Archive for the ‘Teaching of Science and Mathematics’ Category

Taking kids on the STEM route

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

A COMMON misperception students have of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), is that they can only pursue careers in medicine, dentistry and pharmacy.

The Education Ministry and various institutions have been relentlessly rallying against this notion as it aspires to achieve a 60:40 ratio of science to arts students.

One such institution is Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

In collaboration with Persama (Persatuan Sains Matematik Malaysia), the varsity’s Centre of Foundation Studies for Agricultural Science and Mathematics Department of the Science Faculty recently held a maths camp for secondary school students, mostly from rural areas.

Held over two days, the camp saw the participation of over 200 Form Two students from five districts in Selangor.

UPM Centre of Foundation Studies for Agricultural Science director Prof Dr Norihan Md Arifin said the camp was aimed at increasing students’ interest and confidence in mathematics.

“It adopts modules by Persama which emphasises on playing with mathematics.

“This way, participants can see how it closely relates to their everyday life,” added Dr Norihan, who was also the programme’s director.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan, who launched the programme, said the purpose of the camp was to provide more exposure to rural students, as well as sufficient resources to keep them well informed, on par with students from urban schools.

“The ministry realises this need and we have created the 1BestariNet programme.

“Through the virtual learning environment, we can help (students in their academics), but they also need exposure and sharing of knowledge from STEM experts,”he said.

He said, the interest in STEM had to be instilled from a young age, and should be voluntary.

“You cannot force a child to be interested in STEM because when they enjoy it voluntarily, they will take the initiative to be good in the field,” he said, adding the programme was a good platform to instil such interests in the mostly 14-year-olds.

Kamalanathan said while students from rural and urban schools use the same syllabus, it is the lack of access to extra information that students require after schooling hours that keeps rural students at a disadvantage. One such disadvantage is the poor Internet coverage in many rural areas.

“Therefore, when students attend programmes like this, senior lecturers will able to guide them,” he added.

Commenting on the misperceptions students have on STEM, Kamalanathan said it was the responsibility of both the ministry and teachers to inspire and inform students of the many career opportunities in science.

“In fact, there are many fields that are without competent people, he added.

“Because of this, we have to depend on foreign workers. Upgrading workers with the necessary skills, is a requirement that recognises and acknowledges that a country is a “developed nation.”

by SANDHYA MENON
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/08/13/taking-kids-on-the-stem-route/#Dig9UWzFu7u5gquu.99

Malaysian Science teachers get ‘astronaut training’ in Alabama

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: SCIENCE lessons will be more interesting after this at SK ST Mary’s, Kuching.

In June, the school’s science teacher ​Suwiti Abd Ranee attended the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy (HESA) Programme for science teachers jointly organised by U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC).

Together with 14 other Science teachers from Malaysia, she completed 45-hours of classroom and laboratory instructions on science and space exploration in Alabama, United States.

The teachers also participated in astronaut-style exercises such as high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space missions, coding challenges, land and water survival training and interactive flight dynamics programmes.

“I thought it was just going to be a closeted programme where everything would be done indoors, but I was thrown off-guard when we were asked to participate in the physical training,” said Suwiti.

“I would say we went through about 15 per cent of an astronaut’s actual training programme,” she added.

To fulfil her passion to teach, Suwiti dived straight into teaching Science after graduating as a software engineer. Currently, she also teaches English at the school. She came to hear about HESA earlier this year and decided to apply immediately

According to Suwiti, the application process itself wasn’t that rigorous, but she did have to write three essays in English about her experiences in teaching science, as well as tell of the challenges she faced in teaching the subject.

Suwiti and 14 other Science teachers who took part in HESA in 2016 and 2017 were given recognition for having successfully completed the HESA programme training in a ceremony yesterday.

Present to give away certificates and their HESA uniforms was Professor Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, science advisor to the Prime Minister and joint chairman of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).

In his speech, he praised efforts by Honeywell ASEAN to inspire Malaysian students to study STEM subjects. “It is good that Honeywell is encouraging teachers to show that science can be fun and critical at the same time. It is indeed rare in Malaysia.”

The teachers from Malaysia joined selected educators from other countries around the globe as well the 52 U.S states and territories. Since its launch in 2004, 2,776 educators from 62 countries, including 25 from Malaysia, have graduated from the HESA programme. Successful applicants are awarded scholarships, round-trip airfare, tuition, meals and accommodation.

Honeywell ASEAN president, Briand Greer said: “As a leading technology and soft company, Honeywell places a great deal of importance on educating our next generation of scientists and engineers.

