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 fourth value: Reach for Perfection, and how we’ve done that incrementally over the years.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - Chinese proverb.
When we think about the Colosseum of Rome, we naturally feel a sense of awe and wonder. This, and other similar ancient structures are considered by many as models of perfect architecture. What is even more inspiring, is thinking about the people, plans, and steps it took to build these architectural marvels.
As the old adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It was built across hundreds of years. A painstaking effort which saw the contributions of thousands, laying brick-on-brick to build a solid foundation for the wonders we see today.
It’s a reminder that great work takes time and cultivating a habit of doing things with excellence.
Similarly, here at FrogAsia, we began with a vision to provide equal access to quality learning for all. A big, hairy, audacious goal that we have been working earnestly towards over the last ten years. Looking back, our journey has been a truly multifaceted one. The challenge to provide quality education in Malaysia has required us to make incremental progress in different ways, in order to move the needle towards our goal.
One of the key target areas of the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): Quality Education is access to higher education. The role of higher education in unlocking the potential of human capital and national development is one that has been widely studied and vehemently agreed on.
In Malaysia, the gross enrolment ratio for tertiary education in 2020 is only around 42.57 percent (Unesco Institute of Statistics, 2020).
With more than half of our post-secondary students not enrolled in tertiary education, there is still much to be done if we want to achieve universal access to higher education in the country. But how can we encourage more students in the country to participate in higher education? More importantly, how can we help them aim not just to participate but to gain a quality tertiary education while they’re at it?
Those were the questions we wanted to answer when we launched Leaps of Knowledge Oxford. In partnership with St. Anne’s College, one of the 44 colleges that make up the prestigious University of Oxford, we launched a full day conference and a Summer School where students in Malaysia could get a glimpse of what it would be like to study in one of the world’s top universities.
The Summer School saw 175 Malaysian students undergo an intensive programme, during which each student had the opportunity to learn four Oxford University subjects of their choice. This gave them an understanding of the course content and helped them make that important decision of which course to apply for at university.
Professors taught the students how to extract DNA from kiwi fruit in the biochemistry class, showed aspiring engineers how a jet engine turbine works, and taught biology with a tank full of live marine animals. A truly unique learning experience which culminated with a full day conference at the end of the week.
The final day conference gathered over 500 attendees, including students, teachers and parents from across the country, to hear professors at the University of Oxford speak about their academic subjects and the admissions process for higher learning in the United Kingdom. By demystifying the challenges to higher education, we shared how world class education is within reach for anyone.
Our message was simple: anyone can further their studies and change their lives in the process, so long as they have the desire to succeed and the will to learn!
While it is important to raise the aspirations of students, it is just as important to provide them with the right environment that can nurture 21st century learning. Afterall, how can we tell students to aim for the best if we don’t provide them with a conducive environment to do so on a daily basis?
Dilapidated schools and classrooms are a persistent educational challenge in Malaysia. In 2021 alone, the Education Ministry reported around 1,311 dilapidated schools. Poor school infrastructure alongside a lack of Internet connectivity pose a significant hindrance to quality learning in schools. Teachers and students don’t have the infrastructure they need to support 21st century learning. It is a reality that we have been actively trying to change since our very first classroom makeover initiative with the YTL Foundation at SMK Puchong Batu in 2014.
What began as a collaborative effort to transform one classroom from a state of disrepair, has since grown into a nationwide initiative now known as the Frog Classroom Programme.
Unlike traditional classrooms, Frog Classrooms are equipped with 4G Internet, computers that provide access to the Frog Virtual Learning Environment (Frog VLE) online learning platform, as well as special curved tables designed to create more opportunities for peer-led learning and interaction.
Hallmark features have also been found to have a positive impact on teacher pedagogy and student learning behaviour, as reported in a commissioned study by the YTL Foundation. Findings from that study showed that:
Now imagine if every teacher and student in the country had access to a Frog Classroom! We would be able to equip every child with the knowledge, information and skills that would empower them to be creative communicators, collaborators, and changemakers in their own communities and across the globe.
We have established more than 164 Frog classrooms and counting, granting access to 21st century learning spaces for over 120,000 students and 950 teachers across the country. Yet, other pieces of the puzzle remained: How can we sustain student motivation and engagement to learn beyond the classroom?
As we have learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, massive disruptions to schooling can happen overnight. In Malaysia, school closures lasted for more than 40 weeks and saw around 40% of students struggling to participate with online learning due to a lack of digital devices or Internet connection. Though schools have since reopened, a United Nations survey done amongst 500 low-income households in KL found that 61% of children have lost interest in studying after the lockdowns.
To address these issues, we developed a learning app that would give students access to quality learning content from wherever they are and whenever they want to learn.
Launchpad (formerly known as ‘FrogPlay Mobile’) was developed to provide students with access to a comprehensive library of lessons and quizzes mapped to the Malaysian curriculum. With personalised recommendations of areas to focus on and rewards for daily effort made towards learning, the app also helps students to develop a consistent habit of building mastery.
Recognising the need to bring the app to the communities that needed it most, we also worked with Teach for Malaysia to teach students and parents living in people housing projects (PPR) how they could utilise Launchpad for learning. A study done on the impact of the project found that the use of the app:
Encouraging results which show how despite the massive learning losses to overcome, the app is a step in the right direction to help drive the momentum towards educational recovery in the country.
Like different pieces that make a puzzle, the initiatives we have shared here are just some examples of various efforts we have made in the pursuit of providing quality education for all. Yet, the picture is still in progress. To us, piecing the right pieces together is having people come together to play their part on this journey. On that note, it’s been a privilege to partner with different organisations for every initiative we have done and more recently, the development of The HEART Course.
The Colosseum in Rome took between 60,000 to 100,000 builders to construct across a time period of nearly a decade. As we’ve seen, amazing things can happen when people work towards a greater purpose together, in small and big ways. Whether that is diligently laying one brick at a time or harnessing the latest technological devices to build megastructures.
The key is to keep going by acknowledging what is, and seeing it for what it can be. We believe the future holds great possibilities for those who are resilient in pursuing its promise.