Over the past two years, school closures have been regarded as a common mechanism for combating the rising incidence of COVID-19 in Malaysia.
However, it has had a significant impact on the students’ ability to learn.
According to the Ministry of Education, between March 2020 and July 2021, over 21,000 students, or 0.22 percent, dropped out of school or were left behind in their classes.
Even brief interruptions in a child’s education can have long-lasting negative effects on their learning.
This matter urged the initiation of Tavis, an online tuition platform that aims to provide quality and accessible education along with a reward system to encourage the continued growth of Malaysian students.
Facing a common struggle
The platform was founded by Tan Sri Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz, who served as the mayor of Kuala Lumpur from 2015 to 2018.
Launched on April 1, 2022, Tavis is designed to ensure that secondary school students (from Form 1 to Form 5) are on track with the academic syllabus.
It offers tutoring in the core SPM subjects, such as English, Bahasa Malaysia, Science, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
“No matter which part of the country you are in, students can get to learn from top-quality tutors to improve on their studies,” said the former mayor.
As a result of schools being intermittently closed and reopened, students have become accustomed to a slower learning pace, which has compromised their discipline.
“Some parents we spoke to shared that their kids are dragging their feet to schools,” Tan Sri Mohd Amin remarked. “Some are demoralised and feel lost due to the learning gap arising from the pandemic.”
“We also embrace the reality that some children are disciplined while some are not.”
Incentives that serve to motivate
Instead of hoping for students to miraculously recapture their passion and drive, the Tavis team have added to the learning process with incentives and other enjoyable elements.
On the ﬁrst tier, students are eligible for an RM10 e-wallet reload if their attendance is at least 70 percent. For the second tier, a score of 70 percent or higher in attendance and attention is required to achieve RM30.
The final tier is worth a greater amount up to RM100, and students must achieve all three criteria: attendance, attention, and quiz attempts.
The more classes a student enrolls in, the more rewards they will receive, with the maximum reward being RM500 for five classes. This is intended to encourage students to enroll in as many classes as possible.
Some may argue, however, that such a system may instill in students a sense of entitlement, leading them to believe that they deserve rewards for doing what is already required.
Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin told Vulcan Post, “Over the years, not only the direction of education has changed drastically, but the mindset of youth has changed as well.”
“With the reward system, the idea of it is not to foster a sense of entitlement in students, but to train them in the foundations of savings.”
In addition to cashing out the rewards via e-wallets, Tavis offers various options that include donating to a charity of their choosing, or sponsoring a sibling’s or friend’s tuition fees within the platform.
He shared that he wanted to be able to build this mindset in students at a young age, preparing them for the future.
The pricing plan begins at RM39.99 for the first subject, RM29.99 for a second subject, RM19.99 for a third subject, and RM9.99 for each subject thereafter.
Vetting good quality tutors
With the right combination of chalk and challenges, educators can alter lives. They have a substantial impact on student achievement and contentment. It is essential to their growth.
Tavis employs a combination of part-time and full-time tutors. Only tutors with the ability to conduct captivating and effective lessons are employed.
“Teachers with suboptimal explanatory skills tend to deviate from content standards and/or elucidate concepts in a roundabout way, which can confuse students and affect their learning absorption tremendously,” said Tan Sri.
The team goes above and beyond the standard criteria, which include verifying the tutor’s teaching experience, track record, and language fluency, by requiring them to submit a 10-minute mock teaching video on a specific topic to assess their explanatory skills.
Additionally, the team evaluate the candidates based on whether they possess complementary industry experience.
“Internally, we call it an ‘SME approach’, which stands for ‘subject matter expert’,” he shared. “[For example], a math tutor who was an ex-auditor/accountant by practice, a science tutor who was an ex-engineer/scientist, etc.”
This resulted in the tutors at Tavis having a solid track record and extensive teaching experience in the relevant field, which would also aid the brand in gaining a higher level of parental or guardian trust.
A carrot-and-stick approach
By utilising a carrot-and-stick approach, tutors are able to motivate students to further improve. A common definition of this metaphor is the use of rewards and punishments to induce the desired behaviour.
The stick resembles the option for parents to activate a notification system to receive updates and reports on their child’s academic progress.
“For instance, if the child has not been paying attention in classes, parents will get notified and will be able to take appropriate remedies,” Tan Sri added.
On the other hand, the carrot resembles a “learn with rewards” concept that has the potential to compensate students more than the tuition fees they pay, if they meet certain thresholds based on the metrics the team at Tavis uses to measure a student’s progress.
The online tuition platform implements a monitoring function to track students’ concentration in classes and their learning progress.
Other USPs include breakout groups, live polling, and whiteboard collaboration for interactive online learning.
Unlike other similar learning platforms that rely on Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom to run online sessions, Tavis has its own collaboration system. “The backend data is able to track the attendance, attention, and live quiz scores automatically,” Tan Sri revealed.
Contributing to the disadvantaged
According to the founder, the newly launched platform currently has over 200 students signed up for its learning programmes, just under two months after its initial launch.
As the majority of its target market consists of underprivileged individuals, including students from rural areas in other parts of the country, the Tavis team has acknowledged that they’re faced with obstacles.
Most of them and their families would not have access to basic learning tools such as laptops, computers, or even internet coverage.
“In our planning pipeline, we plan to partner with both telco and IT companies to provide such improvements to this group of students in order for them to get this important educational support,” the team envisioned.
In addition to partnering with national schools to assist both teachers and students in achieving higher test scores, the team intends to donate to and sponsor schools’ infrastructure in order to provide students with the resources they require to learn more effectively.
In the coming months, Tavis will also release its own question bank, which will include an artificial intelligence (AI) system that helps teachers and parents evaluate students’ strong and weak areas.
This will suggest automatically which subjects students should devote more time to studying.
“We aspire to be the go-to online centre for education of all kinds,” Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin expressed. “We will strive to ensure everyone gets access to quality education from any corner of the country affordably, which is attainable when we achieve economies of scale.”
As Malaysia enters a period of national recovery, funds should also be allocated to the education sector to ensure that today’s youth are not left behind.
As a solution to the disruptions, some have proposed that children should be placed on a learning surge. Others that are more pessimistic believe that the better-off children will recover the strongest, and that the pandemic will worsen pre-existing educational disparities.
Any efforts to help children today, and build the education systems of tomorrow, have never been more vital, given the magnitude of the aftereffects of pandemic losses in our country.
Featured Image Credit: Tavis