In a country facing significant youth unemployment, Prestasi Junior Indonesia (PJI) created a WhatsApp-based chatbot as a way of significantly scaling its paper-based Cha-Ching Curriculum financial literacy programme during the pandemic - and now into the future.
A key aspect of PJI’s decision to use WhatsApp chat to reach its end users is that Indonesia has a smartphone penetration of 72%.
Prestasi Junior Indonesia (PJI; Yayasan Prestasi Junior Gemilang Indonesia) is part of one of the world’s largest youth-serving NGOs, Junior Achievement Worldwide, that focuses on preparing young people for employment and entrepreneurship.
Indonesian youth face many complex challenges. Youth unemployment is one of these. The quality and relevance of formal and informal education plays a significant role in determining the ability of young people to secure good work and achieve a sustainable well-being. In addition, many people lack adequate financial literacy skills and are unable to make wise decisions when spending money.
PJI strives to help young people by fostering self-belief and a sense of purpose necessary to improve their circumstances. Through the delivery of cutting-edge experiential learning focusing on financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship, we create pathways for employability and job creation. PJI does this by mobilising volunteer role models and proven programmes to inspire and prepare young people to succeed through a greater comprehension of how money, careers, and business ownership works.
PJI’s programmes are built by educational designers who understand the element that’s often missing from traditional schoolwork: hands on, interactive, try it out lessons that encourage big ideas and new ways of thinking. Its experiential curriculum is built around three pillars: entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy.
“The relationships that we have established with the local education authorities in establishing Cha-Ching in schools remain very important in the chatbot rollout,” says Robert Gardiner, Academic Advisor and Operations Counsel (acting Executive Director). “The local education authorities provide access into the schools and, in just about every case, they have provided the green light for us to continue with our financial literacy programme through WhatsApp.”
The Turn.io platform has enabled PJI to load learning materials including teacher guides, student worksheets and other supporting education resources onto the WhatsApp platform. This provides students and parents with easy access to materials via their mobile phone by simply typing in a keyword. Animation presented as video for each lesson is accessed and this assists student understanding of content without teachers necessarily being on hand to guide learning. This is important as the young students, engaged remotely, require a very structured delivery of content to make the most out of their learning experience.
The Turn.io platform, incorporating the use of threads, further allows for user tracking so that PJI can sort beneficiary engagement and responses (for example, pre and post testing) for reporting purposes. This tool is extremely useful as it enables access to data for programme evaluation and reporting purposes during a period when the efficacy of this has been compromised due to the pandemic. The platform also provides flexibility for students to learn outside of school hours, revise and repeat learning, become involved through interactive engagement, and complete activities at their own pace. It additionally provides a vehicle for students, using smartphones, to learn and complete/submit assessment requirements.
“One of the things that I have learned from the journey of creating the chatbot for the Cha Ching Curriculum financial literacy programme is the importance of always having our end users in mind,” says Utami. “This means that we consistently need to be asking if they have a smooth experience that feels good. It is also why iterations are so important in ensuring the best chatbot for the teachers and students who use it.”
PJI’s strategy for the chatbot is also informed by the diverse geography of Indonesia and the broad background of the teachers.
Says Robert: “As we expand our teaching training into more remote areas of the country we ensure that we contract support staff on the ground. They are there to troubleshoot and support teachers and perhaps answer questions that might come from the local educational authorities. If the issue can’t be resolved at that level, they can always go to Utami for a response. She really is leading this project in a wonderful way.”
“Teachers are key to the chatbot because they are the ones who teach the curriculum to the students and also introduce the chatbot to the students - or their parents in the case of young children who might not yet have a smartphone of their own,” adds Utami. “Some of our teachers are young and are very keen to work digitally but others need a human to guide them to register on the chatbot and help them understand how it works, step-by-step.”
“We have new initiatives coming on line all the time, many of which present opportunities to mobilise the WhatsApp chatbot and our experience of using it for scaling the Cha-Ching programme.” Robert Gardiner, Academic Advisor and Operations Counsel (acting Executive Director)
The Cha-Ching Curriculum is now targeted to reach one million students by 2025. One of the most important aspects of the service is the removal of limitations imposed by distance and location, with students from the remote easternmost region of Indonesia, Papua, already benefiting from this innovation. “We had great difficulty connecting with teachers and students in remote areas before we became aware of Turn.io and the possibilities of a WhatsApp chatbot,” explains Robert.
PJI is also keen to use new Turn.io features to enhance Cha-Ching’s impact. Reminders to students about earning, saving, spending and donating will be a meaningful addition to what is currently offered as will reminders to teachers about finishing teaching sessions to students.
Although JA has an IT department that puts content on the platform, using Turn.io is primarily in the hands of Utami and her team. “We learn by doing,” she says, adding that the Turn.io team is always nearby when difficulties are encountered and to provide training. Utami reports that the success of the financial literacy chatbot has encouraged other members of the PJI team to start thinking about how they can use it for their programmes.
What would Utami advise others wanting to build a chatbot? “Start with something simple and test, test, test. Iterations mean that you can always add new, more sophisticated features along the way - and never forget that the most important group in the whole chatbot journey is your end users and their experience of what you have built. For us it is our students.”
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