- The Cikgu Life is a game that provides a genuine glimpse into a typical Malaysian classroom, highlighting issues or challenges that the teacher may face in the classroom.
- The team behind the game is made up of 4 teachers who met in Sarawak during the Teach For Malaysia programme.
The old adage goes, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”
The Cikgu Life board game was built on a somewhat similar concept.
“The Cikgu Life was an idea that came together while we were having a board game night. With all of us being teachers, we thought it would be a fun idea to create a game that journals our lives, but after we created our first prototype in 2017, we realised that this could be a great way to share our experiences as teachers in the education system,” said one of the co-founders, James Choong.
The Cikgu Life team is made up of James Choong, Sophia Ngiaw, Liew Kah Hoong and Raee Yeoh.
“We were all posted in Sarawak as Teach For Malaysia fellows, and it was through this programme that we met each other, and I believe our shared experiences of teaching in high-needs schools inspired us to share our stories through the game,” added James.
Since they were teachers with no background in making board games, they took about 1.5 years to reach the finished product since their first prototype.
“I believe the board game making industry is still in its infancy stage in Malaysia, so a lot of us are just figuring things out as we go. It was a lot of experimenting, as well as connecting with other tabletop game designers in KL,” said James.
A Chance To Become A Cikgu
The Cikgu Life is a game that provides a glimpse into a typical Malaysian classroom, highlighting issues or challenges that the teacher may face in the classroom, including online systems, students fighting and the like. Each player takes on the role of a teacher in a different school, and they fight to improve student outcomes while making sure they finish all their paperwork.
Along the way, there will be events players will have to power through in order to ensure their students reach top grades and their entire paperwork pile is cleared.
Coming up with the game was no easy feat. “Making sure it isn’t overly biased towards certain schools or card functions, while still maintaining the realism of the challenges and stories that the everyday teacher faces in the classroom,” he added.
“For example, the make-up of an average international school is different from a rural school, so how do we capture that into the gameplay, yet not have certain schools ‘overpowering’? We had to do a lot of play tests, and we’re really grateful to the Tabletop Game Designers of Malaysia for providing us with an avenue to test out our game and gather feedback from the public,” said James.
Learning Outside The Classroom
So far reception to the game has been great, even YB Dr. Ong Kian Ming has bought one of their sets.
“We noticed it creates a space for people to reminisce and share about their schooling experiences and their opinions on the education system,” he said. The team have so far sold over a hundred sets through their only online store on Shopee, however they are also looking for potential partnerships with physical stores.
With so much debate going on about how the Malaysian education system should run, James hopes to highlight the challenges that teachers go through with the game.
“We believe education is something that everyone cares about, and everyone has very strong opinions about how the system should run.”
“We hope that The Cikgu Life will continue to create meaningful conversations, and let people know that the life of a teacher isn’t just about school holidays and half-day work, it’s also about sleepless nights and unexpected setbacks—students get expelled, haze and floods may happen and new education policies happen all the time,” he added.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and as long as we’re willing to try, we can make a difference.”
- If you would like to find out more about The Cikgu Life click here and if you would like to purchase a set click here.
- The Cikgu Life team are running a promo on Shopee until the 30th of September. Use the code THECTFM for a RM5 discount. 20% of the proceeds will be donated to Teach For Malaysia to help them on their mission to end education inequity.