Parenting within the Preschool System in Malaysia Updates

Factorial multisite randomised trial to optimise the effectiveness and scalability of ParentChat and ParentText within the national government education system. The study will test 2 remotely delivered Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH) programmes (locally known in Malaysia as Naungan Kasih Positive Parenting Programme): Parentchat and ParentText, as well as the PLH in-person programme. This study will train a number of facilitators, and is aimed at parents and caregivers of children between ages four and five.


Post-test data collection was successfully completed in March 2024 for the Naungan Kasih randomised controlled trial pilot study, with a total of 197 parent surveys (97.5%). Focus group discussions were also carried out with four groups of mothers, four groups of fathers, and one group of master trainers at the Community Development Department (KEMAS). In addition, KEMAS pilot delivery, including all pre-and post-assessments, was completed in 8 schools. Preliminary analyses of quantitative results are in progress, with analysis conducted thus far highlighting positive applications of programme delivery. Exploratory observations from the pilot’s findings will inform WhatsApp group support content and also provide insights into the most beneficial means of assessing and tracking child development. In addition, the pilot trial acts as a valuable model for understanding practical aspects of implementation in preparation for delivery of the Naungan Kasih programme in a larger trial, due to take place between mid July and September. With regards to research dissemination, the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) team has submitted five abstracts for the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Early Childhood Development (ARNEC) Conference (27-30 May, Penang).

With regards to scaling developments, Professor Rumaya Juhari (study Co-Principal Investigator) was invited to speak at The Human Safety Net (TSHN) PanAsia Summit on 6 March. Professor Juhari and Melissa Ngiam from Generasi Gemilang joined Emma Ursich, the Head of THSN for a panel discussion on the hybrid parenting programme. Great interest was received from Generali employees to learn more about the model and the promise it holds for scale. In addition, from 24-25 April, Saara Thakur (GPI Accelerate Lead) conducted scaling labs with government and civil society organisation partners at the UPM campus and UNICEF Kuala Lumpur offices respectively. Subsequently, on 26 April team members from UPM, PLH, the GPI Oxford team, UNICEF and the Malaysian Association of Social Workers participated in a half-day workshop to finalise a national scaling roadmap. The strategic roadmap to scale will support critical development of phase two of a THSN funding proposal for scale up of programmes in Malaysia. In addition to the scaling activities that took place in the week commencing 22 April, Dr Peter Burr (GPI Head of Programmes) and Amberley Barrington-Peek (GPI Head of Operations) also met with the UPM team to review operational and programme management support requirements.

The Parenting within the Preschool System team continues to make excellent progress with study implementation. Following the completion of onboarding sessions for preschool teachers in January 2024, post-test data collection is due to take place from 22 February - 15 March. Data collection will consist of parent surveys, direct child assessments, focus group discussions with parents and the Community Development Department (KEMAS) trainers and management, and interviews with programme facilitators. Innovation updates include the renaming of ParentText 2.0 to NKText and the creation of unique triggers for each strand of delivery, including training. Regarding the FaciNK App, monitoring forms have been uploaded to enable civil society organisations (CSOs) to track attendance and participation. In collaboration with PLH, the team is also making progress on the user experience for an NK@Scale social media campaign programme. On 19 February, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) led a research briefing and scaling discussion with HQ of implementation partner, KEMAS. Following this meeting, UPM, the University of Oxford, and PLH will work with senior management at KEMAS to decide districts, research methods, and other constraints for the larger trial. Following the drafting of a digital landscape analysis in collaboration with the GPI Accelerate team, planning is also underway for scaling labs (led by GPI Accelerate Lead, Saara Thakur) which will be conducted in Malaysia with CSO partners, KEMAS, and the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) in late April. 


The Parenting within the Preschool System team have finalised their research design and study implementation is underway. Insights from intensive four-day in-person co-design workshops with government stakeholders in July 2023 have informed a study protocol, which was submitted for publication to the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) in mid-December 2023. In collaboration with project partner, the Community Development Department (KEMAS), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has made good progress with baseline data collection assessments of primary and secondary caregivers and child direct assessments. An implementation plan has been drafted, with onboarding sessions for preschool teachers due to take place in early January 2024 and post-testing in late February 2024.  

Professor Rumaya Juhari (UPM) gave the keynote speech at NetWorks 2023, the global summit of The Human Safety Net Summit (Venice, 22-24 November). In her speech, Professor Juhari shared insights into the successful adaptation of the PLH programme to the Malaysian context. The presentation showcased the adaptability of initiatives and also served as a source of inspiration for the entire community. Facilitated by the GPI Accelerate team, the first draft of a digital landscape analysis is also in progress. Findings of the planned analysis will be used to inform scaling strategies for the project. 

In collaboration with PLH, FaciNK - an App for NK programme facilitators to engage with parents using pre-drafted weekly messages in WhatsApp - has been developed. Recent content adaptations include modification of the structure of WhatsApp group weekly chat sessions to move from topic-specific to general check-ins. This feature is designed to facilitate open discussions among parents, regardless of the ParentText goals they are completing. Common challenges parents face during home activities are included in addition to pre-scripted messages which enable facilitators to share solutions during check-ins.

Members of the Parenting within the Preschool System research team met with the University of Oxford research team to review and agree outcome measurement and data collection procedures for a randomised controlled trial pilot study. In early July, an intensive four-day in-person co-design workshop was held with key partners and stakeholders including government representatives from the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) and the Community Development Department (KEMAS) and civil society representatives from the Malaysian Association of Social Workers and other NGOs. The insights from the workshop will inform the overall study protocol and have led to several proposed adaptations of ParentText 2.0 for the Malaysia context, such as the addition of emojis and changes to the tone and readability of content to increase accessibility for users. Further planned activities include recording well known Malaysian male and female personalities to create local AI avatars for the ParentText chatbot. In collaboration with Parenting for Lifelong Health, development work on ParentText 2.0 has also progressed. Local teams will review content, including goals and modules to provide feedback in mid August. 

From July - October, GPI Future Leader team members are engaging in a Prevention Science course led by Professor Cathy Ward at the University of Cape Town. Recent advocacy/stakeholder engagement activities have included virtual co-design workshops and meetings with KEMAS and LPPKN to discuss hybrid delivery and content for Naungan Kasih @ Scale modules and options to increase the scalability of parenting interventions in Malaysian government, private and community sectors. An exploratory meeting with the Ministry of Health took place on 17 July to discuss collaboration opportunities for the benefit of families through the government healthcare system and learning goals and modules for Naungan Kasih were also shared for feedback. In early August, the Parenting within the Preschool System team will meet with the Parenting in the Social Welfare System team to discuss future collaborative activities. Finally, recruitment for a post-doctoral position within the team is ongoing. 

The team released the Naungan Kasih Feasibility Study Policy Brief on 09/06/2023.
"Mixed Methods Feasibility Study Naungan Kasih Parenting Program to Prevent Violence against Children in Malaysia" is available for viewing here.