Today, Mexico ranks last in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for educational attainment. Recent policy improvements in the country now require mandatory full-time education for all children aged 4-15. However, Mexicans still spend the least amount of years in school relative to other OECD countries. The quality of that time is another story.

According to David García Girón, co-founder and engineer of Learny Games, students in Mexico simply aren’t interested in study. “We believe that traditional methods are too archaic for the new generations,” he says.

For previous generations, education centered on the concept of repetition — of doing the same thing over and over, and doing it right. “The world works very different now,” explains Garcia Girón. “But here in Mexico, education is very similar to what it was back then. Now, kids need to create connections and process information in their own ways. That’s what will help them in the future.”

Student playing an English learning game. Photo from Learny Games.

García Girón met Roberto Rogel when they started university. They discovered their mutual love of video games and decided to start making them together. Just before graduation, they submitted their project to a national business competition and ranked as top 10 finalists. Their prize included all of the financial and legal support needed to set up a business.

Mexico ranks last in the OECD for educational attainment. Tweet This Quote

But after spending time creating traditional video games, they realized they needed a change for the business to survive. Described as an “ah-ha moment,” García Girón and Rogel decided to create their first educational video aligned with the Secretariat of Public Education’s curriculum.

Soon after, Learny Games took off. Through this work, García Girón and Rogel want to develop the principal tool for basic education in Mexico – and beyond – by improving education through the support of new technologies.

“Passion led us down this track, where we could use to create a business and help other people,” says García Girón. “We are trying to improve education through a fun, video game-based platform.”

Interacting with Learny Games on a tablet. Photo from Learny Games.

The first iteration, called Learny Platform, covered four main subjects defined by the education secretary: basic mathematics, Spanish, geography, and history.

In 2015, the team ran its first pilot project in a village in Puebla – the kind of environment where children from first to sixth grade all share the same classroom, and digital connectivity is nonexistent. With 70 students across three schools, the video games improved the students’ math scores by 30 percent.

We believe that traditional methods [of education] are too archaic for the new generations. Tweet This Quote

“During the pilot program, seeing the faces of the kids and how happy they were when we brought the games was a moment that confirmed we were doing the right thing,” says García Girón.

After seeing and feeling that initial success, the team moved forward with developing new content by building a game specifically for people who suffer from cerebral palsy. Then, they created a game that explores the themes of art, biology of the human body, and finance – mostly for teenagers.

According to García Girón, the mechanics differ depending on the game – some are simulations, some are drag and drop, and others have story elements. For example, in the finance game, users build and manage a city. They start by borrowing money from a bank to invest in new buildings. Then, at the end of the year, users have to create a financial strategy for the following year. The cool thing, says García Girón, is that users receive promo codes to redeem in real life as they progress through the game.

A snapshot of Learny’s finance game.

Today, you can find and download all four games at both the Apple Store and Google Play at no cost.

Learny Games’s business model focuses on securing NGOs as clients to reach exponentially more users. For example, the team secured a partnership with national organization UNETE, which specifically focuses on improving educational equity and quality in Mexico by introducing technology. Learny is installed on all of the tablets and computers they use in their programs. García Girón contends that UNETE’s network alone impacts 2.3 million primary school students in Mexico.

Through technology, students can motivate themselves to learn through gamification – and have fun doing it. Tweet This Quote

So far, Learny believes they have reached nearly 5,000 students in over 30 schools. The team also made an agreement with World Vision to install the platform in some communities in Chiapas, growing their user base even more.

“We have always imagined that these technologies will help students study on their own and not depend on teachers,” says García Girón. “Through this technology, students can motivate themselves to learn through gamification – and have fun doing it.”

About the author

Brittany Lane

Brittany Lane

Brittany is the global editor of Unreasonable.is, which exists to drive resources and value to entrepreneurs around the world solving big f*$ckin' problems. She believes lasting change happens at the intersection of entrepreneurship and empathy and that good storytelling can move mountains.

