We want to change the way [students] learn; challenging the status quo, changing the way students interact with students and the way students interact with teachers.” – Gordon Swaby, creator of EduFocal Ltd. In an interview with the Jamaica Information Service (JIS).
It is possible to have fun while you learn. Technology guru, Gordon Swaby, found a way which allows kids to play games and utilize technology while learning as he saw the need to increase not just literacy in Jamaica but student grades on a whole.
“Persons in the education industry are tired of the same conventional, ineffective methods of getting information across to students. EduFocal presents a refreshing method in incorporating learning with play.” – Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, Former Minister of Education in Jamaica.
EduFocal has some five thousand users and offers exam preparation from Grade Four to the CXC level in a variety of subjects including science, math, language, social studies, etc., to students who subscribe to the platform. Students are able to learn via involvement in quizzes, games and other exciting activities, and while doing so, are able to participate in networking with peers. If that is not enough; students can also win prizes like movie-tickets, phone credit, food vouchers with the popular role playing game technique.
“Easy access to materials and methods beyond those used by the teachers in a particular school… essentially the opening of new educational worlds for young people, regardless of where they are enrolled.” – Senator Hon. Kamina Johnson Excellence.
The EduFocal Awards for Excellence is held on an annual basis and awards the top students on the website’s leader board for their efforts. The top student is awarded a JMD $30,000 scholarship for their scores and performance at the CXC and GSAT levels; that gives students even more of an incentive to work hard.
“EduFocal has helped me to prepare myself for the CSEC exam in one of the most outstanding ways. I sat four subjects in fourth form and I was way ahead in my studies. I’ve excelled in all four subjects as a result of EduFocal.” – Shantol Barton, secondary student and satisfied participant.
The organization first started out with catering to Grade 6 students who are preparing for GSAT, but with the success of one group, expansion occurred and is now catering to most, if not all, students who look to prepare for exams at the primary and secondary levels. It is now the largest exam content provider in Jamaica.
“Hearing about this invention, EduFocal, fills me with a lot of hope for our future…because what is quite clear, as we look across the educational enterprise in the world and in Jamaica, is that we have to devise new ways to engage our students. The minds of our young people are far advanced and far changed from the traditional measures.” – Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, former Minister of Education in an interview with the Jamaica Information Service (JIS)
The content is aligned with the syllabus taught in schools so students are getting comprehensive learning which is developed by teaching professionals from prestigious schools. The resource gives students access to over 23,000 questions designed by qualified individuals who understand the concept given in examinations. Students, teachers and parents can keep track of performance through the feature ‘Report Card’ which has 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
Adapted from a reported interview with Gordon Swaby.
The content is updated daily so that one can expect the very best and very up to date information being exhibited on the screen. If you want to know how teachers can also benefit from this venture.
“With GSATready, the students do not even realize that they are learning. The pool of questions in the study programme includes recall, inferential, application and analysis, all of which help to improve the students’ mental ability and critical thinking skills.” – Robert Smith, the Principal at Chetolah Park Primary School.
Students can access the website’s resources at JMD $1,500 monthly or $4,200 for a three month subscription; they are able to purchase vouchers from over 3,000 outlets island wide. In 2012, The Jamaica Observer partnered with EduFocal so that students could obtain EduFocal access codes in the Sunday printout each week.
Hon Rev. Ronald Thwaites, Former Minister of Education, recently told the Jamaican Observer, “Parents spend $20 billion on remedial studies and extra lessons per year… and EduFocal is offering so much for so little. Students have more opportunities to reach their full potential.”
EduFocal’s mission is fully endorsed by the Ministry of Education and the Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM). Swaby’s mentors and members of the company’s Board of Directors include: Grace Lindo, Director and also an Associate lawyer at Nunes, Scholefield, Deleon and Coin; Renee Rattray, Director and also Educator and Leader of the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation’s ILead Programme; Maxwell Jardin, Director and also Owner of Rainforest Seafood; Peter Levy, Chairman and also Managing Director of British Caribbean Insurance Company; and JJ Geewax, Director and Leader of Google’s cloud platform.
