CHAMPIONING A NEW WAY OF LEARNING MALAY
Rilla Melati Bahri
MINI MONSTER LIMITED
"There is a saying in Malay, “Hati-hati bila berlari menentang arus” — be careful when you go running against the tide – you can come out a survivor or drown."
MIni Monsters started off in 2008 as the education outreach arm of TV production house, Dua M Pte Ltd. Given this background, the company’s strength lies in its ability to amalgamate entertainment and education in creating content for children; giving a new lease of life to the way Malay is taught in Singapore. All its language courses are customized and based on locally authored Malay storybooks with original Singapore content, which the company is able to create with the support of government agencies such as National Arts Council and the National Heritage Board.
Unlike conventionally taught methods, Mini Monsters offers children an entire ecosystem in learning Malay across multiple media platforms. Children see the language and stories come alive not only in the classrooms but also on TV, radio, online, on stage and everywhere. Its motto “Berhibur dan Belajar” (Entertain and Educate) sums up the company’s philosophy in its approach of developing educational materials, courses and syllabus that are relevant and attractive to today’s generation of Singapore children who are struggling to converse in their mother tongue.
Devoting herself entirely to education, 45-year-old Rilla Melati Bahri feels strongly about creating an ecosystem where children could learn Malay through creative tools and media.
In her early life, Rilla was exposed to the world of television having grown up on set with Radio Television Singapore’s children’s television workshop helmed by the Malay production department in the 70s. The set became her classroom where she learned how to read, write and act for an audience, even before she went to kindergarten! This shaped the way she viewed education — education has to be interactive and fun for children for learning to be effective and impactful. Eventually as an adult, her career took her down the path of education, where she first became a Student Development Officer at a polytechnic and later on, an Education Executive with a museum. Taking the route of an entrepreneur a few years later, she partnered Asia’s entertainment icon and long-time friend Najip Ali and co-founded Mini Monsters. Ten years on today, she continues to helm the company as the Director of Mini Monsters Limited.
Tell us more about Mini Monsters and what it offers.
Mini Monsters offers Malay enrichment courses and classes to primary and secondary schools in Singapore, kindergartens and childcare centres as well as to the general public. In addition, we are also a publisher of bilingual children books and content creators for television programmes and educational resources.
What made you choose this field of work?
I wanted to change the face of how Malay is taught and perceived. People always see Malay as a language with lesser importance. Many children do not speak the language at home and some who do, do not really understand the nuances and its beauty. Being a parent myself, I wanted to change the society’s over-dependency in buying Malay educational resources from across the Causeway, which is not always relevant to what our children need.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My dad consistently tells me, “hati-hati bila berlari menentang arus” — be careful when you go running against the tide. You can either work against all odds and come out a survivor or drown in the process.