This piece belongs to a 5-part series, written in celebration of FrogAsia’s 10th anniversary. We reflect on all that the company has achieved and all that we are still learning, through the lens of our five values. This one is centred around our third value: Act with Integrity, and understanding how character really develops.
One of the primary goals of formal education is to equip students with the skills needed to thrive in work and life. So what skills exactly do students need?
In our current era of rapid technological innovation and global connectivity, there has been much discussion about the 4 ‘C’s of 21st century learning: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication. These are skills that have been touted to increase a person’s depth of understanding and ability to adapt to complex environments.
Nevertheless, building knowledge and skills is not the entire story. As a technology company, we are very aware of how every advancement is often a double-edged sword, needing a person with the right kind of character to wield it.
As students gain knowledge and skills, they also need the wisdom to use them in a safe, responsible, and ethical way.
More importantly, we want them to become people who are able to influence society for good.
This is why, in our 2016 1BestariNet Teacher Awards (also known as the Frog Teacher Awards), we added a fifth ‘C’ – Character – to our awards categories. As outlined by the Jubilee Centre Framework for Character Education in Schools, character education is a multifaceted endeavour where individuals are shaped on different levels. Over the years, we have seen educators in our community lead the way in character education through teaching good character, allowing students to ‘catch’ it from their examples, and creating environments for students to seek active growth.
The first step in character education is this: building values must have a place in the day-to-day teaching and learning in the classroom. For Cikgu Lee Bee Chuan, one of our Frog Teacher Award (FTA) winners for 2022, doing this is by incorporating the values she wants to instil into her learning objectives for each class. She somehow found a way to do this for the seemingly unrelated subject of Mathematics!
For Cikgu Eswaran Balakrishnan, an FTA winner in 2020, character education involves making students aware of the habits they need to put into place in order to learn well. He encouraged the use of self-learning platforms like Launchpad (previously known as FrogPlay Mobile) so that students could take ownership over their own learning journeys. Stressing that ‘practice makes perfect’, he instils into his students the notion that mastery over a skill can only be achieved through putting in the time, dedication, and effort.
Through Cikgu Kamisah binti Mohd Khamis, a 2017 FTA winner, we see that students need to learn not just to complete their assignments, but to do it in the right way. She did this through launching the Digital Folio (eFolio) initiative. This was a project where students could do research and create their own digital content.
In the process, she took care to educate her students about maintaining academic integrity. Students had to make sure to credit the original sources when using the vast amounts of information available to them.
These teachers care about the person their students are becoming as they learn. Through each of their efforts to 'teach’ character, they are giving their students the keys to being self-aware of their own growth and development.
If our goal with character education is to see students become the kind of people who use their skills in active consideration of others, we need to first show them what it looks like in practice.
Take Cikgu Mohd Nasrul Safwan bin Zaukafali and Cikgu Kamariah binti Awang, as examples. They have been committed to serving the less privileged in rural schools for years. Our FTA 2018 winner, Cikgu Nasrul transferred from a city school in Petaling Jaya to the rural town in Tumpat, Kelantan. He sought to make a difference to the school’s education system through technology. He actively encouraged his fellow teachers to incorporate technology into the classroom. He shared his knowledge about Frog platforms and organised workshops to help train other teachers.
On the other hand, we have Cikgu Kamariah, an FTA winner in 2019, who was determined to counter every common disadvantage to rural school students with some creative workaround. A problem often faced by students in rural areas, is the lack of opportunity to encounter the world beyond their small town. To counter this, Cikgu Kamariah used Frog Connected Classrooms to arrange virtual meetings between her students in Terengganu and students in India, Brunei, Romania, Russia, and so on. Also recognising that her students lacked exposure to varied life experiences, she integrated augmented and virtual reality into her lessons. As a result of all this, her students have become more motivated to do better in their learning.
These teachers have modelled what it would look like to use the skills they have learnt for the community’s benefit. We celebrate their examples and the impact they have had on the lives of their students.
Ultimately, a person has the choice to mould their own character through their own experiences. This is a principle our 2017 and 2019 FTA winner Cikgu Mohamad Jalil bin Mohamad Yunus (also known as Cikgu Jay), understood. He set up a team of student leaders who were trained to use Frog platforms and tools, calling them the ‘Frog Squad’. Cikgu Jay gave them opportunities to mentor other students. They even facilitated training sessions for teachers, parents and officers.
A similar initiative was organised by Cikgu Yu Kok Hui, our FTA winner in both 2018 and 2021. He trained a team of student Frog Advocates (his ‘Frog Champions’). They were given the role of ‘computer lab administrators’ and would assist other students in using Frog while learning. These teachers recognise that students are not mere passive recipients waiting for input. In fact, they are active agents capable of influencing their community for good.
Placed in leadership positions, students will recognise that their actions and decisions have consequences on those around them.
This helps them develop self-awareness and a capacity to improve on themselves. Moreover, they learn that their age is no barrier to the impact they can have on their community.
What individual teachers can do is already powerful, and so imagine what an entire community is capable of! It is at the community level that students have the opportunity to be exposed to more than their usual interests and social circles. When cultivated well, they develop empathy and an openness to the differences of others.
This is what we hoped to encourage through the YTL Foundation Schools Awards. For our 2019 theme of fostering national unity and integration, we gave out five RM 20,000 grants to the most compelling and sustainable proposals by schools. One particularly notable one was SK Teriang in Johor. They were keen on building good relationships between the schools with primarily Orang Asli children and the Chinese vernacular primary schools. The school creatively collaborated with other schools to learn each other’s cultural language (“Saya Mahu Belajar Bahasa Kamu”) and calligraphy styles (“Mari Tulis Khat & Kaligrafi Cina”). These helped to foster a greater sense of familiarity and understanding between different cultures.
The adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ rings true even in modern discussions about character education. We want to acknowledge all the effort that has gone into creating an environment where students can apply the knowledge acquired as wisdom and service to others.
From our very first winners of the Frog Teacher Awards in 2014 to now, teachers like them are showing us what it means to be people of character and integrity. They care about those around them and invest in their long-term good. They choose to instil wisdom in their students. More importantly, they are willing to forgo the well-travelled road if it means doing what is right and good for others. We are proud to have them as a part of our community.
As we look ahead, we look forward to continuing our journeying alongside more like them – people of incredible heart and vision, capable of unlocking the greatest potential in our next generation.