PETALING JAYA: When Choo Wai Heng and Dr Teoh Chin Soon founded a training organisation focusing on providing training to engineers in the electrical and electronics industry in 2002, they noticed one aspect that stuck out like a sore thumb.
Many engineering graduates seemed to be having difficulties in answering fundamental science questions.
Despite possessing high grades, the graduates were not motivated to learn.
Realising this, both Choo and Dr Teoh started hands-on science workshops for children.
Concurrently, Teach for Malaysia fellows Nigel Sim and Chong Zhi Xiong noticed the exact problems at schools they were teaching where they too decided to adopt project-based learning in their classrooms.
As fate would have it, the quartet then crossed paths in 2014, with discussions leading to the birth of Chumbaka.
Having officially started in 2016, the social enterprise has since expanded from its first chapter in Cyberjaya to nine across major cities in Malaysia.
In addition, the social enterprise also made its way into Singapore, Thailand and Australia.
At present, Chumbaka has successfully reached over 1,000 schools, benefiting more than 1,500 teachers and 35,000 students across the country.
Chong, who is now Chumbaka’s chief technology officer, said the social enterprise aimed to develop children’s life skills through technology and innovation enrichment programmes.
“We help students learn through open-source technologies, covering domains such as coding, programming, electronics, app development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), among others.
“We aspire to reignite all children’s passion for learning. Technology was chosen as the learning subject as today’s learners need to be more technologically fluent to thrive in the current technology-rich world,” he said.
Chong added that there were free and paid programmes tailored for students, educators, schools and communities.
Chumbaka also works closely with teachers through professional training and capacity building, to enable them to empower schools with up-to-date technology content relevant to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0), he said.
Its vision, Chong said, was to implement a ‘Go Deep’ approach in 100 schools across Malaysia by 2025.
“We want to provide comprehensive technology and innovation education for all students, not only beyond but also within schooling hours.
“Our goal is to ensure that 50% of these schools come from underprivileged communities with funding secured through grants and our own initiatives.
“Simultaneously, the remaining 50% will actively contribute to the financial sustainability of Chumbaka’s operations,” he said.
As a social enterprise, Chong said Chumbaka is committed to keeping costs low through using open-source software and hardware to ensure their content was affordable and accessible to all children in the country.
“Educational content is offered to private and international schools. In alignment with our social commitment, the same high-quality content and capacity building opportunities are extended to teachers from public school.
“We are also working closely with other organisations to bring tech education to students in need,” he added.
Chong said ultimately, Chumbaka was about integrating human values and life skills in students’ courses through project-based learning.
“Our students are always given real-world problems to solve, to help them develop problem-solving skills and learn to work collaboratively.
“In addition to technical skills, students can develop teamwork, communication skills and critical thinking through public showcases and peer-learning environments.
“These are essential for success in today’s world but are not usually taught in traditional classrooms,” he said.