Education is the key to changing lives – a belief strongly held by Raja Singham, founder and managing director of Brickfields Asia College (BAC). So when he was approached in 2012 with the idea of a free online resource for all Malaysian students, he was game for it.
Under BAC’s corporate social responsibility initiative, Raja Singham invested RM500,000 (USD116,500) as initial seed funding to get things going. The result was EduNation, a non-profit organisation offering free web-based tuition tailored to local students.
Modelled after the famed Khan Academy from the U.S., the online platform has thousands of videos on both primary and secondary school subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science, History, and Geography, created based on the Malaysian school syllabus.
“The time that students spend in school is limited, and it’s difficult for teachers to give them one-on-one attention. If they don’t understand what is taught in class, it will be hard for them to catch up later,” says Raja Singham, adding that children who come from poor backgrounds, or those who are unable to go for tuition, often find themselves left behind.
With EduNation, students can access educational videos at any time, or repeat a lesson until they truly understand it. Study tools, worksheets and trial test papers, as well as interactive game applications, are just a click of a mouse button away. The platform has benefited over 100,000 students nationwide, with usage increasing steadily every year.
“Initially, we translated videos from the Khan Academy, which offered short lectures on subjects such as Math and Science,” says EduNation chief education officer Jennifer Low. But the team soon realised that the lessons weren’t tailored for Malaysian students. In addition, being an American-based programme, the accents and choice of words used were difficult for the average Malaysian student to understand.
Over time, they started creating their own videos, getting teachers to come on board to produce content suitable for the local audience. EduNation currently has over 5,300 videos covering most of the subjects from Primary Year 1 to Secondary Form 5. Vernacular school students studying in Chinese and Tamil will also be able to find videos in their respective languages.
New content is put in almost daily, with an average of 100 videos added to the repertoire monthly. Existing content is updated regularly to reflect changes in the school syllabus. To ensure quality, all teachers involved in the programme are certified school teachers or private tutors, with a minimum of two years of experience.
Now that the facilities are in place, the next step, says Raja Singham, is to encourage students to use them. “We keep the content fresh and engaging with videos that follow interesting formats,” he elaborates.
The history videos, for example, are done using creative doodles to illustrate historical events and figures, while the Sembang Sains (Science Talk) series, with its focus on experiment-based content, is modelled after live action science shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Meanwhile, the English-jer (jer is a local slang for ‘only’, meaning something is easily accomplished) section has the teacher taking on a conversational tone that is less intimidating for students, and skits are acted out to enact real-life conversations.
There are also tools to help students keep track of their progress, such as #IAmRajin, a guided study programme (rajin means hardworking). “We chunk down the chapters and send them notifications on a weekly basis on which videos to watch in order to finish the entire syllabus by the end of the year,” Low elaborates.
The platform is currently undergoing its third revision, and they are looking to add more exercises, game applications, and tools such as reader boards and downloadable e-books that contain transcribed content meant to complement existing videos.
Plans are in the pipeline to further tailor the content by breaking it up into different subsections. “Right now we have materials covering 11 years of schooling. In the next few months, we hope to break them up into sub-sites, such as for Primary Years 1 to 3, Years 4 to 6, and one for Mandarin and Tamil, respectively, for vernacular schools,” says Raja Singham.
“This way it will be easier for students to focus rather than have all users congregating on one site,” he says. In the long run, he also hopes to introduce skills beyond those that are learnt in a regular classroom, such as financial literacy, leadership, team building or programming and coding.
Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the programme. EduNation also provides training to school teachers on blended learning and the use of technology in the classroom.
Moving forward, Raja Singham hopes to have more outreach programmes and to work with other NGOs, corporations and government agencies to get Internet access and the content out to children living in remote areas.
Raja Singham believes it is time to change the way education is implemented in the country. “The world is changing at a fast pace. If we hang on to what worked 30 or 40 years ago, we will fall further and further behind. This is why we need people to come forward to deal with gaps in the system,” he says.
EduNation is part of BAC Education Group’s Make It Right Movement, a social movement to promote doing good. It supports over 80 different NGOs, with a focus on capacity building and training, to transform lives through education.