  • Henry Newman

    I think this is a great idea for Mexico. With the country becoming more and more developed, education for children needs to become as common as it is in the United States for its success. And with Mexicans spending the least amount of time in school, creating video games as education would be an excellent twist to the standard model of education. From my past experience with school, I have found it hard to pay attention and learn from teachers lecturing. A lot of students from elementary school to high school choose to not pay attention and slack off. Even for me, when I strive to get the best grades in class, I have had a hard time paying attention. But with new model, I think it will be a lot easier for student to pay attention and have success in their grades. This is because video games are fun for every child. Like me, I always loved to play video games for entertainment when I was little. And if I had video games for learning, I would definitely love to come to school and learn more.

    Since Mexico is falling behind in education, this idea of video games would definitely help Mexico develop as a nation quickly. Students will learn fast while having fun. With a smarter young generation of students, it will develop Mexico even further. If this could be implemented in school across Mexico, other nations may even start to look at Mexico’s education system for inspiration.

  • Kelly Willman

    I think this is so interesting! i feel like this could work, for video games can be educational. If they are realistic and are games involving counting, typing, reading, math, spelling, and more, (they need to be fun as well) then it could help out those kids. When I was in elementary school I had disks I would put into a computer that had learning games on them. There were different ages for each game, for example the youngest children would have easier levels like colors, abc’s and counting, and older kids would have addition/subtraction, spelling, and reading. If made fun, kids will want to play the games.

  • Jared Moya

    Okay, I know I’m not the first to say this but: this is awesome! As someone who has believed in the ability of video games to teach for a long time now, it is absolutely wonderful to see someone actually embracing this reality. The new generation is a technological one. No longer are text books or paper homework in order. Our credit cards are even on our phones anymore. To take a quick step back, I would like to share some of my personal experiences regarding this type of technology.

    I have been playing video games since I was a young boy. It all started with my mother’s old Nintendo Gameboy. I would play Tetris for hours on that silly device, and once in a while I was allowed to use the Sega to play Mortal Kombat or James Bond. Eventually, this hobby carried over into middle school and eventually high school. During this time period, however, a sort of evolution happened. Video games went from being silly occupations to learning tools, both social and intellectual in nature. I remember vividly the Spongebob typing game. I was never taught to type in school, so I had to learn some other way. A video game did that for me. Even maths like geometry and algebra for me were learned through educational games. My social skills, too, improved through video games, more so in high school, as video games acted as a medium for me to communicate with my friends in our off time.

    Video games have had such a huge impact on my life, I can not even begin to imagine what type of an impact they will have on the newest generations’. I see my little sister on a daily basis accessing some computer or another to retrieve her homework online. It is time that we as a society embraced the idea that the age of convention is at its end. A new breakthrough is coming. History proves that, traditionally, as technology improves, so must we adapt to it. Technology is currently a virtual-based medium. To properly assist the younger generations in their learning, the best thing to do is to adapt to this change. If they are interested and learn via this technological medium, let us then enhance their experience. Let’s begin a new form of learning: one where we give the students what THEY want, instead of what has worked in the past.

    After all, how can we expect to move forward if all we do is continue to look back?

  • Ishan Gandhii

    Before reading this I did not realize how behind Mexico was from the rest of the world in education. I never thought it was this behind. It was a huge shock to me for them to have fallen that behind.

    As for the idea that they had of using games as education it is not a new one. It has been around for a long time. Companies used to do it with broad games then they tried doing it with TV shows and movies as a way to teach. It even learned how to type, with using typing games. With saying that it dose look like this will help Mexico a lot. Really for a country to rise it needs to have educated people. Every country that has risen, gained power, and kept it is, because there people where educated well.

    Reading this just shows me that an idea’s from country to country need to be shared more. This should have been implemented awhile ago, this should not be something new for a country. I do have to say though that the game they made be a huge improvement to the games that are out there.