Malala Yousafzai, an advocate for equal rights to education for women and children in Pakistan, said, “Education is one of the blessings of life, and one of its necessities.” Educators across the world resonate with her aspiring words and one such educator is Cikgu Kamariah Awang, teacher in SK Gong Balai, Terengganu, and title winner of the Frog Teacher Awards: Most Exceptional Educator.
Becoming an advocate of 21st century education
“When I was first posted as a teacher in SK Taman Permata, Selangor, the Ministry of Education had just introduced the concept of 21st century education and encouraged schools to drive the implementation of the Frog VLE. That was the start of my journey as a 21st century educator,” said the Frog Teacher Award winner.
Graduating with a degree in information technology, Cikgu Kamariah Awang explored the functions and applications of the Frog VLE and used the platform for teaching and learning. The more she utilised the platform, the more she realised its benefits and began to lend a helping hand to other teachers as they too, began exploring the Frog VLE for teaching and learning.
“Technology in education was a foreign term back in 2012, and the majority of teachers were not able to accept and adapt the concept of 21st century education due to lack of knowledge and skills. Being an IT major, I did what I could to help teachers so they can also utilise the Frog VLE in their classrooms,” the teacher shared as she recalled her active volunteerism in 2014 where she was recognised for being the most innovative teacher in Gombak, Selangor.
Cikgu Kamariah shared that she faced a lot of opposition as she advocated 21st century education. “When introducing something new, it takes extra time and effort to understand the concept, functionality and applications. Because of this, many teachers viewed technology in education as a burden. Knowing where teachers are coming from, I introduced the Frog VLE as a solution to help minimize workload and for creative teaching,” she said.
She believed that in order for teachers to be open to technology in education, she also needed to showcase her own personal experience on how she effectively used the Frog VLE not only in teaching and learning, but in administration as well. “Learning doesn’t stop even as we grow older. As we are now in an era of modern technology, there’s so many new things to learn every single day. As teachers, we need to be informed, be updated and be educated on all these new things that are happening and being developed everyday.”
Bringing the same privilege to rural schools
In 2015, Cikgu Kamariah was transferred to SK Kubu, Terengganu from SK Taman Permata, Selangor. “I was happy to be transferred to Terengganu because it is my hometown where I could be with my family,” she said. Little did she know, she was about to embark on a journey of change for rural schools in Terengganu.
When she arrived in SK Kubu, Cikgu Kamariah could immediately see the chasmic difference between city and rural schools. “While SK Taman Permata was very well-equipped with devices and had good internet connection, SK Kubu was the complete opposite - the school had limited facilities and almost inaccessible internet connection. That was when I realised how privileged city schools are and I wanted the same rural schools,” she said.
Cikgu Kamariah set herself on a mission to provide students of SK Kubu an equal opportunity to learn with Frog. Although the school’s facilities and infrastructure were not conducive for 21st century education, that did not stop her from finding other ways. She reached out to a nearby Industrial Training Institute that had many functioning computer labs that were not in use and approached a lecturer to allow her to bring her students on occasion to use the computer lab for teaching and learning with Frog.
However, she faced another challenge - students did not know how to use the Frog VLE due to little to no exposure to technology and digital tools. “I looked at the situation very positively because this was a chance to introduce students to a whole new world through technology and the internet! I was truly excited to get them started on the basics because I knew, once they are able to log into Frog on their own, they will be able to do so much more,” shared the Most Exceptional Educator of Frog Teacher Awards 2019.
The same effort was given to SK Gong Balai, another rural school in Terengganu, when Cikgu Kamariah joined the school at the beginning of the year. “After helping one rural school move forward into 21st century education, I was more than excited to help another because I wanted to do all that I could to ensure no student was left behind because of their location or background.”
Cikgu Kamariah shared that her students are now more willing to open up and communicate. “Not only that, my students also started to use English! There are a lot of English terms within the Frog VLE. So with constant exposure, students feel encouraged to start using English as well. Although they are still not fluent, I’m just happy they’ve taken that step to try. It’s something I’m very proud of because many of my students would refuse to use English as they are afraid of embarrassment if they got it incorrectly.”
However, Cikgu Kamariah noted that the most significant improvement she sees in her students are their digital skills. “Having taught in a city school, I see how important it is for students to have digital skills. I wanted students in rural schools to have the same learning opportunity beyond just achieving good academic results.”