindergartens or childcare centres are required to instal CCTVs in their premises.
The app will provide a livestreaming function so parents can watch their children in class.
Other than attendance device and a livestream function, the Anak2U app will also allow parents to know what their children are learning.
“It will allow parents to continue the learning process at home by revising with them,” says Wan Muzaffar.
Currently marketed as a halal start-up, Anak2U plans to offer Islamic syllabus updates in the app as well, based on age group. It is a collaboration with Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, to encourage Islamic teaching for young children.
The Anak2U app is currently used by 20 pre-schoolers and childcare centres.
Wan Muzaffar and his team also wish to develop an online payment facility within the app.
“Many childcare centres have voiced interest in having an online payment gateway on the app. It will be very convenient for parents to settle the fees.
“We want to make sure we have a safe payment gateway before making the function available on the Anak2U system platform,” says Wan Muzaffar, adding that the team emphasises privacy as its top priority as the platform deals with children.
“We take security and privacy issues very seriously. We ensure that all data on Anak2U adhere to the Personal Data Protection Act,” he says.
Anak2U uses the Amazon Web Services cloud-based infrastructure, the same cloud infrastructure used by many big corporations.
The app for preschool and childcare centres is available for free. However, the parents’ app is available with a monthly charge of RM3 per child.
“The Anak2U platforms offers what childcare centres and parents want — a one-stop solution to monitor the educational progress and wellbeing of the children while allowing parents the freedom to do this at their convenience.
Wan Muzaffar adds, “Having an app which parents can access while in the office to see if their child has had a nap or been fed properly gives peace of mind when parents have to leave their children in other people’s care.”