IT is a classroom that students would love to be in.
The walls, painted in sections of blue, green and pink, are adorned with eye-catching images and positive messages.
The curved desks, with attractive doodles on their surface, are arranged in a semi-circle within the room which encourages collaborative learning among students who now face each other.
Cooled by air-conditioning, this SK Sungai Serai, Kuang, Frog Classroom was recently set up through the collaborated efforts of the school’s staff, students and their parents with help from YTL Foundation and the New Straits Times as part of the ongoing NST/FrogAsia Classroom Makeover Project.
This project aims to make learning more interesting and effective for today's students, and also involves the local community as well as corporate partners.
“It’s about creating a movement to get schools more engaged in improving education by making teaching and learning better,” said YTL Foundation programme director Datin Kathleen Chew.
“By changing the method of teaching, which used to be a teacher standing and talking in front, we therefore hope to change the attitude of students and help them be more positive towards learning.”
The Frog Classroom is specially designed to enhance and facilitate the utilisation of technology in 21st-century learning using online platforms such as the Frog VLE (virtual learning environment) provided under the 1BestariNet project in teaching and learning.
As opposed to a traditional classroom where students learn passively from the teacher, the Frog Classroom clusters the students among the teacher and this approach encourages more active class engagement during the lesson.
Chew said teachers in SMK Puchong Bt 14 reported that after the first Frog Classroom was launched there, their students became more excited about school.
NSTP marketing communications head Wan Abdillah Wan Nawi said the NST Outreach programme partnered with YTL Foundation in undertaking the Frog Classroom Makeover to help improve the academic performance of students within communities in need.
“We chose SK Sungai Serai because it is already under the 1BestariNet project, it is a rural school with a significant number of students from an Orang Asli community and there is an opportunity to raise its students’ standard of English proficiency,” he said.
Headmaster Ayub Mat Rashid has been encouraging more members of the Orang Asli community in Kuang to send their children to his school.
“All schools have a dream of having the best and latest state-of-the-art classroom, so we are truly grateful for the contributions from YTL and New Straits Times Press that have helped us to achieve this dream,” he said.
Ayub said that the classroom selected for the makeover is strategically located beside the assembly area.
“This means the Frog Classroom will be more visible and its inviting environment will motivate more students to want to study in it," he said.
“Its location also takes into account the aspect of safety, as there are no stairs to climb and should there be any emergency, it is just next to the assembly grounds."
Ayub said the project received input from the school’s administrative and teaching staff members, and many teachers were actively involved.
“Now that it is ready, our students can enjoy learning in a comfortable and conducive classroom environment, which will motivate them to work harder,” he added.
“Thanks also to the use of latest technology as part of the virtual learning environment, our students will also be equipped with wider knowledge that will help them compete on a more even footing nationwide.”
Ayub said the school plans to use the Frog Classroom for teaching English, Information and Communications Technology and Science.
“All our 405 students will be given the opportunity to use the Frog Classroom. We will prepare a roster for different classes to take turns using it,” he said.
“However, we will give priority to Year Six classes as they will be taking the UPSR.”
Ayub hopes that this new classroom will now also attract even more Orang Asli to send their children to the school.
Besides benefiting the students of the school, Frog Classrooms are also meant to be used to support and train neighbouring schools.
As a Frog hub, SK Sungai Serai will now help teachers from other schools in the area learn the best ways to utilise technology in teaching and learning.
“A happy environment is a productive environment,” said YTL project manager Alex Au-Yong.
“Schools with Frog Classrooms will also be Frog hubs, where teachers from the surrounding schools can meet together, share and learn from each other.
“It is important that there is a community of teachers that support one another and inspire each other in finding creative ways to use technology to create better student outcomes.”
Frog Classroom Makeovers are given to schools that apply to the YTL Foundation and also meet certain criteria which include being active users of the Frog VLE and being committed as a learning hub within the neighbourhood.
If a school qualifies, YTL Foundation sponsors the custom-designed tables and chairs, air-conditioners, a project toolkit and helps to project-manage the makeover of the classroom.
Schools undertake the physical makeover themselves, and the project is carried out by the parents, teachers and students in the school, who also have to raise the balance of the funds required to repaint and repair the classrooms.
Through this collaboration with parents, teachers and students, YTL Foundation hopes to be able to set up 1,000 Frog Classrooms in schools across the country.
More than 15 Frog Classrooms have been set up in Johor, Perak, Pahang, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
To date, the largest number of applications have come from schools in Johor, Perak, Malacca and Negri Sembilan.
The cost-effectiveness of the classroom makeover makes it easily replicable in other schools and could involve volunteers.
As in the case of Kuang, corporate sponsors like NST participate in the makeover.
MAKING THE DIFFERENCE
THE idea of transforming the classroom came about when YTL Foundation programme director Datin Kathleen Chew was invited by Teach for Malaysia to give a motivational talk to some students.
The classroom was in a terrible state of disrepair; chairs and tables were broken, window panes missing and the door had a hole.
“The students were responsive and eager to know more about the world and I could not help but think how much it would help them to learn in an environment that was clean, bright and fun, where they could be motivated to channel their energies positively,” said Chew.
“The Frog Classroom allows students to truly take learning beyond the boundaries of the four walls.
“In today’s world, just knowing your times tables and memorising lots of facts will not get you very far.
“Beautiful classrooms are wonderful, but it is how these classrooms will be used that will make the greatest difference.
“We want students to be prepared for 21st century jobs, and to leave school with 21st century skills that will sustain them in a rapidly-changing world. They must be able to understand how to use technology, think critically and problem-solve.
“They also need to be able to communicate well and collaborate with others.
“YTL Foundation believes that technology can level the playing field in the everyday learning process.
“In the Frog Classroom, students will have access to information far beyond the physical limits of the classroom.
“They can source for information on the Internet, collaborate with each other or students from other schools, and be a part of FrogAsia’s Connected Classrooms, a series of live online webinars that give students the opportunity to interact with experts from different fields or even say hello to students from schools in other countries.”
Chew said that the new approaches to learning, which include methods like gamification, have led to remarkable improvements in the students’ results.
She gave the example of a girl who used to always fail Mathematics but after that girl started learning in the Frog Classroom, she began doing well in the subject.
Chew added that during the transformation stage, some of the older teachers initially encountered a technology barrier but this was just a temporary setback.
“I myself used to struggle with using email initially, but once I got the hang of it, there’s no looking back," she said.
“All of us will need to ride the tide, sooner or later."
FUNDING AND SPONSORSHIP
UNDER YTL Foundation’s Frog Classroom Makeover programme, schools are encouraged to apply for sponsorship of these new classrooms that facilitate 21st-century learning.
YTL Foundation provides schools that meet the application criteria with specially designed tables, chairs, air-conditioners and a toolkit and help project manage the makeover of the classrooms.
To further assist schools with their fundraising efforts, YTL Foundation is partnering with 100% Project to help schools who are interested in a Frog Classroom.
100% Project is a recently-launched crowdfunding site dedicated to help schools and teachers raise funds for projects that help boost conducive learning, innovative teaching, and even exposure and exploration trips.
Schools interested in the Frog Classroom Makeover programme can contact the YTL Foundation at [email protected] for more information.
If you would like to contribute to impactful classroom projects from all over Malaysia or if you are a teacher in need of funds for your project, head on to www.100percentproject.org to get started.