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By Zulita Mustafa -

UNIVERSITI Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) is the first university in the country to have a ‘Frog Classroom’ in its Centre for Literacy and Sociocultural Transformation at the Faculty of Sciences and Humanities.

The project is a collaboration between Frog Asia Sdn Bhd and a UKM team led by Professor Dr Radha Nambiar, who is chairman of the centre, to create a classroom that encourages student participation in learning with the integration of technology.

It is also a product of a three-year partnership with YTL Foundation, which funded a study on the effectiveness of the Frog Classrooms.

“For one year, myself and three colleagues studied whether there was a change in teaching and learning in classrooms at various schools.

“We spoke to teachers of various disciplines and they said students were eager to learn and would be on their best behaviour the whole week just to come to the classroom.

“The study also found that the Frog Classrooms were a conducive learning environment at schools,” she said.

Her study on the impact of Frog Classrooms was published in 2017. It was further applied in UKM, with YTL Foundation programme director Datin Kathleen Chew Wai Lin opening the university’s first Frog Classroom recently.

Present were deputy vice-chancellor (academic & international affairs) Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Marzuki Mustafa and deputy vice-chancellor (industry & community partnerships) Professor Datuk Dr Imran Ho Abdullah.

Last year, Radha spoke with a group of students to get them to set up the classroom at the faculty. They did so based on guidelines provided by Radha’s team, such as the colour scheme, and furniture from YTL Foundation.

“It is the combined effort of students and staff, who cleaned, fixed and painted the walls and tables, that created this learning space.

“The creative part was from the students as they were the ones who decided what they wanted their classroom to look like.

“We even allowed them to draw on the tables to make the environment attractive.”

She added that the front feature, where a teacher stands by the blackboard to teach, had been eliminated.

“In this space, you can facilitate from anywhere in the room. This will ensure that no learner is left behind. This classroom is designed for peer interactions and group work to foster 21st century learning skills, such as collaborating, problem-solving and critical thinking,” she said.

The classroom is now ready to be used by lecturers and students on a rotational basis. According to Radha, access to technology was a key component to personalised learning.

“The only condition is they must make use of technology. We don’t want it to become a traditional classroom.

“Teachers don’t have to worry about bringing their laptops or projectors. We have already put everything inside.

“We have done our part, the rest is up to the teachers and students. We need to give them a chance to show how creative they can be with knowledge.”

Marzuki said the nation’s education landscape was constantly changing and UKM needed to adapt fast.

“We need to think and ask questions on the future of learning so we, as educators, can create better opportunities for our learners. And, it is important to remember that educators are no longer the only source of information in this digital era.

“These facilities will guide learners to develop skills to leapfrog into the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.


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By Laurence Lien 

“Why would you start a programme to train principals?  Isn’t that the government’s job?”

This is a common response from private donors or even nonprofits focused on education interventions, when asked if they would support a school leadership development programme.

Education is the most popular social cause.  The social sector would spend millions on student scholarships, school infrastructure and teacher training programmes.

Yet it would strike few to start or support a programme that has been shown to be cost effective, and with concrete and positive results from multiple studies.

We believe increased attention to this area can be accomplished through two inputs: research and risk-taking.  We will explain each of these in turn, and then give an example of how a promising new school leadership programme was established from idea to launch, aiming to take catalyse this movement.

First, research.  While we don’t often think of the principal as key to student learning, we do know leadership matters to student outcomes.  A 2004 review[1], commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, in a 180-school study of the links between student achievement and educational leadership practices, showed that leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school.

After studying principals in eight countries around the world, Stanford University Professor Nick Bloom and his colleagues write, in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, that a one point increase on their scoring of school management practices is associated with a 10% increase in student performance.

In addition, leadership is even more critical where the more in trouble the school is and where the school serves the most underprivileged kids[2].

This in fact, should be quite intuitive. We always say leadership is critical in government and private sector companies; so why not in schools? And just because a principal is a good teacher, does not make him naturally a good principal. The skillsets are completely different.

The school leader is required to set directions, by being the instructional leader that sets expectations and raising the bar. S/He develops people, particularly the teachers, by training and supporting them to succeed. S/he makes the organisation work, by engaging all stakeholders, parents and community included, and makes the whole much great than the sum of its parts.

Second, risk-taking. Many do not wish to be involved in a domain where few others had ventured before, and which as first sight appears an uncertain endeavour.

It is not often clear that a programme pitched at leaders would be welcomed either by the government bodies responsible for it or even by the leaders themselves. Moreover, school leaders commonly have close links to political leaders, and may in fact also be a key node in the supply chain of corrupt ventures. This is unsurprising given how education spending as a percentage of GDP typically exceeds 5% in many countries.

It is hence understandable to avoid this potentially politically sensitive space, with its impact uncertain outcomes. And even if one is willing and well informed, many do not know how to go about designing and implementing an effective programme. In emerging economies, especially, there are few role models for one to learn from and emulate.

