Thursday, December 14, 2017

EduFocal to help T&T's CSEC, SEA students


Education Innovator: Gordon Swaby, Jamaica's young internet entrepreneur and founder of EduFocal, flashes a smile at the Hyatt Regency, Trinidad during his recent visit for the VIII Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF) in Port of Spain. -Photo: DONSTAN BONN

Donstan Bonn

Trinidad and Tobago’s (T&T) primary and secondary schools’ students could soon boost their academic achievement levels through an online, interactive and user-friendly educational platform called EduFocal.

Launched in 2012 by chief executive officer and founder, Gordon Swaby, EduFocal targets students at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) levels and has already has transformed the educational landscape in Jamaica.

Swaby, 23, who spoke to the Express at the Hyatt Regency during his recent visit to Trinidad as one of Jamaica’s delegate to the VIII Americas Competitiveness Forum, said that last year four of EduFocal’s top five GSAT students (equivalent to T&T’s SEA) obtained scores in the 90’s and were placed in their first school of choice.

Shamique Francis, our number one GSAT student, did over 20,000 tests in less than three months and each test has 20 questions so that kind of gives you an idea of how engaging EduFocal can be for a lot of students.”

So what makes EduFocal different and gives it a cutting-edge advantage? Well according to Swaby, EduFocal has one core concept with two key features.

“EduFocal is different because of one major concept that I love because I think we’re the first in the Caribbean to do it and that’s the concept called ‘gamification’, which is essentially incorporating game-like elements in non-game contexts.”

He said one of the game-like elements is the concept of ‘levelling up’ where students start at Level 1 in each subject area and advances to the next level once they answer all the question correctly. He added that while students are answering their questions correctly and levelling up they can also win small prizes such as a movie ticket, food voucher or phone credit, which act as incentives.

“It’s just our way of saying you’ve done well and you deserve something for it,” Swaby said.

EduFocal also comes with two core elements; a Leader-board with an incorporated experience points system and a student Report Card.

“Students are awarded points at each level so it’s literally competition among all the students on our service for that number one spot on the leader-board,” Swaby said, adding that the student who is consistently at number one at both the GSAT and CSEC level wins a $30,000 cash bursary from EduFocal. (Shamique Francis won last year’s GSAT bursary).

“The multi-feature Report Card gives students, parents and teachers the information they need to help the child reach his/her full potential as it identifies a student’s strong and weak areas; view improvement over time; and monitors progress over specific time periods.”

The Report Card is equipped with the following features:

  • Date Picker: Allow parents and teachers to track a child’s performance over a specific period such as a week, month or a quarter

  • Average Score: Provides the average score of a student on a subject-by-subject or topic-by-topic basis over a specified period

  • High/Low Score: Shows a child’s highest and lowest score over a specified period

  • Test Taken: Parents can see the number of tests taken on a subject-by-subject or topic-by-topic basis

  • Full report: This feature shows all the tests information from the first time the student accessed EduFocal

Swaby, who believes the T&T market can benefit from EduFocal, also shared two new initiatives undertaken by his organisation.

“It is our intention to expand our services to meet the needs of students doing SAT. As such, we’ve partnered with a company in Jamaica called Versan Educational Services and within the next month or two we will be offering SAT services as the platform is already up and it just a matter of adding enough content on the service.

“Initially, we are starting with it in a private capacity within Versan itself because what they do is offer placement and text prep for the students,” he said.

EduFocal other initiative is titled ‘flip-the-classroom’ and is being done in partnership with the First Global Bank of Jamaica.

“The flip-the-classroom initiative’ is essentially where students will be doing school work at home and homework at school.

“One of the questions we asked ourselves at EduFocal is do we want to get rid of the classroom or do we want to enhance the classroom and the answer to that was we want to enhance it. So we came up with this simple concept where the golden rule is that no learning should take place in the classroom, learning should happen outside as the purpose of the classroom in this scenario is to reinforce what was learnt outside.

“I believe in the 21st century it’s important that we change how students learn because we’ve been taught the same way since time immemorial and times have changed, classrooms have grown, so we have to explore different ways of teaching our children and I think that’s one good way of doing it,” he said.

Swaby is no stranger to success as he’s the 2012 Top Student Entrepreneur at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech); a Governor-General Youth awardee; a Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) 50UnderFifty Awardee; and labelled as one of 10 innovators in Latin America and the Caribbean by the Inter-American Development Bank.  

However, the young Internet entrepreneur does not consider himself to be successful as yet and wants to leave a legacy behind.

“I’m big on legacy so I would want to go knowing that I built something that helped transform my country, the region and possibly the world and to also know that I’ve made an impact by making a difference in people’s lives.”

With over 3,550 students having used the programme and the number increasing, he believes that EduFocal can be expanded to not only be of benefit to students in Jamaica and the region but internationally as well.

He has his sights on an end of year launch in T&T.

Students can access EduFocal’s platform for a monthly subscription fee of US$15 or US$42 for three months. Local students can check out the platform by logging on to