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 first value: Here to Make a Difference and what that really means to us.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” - Nelson Mandela
It all started with an opportunity. We had a leading e-learning platform, access to 4G Internet, and the ability to reach all 10,000 schools in Malaysia. This meant we could give every child in Malaysia access to world-class education regardless of their background. It meant that these children could be the gamechanger for their families, communities, and eventually their nation. The opportunity to make such a huge impact was exciting for us as it aligned with our HEART, where “H” stands for being “Here to make a difference”.
So our journey began with the 1BestariNet project in 2012, making us the first in the world to connect over 10 million parents, teachers, and students on a single cloud-based learning platform - The Frog VLE. In addition to that, we decided to go above and beyond our contract with the Ministry of Education, by providing learning content and devices so that schools can teach with technology. Our content came in the form of an e-learning curriculum, teaching resources, and what would soon become the inspiring bi-annual education conference: Leaps of Knowledge. Our pioneering team of Frog staff would drive across states to some of the most rural schools to support teachers as they learned to teach with technology and the Internet for the first time.
One might wonder, why did we start so big? Why didn’t we just focus on a less risky project and call it a day? The task ahead seemed impossible, but it always starts with the right mindset.
Even as we rolled out the project, we knew that the technology was just a tool. It empowers people to have access to world-class education, but to what end? This is what we're constantly thinking about.
For us, making a difference means empowering and inspiring others to do the same. We fully believe that when people have the right support to envision a better tomorrow, it can happen.
One person who truly inspired us to continue taking this leap was Nick Vujicic, our key speaker at the first Leaps of Knowledge in August 2013. He showed us that if one person with the right mindset can make a difference, so could we if we wanted to.
Leaps of Knowledge was created to engage and empower leaders who would build a better tomorrow with us. As part of the series, we organised yearly conferences and events that brought together thought leaders such as 2013 TED Prize winner - Sugata Mitra, two-time world record athlete - Julia Immonen, the internationally-renowned artist Red Hong Yi, the founder of Design For Change - Kiran Bir Sethi, and many more. This platform exposes educators to ground-breaking ideas around the globe, inspiring them to contextualise these ideas so they can make a difference in their local schools. It was our way of investing into the future of educators in Malaysia.
While we worked with teachers and students across schools in the country to roll our technology, we also made it a point to give people a platform to take social action such as organising The XtraMile Project in 2013, Girl Rising in 2013, and the #ForFreedom project with Julia Immonen in 2014.
In taking social action ourselves, a key focus of ours was committing to being an official delivery partner of the Global Goals in Malaysia in 2015.
In 2015, when world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals, we had the opportunity to use our platform to raise awareness of these goals as they were being rolled out globally by being an official delivery partner of the Global Goals in Malaysia. Students across Malaysia were able to participate in the World’s Largest Lesson - a series of lessons teaching students about the importance of making our planet clean, healthy, and sustainable. It was broadcasted live to classrooms all across Malaysia, India, and Australia through our Frog Connected Classrooms and made accessible to 5 million students in Malaysia through the Frog VLE. Some of these lessons were taught by the then Director General of the Ministry of Education, Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof.
Committed to playing our part, we also ran Leaps of Knowledge: Your World ReimaginED in 2016 which was organised as a student conference to equip young people through conversations about world issues so they can reimagine and create social change in their own ways.
We strongly believe that education should prepare students to engage and thrive in today’s globally connected and ever-changing world and that teaching for global competency is a really important part of that.
In 2021, we were privileged to run a Masterclass for teachers with Professor Fernando Reimers of Harvard University on the importance of global competence, and to include his book Empowering Students to Improve the World in 60 Lessons as part of Episode H - Here to Make A Difference, in Leaps of Knowledge 2021: The HEART Series. Our team has since translated this book, and another titled Educating Students to Improve the World into the Bahasa Malaysia language. This helps schools in Malaysia adopt and adapt the books into their classrooms.
To us, making a difference also means doing whatever it takes to make change happen. This means recognising every opportunity possible to do so, even if it's in some of the most difficult seasons.