Swaby plans to expand to other parts of the world and has started forging ties with individuals in Lagos, Nigeria and is successfully building a strong network with them. EduFocal hopes to launch their website once they have finalized their connections and partnerships with schools in Lagos, by December 2017. Their partnership will be mutually beneficial and the CEO [Swaby] says he has not yet identified any competitors. Therefore, if all goes well, the company [EduFocal] will be able to introduce an innovative and unique learning experience to the students of Lagos.
The venture has gotten encouraging reception from students, parents, teachers and well wishes in Jamaica and across the world. Through social media, the internet, television, and print features like: Mr. Swaby has gotten his idea out there to the masses. The primary social learning platform in the Caribbean has partnered with Rainforest Seafoods, British Caribbean Insurance Company (BCIC) and the Government of Jamaica ‘Tablets In Schools’ program. He has also partnered with Versan in Jamaica and looks to offer SAT preparation to students electronically.
“As societies evolve, so must their educational frameworks. It is a part of development. We certainly have to find new ways to meet our learners where they are. Education has to be a collaborative effort between all interests: parents, administrators, teachers, public and private sectors, legislators and other groups within the society.” – Senator Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith at the 2015 EduFocal Awards for Excellence.
About the Creator and CEO, Mr. Gordon Swaby
Born in Mandeville, Jamaica on November 18, 1990, Gordon Obrien Swaby attended the Holmwood Technical and then the University of Technology and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. He grew up with his parents, both entrepreneurs; however, he says their career choice had no influence on his decision. Or did it?
“I have something called my ‘life wire frame’ which is an outline of my life for the next 20 to 30 years. One of the things on this wire frame was that I wanted to start a company before I left college. I didn’t know what kind of company it would be but I knew I wanted to have a company by that time.” – Gordon Swaby told Youthlink.
What started out as him blogging, playing with the idea of graphic design, later evolved into him taking an interest in computing and coding. In his teenager years, at the age of fifteen, he single-handedly created advancegamers.com, which was one of the largest gaming sites in the English-speaking Caribbean. Unfortunately, the site is no longer active due to him not ‘following through’ with maintaining it and not giving it the dedication it demanded.
“I learned a lot of things from Advance-Gamers, but I think it could have been much bigger than it was. In retrospect if I started it with the intention of running a business it would probably be around today.” – Gordon Swaby in an interview with The Jamaica Observer.
The brainchild came to Swaby back in 2010 and after consulting, sleepless nights, and more than two million lines of coding, EduFocal Ltd. was launched on March 15th, 2010 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, Jamaica.
It was a long treacherous road for Swaby thriving from humble beginnings to becoming a successful businessman who has the support of international partners and looking to expand his business in the Caribbean and Nigeria. He found his niche and has made his business model work by utilizing his talents and resources in the harsh economic environments which Jamaica and the world is experiencing.
In 2012, Swaby was awarded the Top Student Entrepreneur Award at the University of Technology (UTECH). He was also awarded by the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), and the Jamaica Gleaner 50underFifty Business Leader. Additionally, he has received the Governor-General Youth Achievement Award and Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence.
In 2014 he was dubbed one of the Inter-American Development Bank’s top ten innovators in the Latin American and Caribbean regions.
The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship inductee adopts the idea of having S.M.A.R.T. goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely – which he feels have attributed to his many successes since the inception of EduFocal.
He stated that his mantra for as long as he can remember is, “Always an employer, never an employee”. In a recent interview he said, “I’m very passionate about creating opportunities for other people. Creating something from nothing is very hard, but I love what I do and could never see myself being anything else but an entrepreneur.” –
He said that he may venture into politics but for the immediate future, the twenty-six year old aims to become a family man with a wife,kids, and a company that will impact many lives.
Presently, EduFocal has all his focus and dedication as he continues to afford opportunities to students across Jamaica and the world.
Gordon’s Tips for Prospective Entrepreneurs:
- Have a mentor.
- Keep focused.
- Be around people who are smarter than you because if you are content with people who are not as ambitious as you are, then they will decrease your ambitions.
- Have great friends; people you can count on, people who will help you and want to see you do well.
- Be confident in what you are doing. You must believe in what you are doing because if you are not confident, other people won’t believe in you.
By Alexandra Daley
Keep connected with him on his blog.