When teachers learn more, their students do too

Here’s what we learned running an education technology pilot program with the Government of Timor-Leste.

Catalpa International
Jan 20 · 3 min read

Matenek means “smart” or ”wise” in Tetun, a native language of Timor-Leste in South-East Asia.

It’s also a mobile-first platform to support teachers’ skills development, motivation, and classroom preparation, a project we undertook with the Timorese Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports. The app incorporates lesson plans, professional development videos, flashcards, and notifications to prompt preparation and monitoring. And it’s all in line with the Ministry’s curriculum.

The goal is to build teachers’ confidence, so they can better teach the next generation.

At Catalpa, we practice collaborative, human-centred design. Before we developed anything, we made sure teachers were included in the design process. That included:

  • interviews
  • observations
  • storyboards on teachers’ potential app use
  • card sorts to understand their schedules
  • photo journals to see how they spent time outside school

…and we prototyped, refined, interviewed, refined, tested, and refined again. We filmed videos to create professional development content, and we worked with the Ministry to digitise the entire Grade 1 curriculum. We learned a great deal from teachers — from the things that are important to them when teaching, to the best way to word a notification in the app.

Over six months, we ran a pilot program.

It’s easy for me to take it home and prepare what material I’m going to teach for the next day. — Esmenia, a teacher in Lauhata, Liquica

Now, the results are out. Here’s what we learned…

📱 Teachers have been using the Matenek app for 45 minutes each day to prepare for class. That’s more than people use Facebook in an average session.

👩🏾‍🏫‍‍ Teachers who were part of the Matenek program taught more effectively than teachers who weren’t.

📚 Teachers who were part of the Matenek program taught their lessons more on pace and more consistently with the curriculum.

and, finally,

🏫 Teachers who were part of the Matenek program teachers implemented more effective classroom practices and strategies.

We couldn’t be more impressed with what Timor-Leste’s teachers have achieved as they’ve worked tirelessly to make education better for their students.

Curious to learn more about the results of the pilot program? We’ve got you covered 👇🏽

You can also read the full report on our website.

Thanks to our partner, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s innovationXchange, for helping create change.

“Anything I don’t understand I can find in the videos or from the flashcards that help me teach.” — Idalina, a teacher whose favourite flashcard set involves her students writing messages of friendship.

What other teachers had to say


Rosa is a principal in Hera, Timor-Leste. Here, she explains how the Matenek program can benefit her school.


Watch Joãozinho talk about education technology and what it means for Timor-Leste’s future.


In this video, João talks about the benefits of using technology to link the classroom with the Ministry curriculum.


Want to learn more about other projects like Matenek? Visit our website at www.catalpa.io, and be sure to follow us on social media. We post nice pieces of positive news and snippets from the projects we work on with great people :)

If you have any thoughts on this article, we’re keen to read your comments! 👇🏽

Catalpa International

Written by

Creating a more equitable world through tech + design | www.catalpa.io

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