In 2015, one of our colleagues suddenly passed away due to dengue - a disease that the Global Goals seeks to eradicate. She was a talented individual who was dedicated to doing her part in making a difference and we wanted to make her legacy count. At Leaps of Knowledge: Your World ReimaginED, we launched the Vinnie Chan Awards in 2016 to equip and honour students who championed the Global Goals for their community. We were so encouraged by the amazing submissions we received from all over the country.
For example, in meeting the 12th Global Goal: Responsible Consumption & Production, students in Terengganu cleaned up Bukit Keluang with their teachers and friends. They created plastic bottle rubbish bins out of recyclable plastic bottles they collected, placing one in every classroom and in spots across Bukit Keluang to raise awareness about recycling in the community. This decreased waste reduction in their school by 28% and increased the number of volunteers for similar activities by 46%.
In Selangor, another group of students set out to meet the 15th Global Goal: Life on Land by selling cacti to encourage care for plants, and selling badges that educated people about animal rescue. Then, they donated the money they collected to PAWS and spent a day cleaning up the place and playing with the animals.
This wasn’t the first time we had seen students rally their community to make a difference for others. Back in 2014, knowing that there were over 40,000 victims of human trafficking yearly, students from an anti-human trafficking NGO called Running To Stop The Traffik (RTST) approached us, asking us to partner with them to raise awareness and funds. This was a great opportunity for us to support young people as they championed change for their community. We jointly organised Run For Freedom which was part of RTST’s 24-hour global awareness run and developed the Run For Freedom mobile app. Students could use the app to raise awareness on the reality of human trafficking while raising funds.
All these initiatives proved that the opportunities to make a difference for others are always there. We just need to recognise them and be willing to go the extra mile.
Going the extra mile to make a difference may not always feel convenient, but we make it a point to act instead of react to situations around us.
One of the most challenging situations across the world was the global pandemic of 2020. When the country went into a national lockdown on the 18th of March 2020, we were really concerned about how education would be affected. With all schools closed, it was obvious that learning needed to go online. However, whilst this may be an obvious solution to us, we also guessed that many parents would not have data and the devices to make this happen at home. So we quickly put out a survey to ask parents: What were their greatest concerns at this time? What were their greatest needs during lockdown?
The results showed that 95% of parents' concerns were making sure that their children's education continued uninterrupted. This was followed by 50% who expressed their concern about not having sufficient content online, even though they were prepared to have online lessons. Half of them said they didn't have enough data and would need extra data for online learning. And families from the lower income group would not be able to afford devices for their children.
So in March 2020, even while transitioning to a work-from-home routine as a company, we partnered with YTL Foundation, YES, Teach For Malaysia, Pelangi, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Kindity, MyReaders and CIMB Foundation, to create the Learn From Home (LFH) initiative. This included building over 1,400 interactive lessons mapped to the Malaysian national curriculum and distributing over 800,000 smartphones and 4G sim cards to schools and families for free. This allowed students in Malaysia to keep learning from the safety of their own homes throughout the lockdowns.
The programme was awarded the People’s Choice Award at the AVPN Constellations Awards 2022, which was a great encouragement to us because AVPN awards some of the best social change investment projects in Asia. It was also awarded the Global CSR Awards 2022 - Gold for Excellence in Provision of Literacy and Education.
A recent independent evaluation study by the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) found that:
The study concluded that the initiative had reached its target beneficiaries and achieved the intended outcomes.
So what does a better tomorrow look like? As an edutech company, technology is a tool for us to reach people, but the real impact happens in how we use these tools to make a difference - no matter what it takes. Seeing as many students as possible have access to a better life, and ensuring they are empowered to bring change to their communities, is what a better tomorrow looks like to us. We’re so grateful for the platform to do this and make a difference to students in Malaysia.
As we celebrate FrogAsia’s 10th Anniversary this year, we take a moment to look back on all that has happened. It has shown us that when purpose and passion are aligned, we can make an impact wherever we are. This reflection piece is the first of five to remind us why we do what we do. We hope that as you journey through the years with us, you too will be inspired to join us in making a difference.