Timor-Leste: EdTech for Early Learning - Mary MacKillop Today

Timor-Leste: EdTech for Early Learning

Early app concept art, featuring local characters and elements
Early app concept art, featuring local characters and elements

With the sponsorship of The Noel and Carmel O’Brien Family Foundation (NCOBFF), Mary MacKillop Today has initiated the Edtech for Early Learning project in Timor-Leste, incorporating culturally and age-appropriate technology for learning.

Mary MacKillop Today has engaged education technology experts, World Mosaic, to collaborate with Mary MacKillop Today’s Timor-Leste-based teacher and parent education team, Timor-Leste Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and local preschool stakeholders, to conceptualise, design, develop, pilot and evaluate a digital solution to improve Early Childhood Education outcomes in Timor-Leste.

ECE Pilot approach

The Pilot is operating over the six-month period from April to September 2024 and incorporates the following important elements:

  • Pilot implementation, observation and evaluation is limited to two preschools in Liquica and one preschool in Dili – public and community preschools with pre-existing relationships with Mary MacKillop Today in relation to parent and teacher training programs.
  • The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is participating in the Pilot – Ministry representatives attending field sessions, reviewing learning activities; Ministry Preschool, Inclusion and ICT Team stakeholders being engaged, providing input.
  • The Pilot follows on from a thorough three-month Human Centred Design (HCD) project conducted in Dili and Liquica in 2023, that project also including Ministry and preschool community engagement. The HCD project identified needs and priorities and led to the conceptualisation of a solution for development and piloting.
  • All learning activities delivered in the solution are aligned with and sequenced to the Ministry’s Preschool Lesson ‘Plana’.
  • Learning activities are interactive, culturally relevant and delivered in Tetun, with an opportunity to include mother tongue learning opportunities, having regard for Tokodede at the Liquica Pilot schools.
  • The digital solution involves no individual child and device screentime. By design, the preschool classroom activities are teacher-led through a new Timor-Leste preschool teacher app, projected onto the classroom wall for students to learn collectively. A sister app for parent home access is also being created and piloted so parents or siblings can reinforce preschool learning at home through their mobile phone. The teacher and home apps will be synchronised.
  • The projection and home app learning activities intentionally direct the children away from the screen every five minutes or so, so the learning experience is more holistic. In this way children consolidate and express learning through play, art making, speaking, listening, discussion, pre and early writing, mime, music, games and so on with and without access to the screen.
  • The HCD process identified the opportunity to focus on providing ECE learning resources that were less available to children, including learning activities to promote:
    – Inclusion.
    – Local culture, celebration and language.
    – Personal and family identity, wellbeing and story.
    – Local environment, sustainability, art and play.
    – Pre and early number and writing skills and problem solving in an authentic Timor-Leste context and experience.
    As a pair of apps, the ECE solution lends itself to interactive learning, opportunities for children to express their learning and sense of belonging beyond rote activities.

At the end of the six-month Pilot, the partners will assess outcomes and make decisions regarding the next phase of the project – decisions regarding developing more learning activities to ‘complete’ the curriculum offering, refining the apps, expanding the project to a wider set of preschools, developing more local partnerships and so on.

Other aspects of the Pilot

Opportunities for children to imagine and play together in the context of youth and sports curriculum themes
Opportunities for children to imagine and play together in the context of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports curriculum themes

While the development of the pair of Timor-Leste-relevant ECE apps and associated curriculum-aligned, interactive learning activities is a key part of the Pilot project, other important Pilot workstreams are also underway, including:

  • Local equipment: The pair of apps are designed to operate offline and on battery power, making them more accessible to children, teachers and parents. Projection from a single teacher offline tablet device reduces the amount of technology and complexity, however, the Pilot is evaluating different teacher tablet, projection and screen combinations for different preschool classroom settings. The Pilot team is also working through storage, maintenance, support and teacher training arrangements to improve sustainability.
  • Teacher and parent training: The Mary MacKillop Today team is coordinating with World Mosaic and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to provide and evaluate teacher and parent training of the use of the projection and home apps. Teacher and parent training includes training on the use of the apps and wider support on teaching and learning strategies in the classroom and home.
  • Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports engagement: Mary MacKillop Today, with the support of World Mosaic, continues to engage and involve a range of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports stakeholders throughout the Pilot phase and hopefully, beyond. The Pilot team has engaged with the Ministry’s Preschool Team and associated Inclusion and ICT Teams.
  • Local edtech capacity building: As part of the Pilot, World Mosaic has recruited and is providing training to Dili-based Timorese graphic design and software development personnel who are now contributing to app development and will provide local field support. Mary MacKillop Today and World Mosaic are committed to increasing local involvement through the Pilot, and subject to evaluation, into future phases.
  • Project Measurement, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Plan formation: As a first of its kind project, Mary MacKillop Today and World Mosaic are working through MEL Plan formulation for the initiative, looking at local sustainability and outcomes beyond the current Pilot phase.

Local Involvement

Mary MacKillop Today and the Pilot team welcome discussions to increase local involvement in the initiative in the areas of home language, the promotion of local culture and identity, edtech capacity building, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports engagement, teacher development and promotion, playgroup formation and even potential strategic home access options through the Timor-Leste telco sector.


This Pilot is seen as strategic as it seeks to solve several challenges and opportunities facing Timor-Leste ECE:

  • Increasing access to rich, culturally relevant learning resources in Tetun and mother tongue, supporting local identity and child development.
  • Providing a scalable but customisable product for which both Mary MacKillop Today and NCOBFF have the intention to provide long term support.
  • Providing training and opportunity for preschool teachers.
  • Supporting parents as educators in the home, improving local literacy.
  • Providing greater learning interactivity and opportunities for children to play, discover and develop holistically beyond rote learning, with children being more prepared for Basic Education.
  • Building pride and a culture of local learning and celebration, increasing local preschool participation and inclusion.
  • Protecting preschool communities against the introduction of foreign gaming apps that have the potential to undermine local identity, community and celebration.