Given the challenging realities, it is a bit of a wonder that something like Global School Leaders (GSL) has emerged strongly to catalyse school leadership training. On 17 January 2018, its first initiative, GSL Malaysia (GSLM) was launched by the then Deputy Education Minister of Malaysia for 25 schools in Kuala Lumpur. In 2019, similar efforts would commence in Indonesia and Kenya. This unique cross-border collaboration, that brought together a diverse group of stakeholders and donors, holds some valuable lessons for those considering similar partnership efforts.

The GSLM journey started in December 2015, Laurence Lien, Co-Founder and CEO of the Asia Philanthropy Circle (APC) contacted Sameer Sampat, the first CEO of the India School Leadership Institute (ISLI). APC is a membership-based platform for Asian philanthropists to exchange and collaborate. APC members were not ignorant about the criticality of effective school leadership as their own ground experience had surfaced a strong link between their existing education intervention efforts paying off and the quality of school leadership.

The APC Secretariat’s short search of school leadership programme brought them to ISLI and it did not take long to be impressed by ISLI. A visit via the back streets of New Delhi to see and hear first-hand the testimonies of ISLI’s success, gave the needed confirmation that they could adapt and export the programme to Southeast Asia.

One of the key success factors is clearly a willing and able implementing partner with a strong track record. ISLI’s model demonstrated validated impact, replicability and scalability. And serendipitously, APC caught Sampat and Azad Oommen, one of ISLI’s founding board member, just as they were founding GSL to bring effective school leadership to underserved communities around the world, drawing from their ISLI success. GSL, as the mothership, is both the knowledge database providing the GSL curriculum and training methodology and the leadership coach for the young GSLM team.

A second element is a local champion with the interest and capability to drive an initiative from idea to implementation. For GSLM, Kathleen Chew, Programme Director of the YTL Foundation, was this key person. Chew, through YTL Foundation, was not only the anchor funder, but also the activator of interested principals for the pilot and experts for the advisory council, and the incubator of GSLM from inception to becoming an independent entity.

A third factor is to mobilise the diverse stakeholders early. For GSLM, APC played an important catalytic role as “deal maker” to bring three funders and the implementing partner together, aligning vision and objectives. Having more than one initial funder is important to show the need for the future involvement of many. Additionally, early engagement of government agencies is often necessary. GSLM, together with Chew, approached the Malaysian Ministry of Education and later secured an official letter giving explicit support to GSLM. This was critical for enrolling schools and for follow-up fundraising.

A fourth component is to hire well. The first employee, the CEO or Executive Head, is the most difficult to fill as it requires diverse skillsets apart from education experience. Above all, the role requires an entrepreneurial leader, who is adaptable and resilient in the face of multiple challenges. GSLM was fortunate to be able to tap into a rich Teach for Malaysia (TFM) network. Today the entire team is made up of TFM alumni.

Finally, glocalise and start small.  While the ISLI model was proven in India, GSLM needed to adapt it to fit the Malaysian context.  The GSLM team surveyed more than 50 Malaysian school leaders to understand their professional development needs, and then tailored the training programme from India to meet this need.  The team also has revised the training from India to ensure it is cultural and policy-relevant.  In addition, it is important to start small through a pilot, in an accessible location, to show a proof of concept so that it can be a visible demonstration for future funders and for government officials.

It is early days still, but GSLM already holds much promise and valuable learning points.  The key learning points are that re-inventing the wheel is wasteful and unnecessary, that cross-border partnerships can be highly beneficial if not indispensable, and that collective action helps to address the ignorance and inertia.  Join us in this movement to transform schools through better leadership.


[1] Leithwood, K., Seashore Louis, K., Anderson, S. & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). How leadership influences student learning.  New York: Wallace Foundation. Retrieved, 26 November 2018, from



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By Seri Nor Nadiah Koris And Saadiah Ismail, April 7, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: YTL Foundation aims to expand its Frog Classroom Programme to 1,000 schools nationwide.

“So far, due to budget constraints we have only set up this programme in 180 schools and another 50 Tamil schools are still in progress,” said YTL Foundation programme director Datin Kathleen Chew at the Leaps of Knowledge Conference 2018 here today.

“The foundation spent RM15,000 to set up an optimised 21st century classroom at each school to create an amazing learning environment.

“The conference aims to inspire, equip and empower Malaysians to collaboratively and collectively raise the education bar.”

Some 1,000 educators, parents, students and other people from the education sector took part in the conference.

Chew said the programme organised by YTL Foundation, FrogAsia and the Education Ministry.

“It is evident that change has taken place and that technology has made a huge impact on education in the country,” she added.

FrogAsia Sdn Bhd executive director Lou Yeoh said the company believed in a world where everybody loved learning and where technology removed boundaries.

“With technology, there is equal access to quality education regardless of location or background.

“With this VLE platform, schools across the country can collaborate and support one another, students, parents and other members of the education community to raise the bar and make 21st Century learning more accessible and empowering,” she said.

SMK Jalan Reko teacher Mohamad Jalil Mohamad Yunus said VLE had made it easier for his students to understand their lessons.

“In 2016, I was ill for three months. However, with the VLE platform my students were able to continue with their classes when I was not in the classroom.

“All they had to do was access my notes online,” he said.

FrogAsia launched the FrogPlay World Championship, a competition that aims to encourage students around the world to collaborate and optimise the use of the FrogPlay game learning and revision application on VLE.

Since its launch last year, students have clocked more than 1.5 million revision hours on FrogPlay.

During the conference, the two workshops had teachers trying the latest VLE features in an immersion activity and hearing from their experienced peers on optimising benefits of the VLE.

SM St Peter Telipok, Kota Kinabalu principal Robert S. Vitalis said the FrogPlay VLE platform had helped students to improve their ICT skills.


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By M. Sivanantha Sharma - 4 Apr 2019 

SK STOWELL in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, has gone a step further with the full adoption of digital teaching and learning for pupils from Year One to Six.

With this digital implementation, all core subjects in the school will be taught on the Frog Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform in the classroom through Boost interactive lessons from FrogAsia.

Pupils can complete their homework and revise their studies on the FrogPlay gamified teaching and learning application.

The school has been equipped with 18 projectors for all classrooms, as well as a Frog Classroom - a shared 21st century teaching and learning space designed to elevate collaboration and creativity among students.

Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Steven Sim Chee Keong, who is also the Bukit Mertajam MP, said he was proud that SK Stowell was leading its peers with the full adoption of digital teaching and learning.

“Education is a means of preparing our children to be better equipped in facing the challenges of the future and I believe it is imperative to start empowering our children right from Year 1.

“It is time for our schools to go fully digital and I would like to congratulate the school for being the first government school in Malaysia to fully adopt digital teaching and learning with Frog Boost.

“I hope this new environment will spark creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication in the pupils here.

“Now every teacher can access readily available teaching and learning content and use it in classrooms to teach besides also assigning homework and revision on the digital platform.

“Teachers who become more inspired through this initiative can also create more content and share all of their materials with other teachers across the country.

“Let this be a role model for other schools in the Penang state and I hope this will inspire more schools to take up this initiative,” he said in his speech when launching the full digital teaching system at SK Stowell on the Penang mainland recently.

Also present were school headmaster Jamil Omar, YTL Foundation programme director Datin Kathleen Chew and FrogAsia executive director Lou Yeoh.

Speaking to reporters later, Sim said he had been approached by many schools in Bukit Mertajam for the fully digitalised system.

He said SK Stowell would be a pilot project, and other schools could send their teachers to SK Stowell to personally experience the system, and if suitable, they could seek to have it extended to their respective schools.

He said the programme would not have been possible without co-operation between the teachers and headmaster.

He said the BM parliamentary office and YTL Foundation, which developed the system, had jointly contributed RM60,000 to set up the system.

Jamil said the senior leadership team from the school attended workshops on the adoption and optimisation of Frog VLE in the school and in turn were now sharing their knowledge with other teachers.

“The teachers themselves find that Boost eases their burden in having to create material as Boost covers all topics and it is so easy to use.

“They are excited to use the Frog VLE and the projectors in the classroom to teach.

“We thank Sim and YTL Foundation for their generous contribution to the school, which is now ready to be fully digital in our classroom teaching,” he added.

Chew, in her speech, said YTL Foundation had been working to improve education in this country since 1997.

“We started by giving scholarships for tertiary education to students in need so they could break through the cycle of poverty and bring hope and transformation to their communities.

“Seven years ago, we started working with FrogAsia to help equip schools and adopt technology in teaching and learning.

“However, we found that most schools did not have classrooms that were conducive for 21st century learning.

“We worked with our architects and design team at YTL and transformed the first classroom at SMK Puchong Batu 14.

“And, after the success of our first Frog classroom, YTL opened the programme to all schools and to-date, we have completed 280 classrooms across all states in the country.

“Our ambition is to have 1,000 of these 21st century classrooms,” she said.

Chew said a study on the impact of Frog Classrooms on Teacher Pedagogy and Student Learning Behaviour and Outcomes was done by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia on the impact of the Frog Classrooms.

“The study found that teachers are more creative and innovative in their approach and there is a display of more 21st century learning skills in the classroom.

“The study also has been more of a shift in the role of the teacher to that of a facilitator.

“On the student’s side of the equation, UKM found the classroom to be more learner- centred and there is more self-directed and independent learning and also improved 21st century learning skills were observed.

“Better peer interaction and pupils learning from each other were also noted.

“Therefore, in partnership with Sim and FrogAsia, we are really excited to support SK Stowell in creating a 21st century education environment throughout all classrooms here,” she said.

Chew said through YTL’s contribution of the projectors to every classroom, it was hoped that all teachers and pupils in the school would be able to experience the 21st century education daily.


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