“We all need to keep the excitement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – STEM – going for the young, because there are real problems to solve. For example, developing truly clean and sustainable energy; cleaning up the environment and solving crippling health issues.

By Hanna Sheikh Mokhtar.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2017/08/266202/malaysian-science-teachers-get-astronaut-training-alabama

Stepping up on science tie-ups

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017
Nancy Shukri (seventh from right) with the recipients of the research grants to 12 winning collaborative projects under the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund. To her right are Vicky Treadell, Asma Ismail and Zakri Abdul Hamid. Pix by SAIFULLIZAN TAMADI

MALAYSIA and the United Kingdom are set to step up collaborations in the areas of science, technology and innovation with the extension of the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund.

Started in 2014, the fund has thus far enabled local researchers to collaborate with research partners in the UK on projects that address specific issues on climate change and sustainability. Announced last week, the extension will see a 50 per cent increase in committed resources and funding from both countries from 2019 to 2021 to promote larger-scale research calls, innovation-focused activities and capacity building activities that support the development agendas of Malaysia.

“Malaysia is one of the most active of the 18 Newton Fund countries, with one of the highest averages in respect of the quality of their applications. Currently, 18 British and Malaysian funding organisations work together to offer funding opportunities for researchers. A total of 28 activities have been established and about

100 funding grants awarded since the fund’s inception in 2014,” said Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, Malaysia’s Science Advisor to the Prime Minister.

British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell said the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund demonstrates the commitment by both countries towards sustainable development, promoting cross-cutting technology and innovative solutions, and building capacity in science and research. “It is a key pillar of our bilateral partnership,” she added.

Both Zakri and Treadell were speaking at the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund Open Day which was graced by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who is also the Minister in charge of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri.

In her speech, she said: “Science and technology are the enablers or catalysts for many of our economic development. The Malaysian government is giving emphasis in science and technology to ensure the sustainable development of the country. International collaboration programmes and activities including the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund is a good model to spur strategic partnership in finding solutions of the global issues.”

Zakri Abdul Hamid

The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund has been progressing rapidly. A cohesive range of research and innovation activities have kicked off that include collaborations on health research involving the UK Medical Research Council and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia; continued work on capacity building by British Council and the UK Academies; and a large scale Research and Innovation Bridges programme on sustainable urbanisation, led by InnovateUK, Research Councils UK and MIGHT.

New programmes rolling out this year include collaborations to improve understanding of the impacts of hydrometeorological hazards led by MIGHT and Natural Environment Research Council UK; and programmes for delivering transferable skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), focussing on transformative and high-quality collaborative projects to raise skill levels in Malaysia involving Science and Technology Facilities Council UK and MoHE.

The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund Open Day brought Malaysia’s science, technology and innovation community together to celebrate the success of the fund thus far. The event saw the launch of the Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) — a landmark collaboration between the UK Met Office and National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) Malaysia, Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM), and Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) Malaysia. This project aims to harness Malaysian and British scientific expertise to improve forecasts for severe weather in Malaysia and the region, to save lives and protect livelihoods.

At the event, President of Academy of Sciences of Malaysia (ASM), Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail also presented about £4.6 million (RM25.77 million) worth of research grants to twelve winning collaborative projects under the “Bilateral medical and health research in non-communicable diseases (NCDs)” programme. Funded by ASM and Medical Research Council UK, the two-year programme sees Malaysian and British medical researchers working together on research to tackle NCDs prevalent in Malaysia.

By ROZANA SANI .

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2017/08/263388/stepping-science-tie-ups

The art of science diplomacy

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017
National Disaster Management Agency director Datuk Abd Rashid Harun (left) exchanging MoU documents with Meteorological Science director Simon Vosper while Vicki Treadell (right) and Minister at the Prime Minister Department Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri looks on.

SCIENCE diplomacy is basically the use of scientific collaboration among nations to address common problems and to build constructive international partnership. It transcends borders, politics, culture and religion where the universality of science is accepted by all.

One such example of science diplomacy is the Newton Fund from United Kingdom comprising matching grants given out to 18 countries around the world to promote the economic development and social welfare of either the partner countries or, through working with the partner country, to address the well-being of communities.

The fund was launched in 2014 and originally consisted of £75 million (RM422 million) each year for five years. In the 2015 UK Spending Review it was agreed to extend and expand the fund. The Newton Fund was extended from 2019 to 2021 and expanded by doubling the £75 million investment to £150 million (RM843 million) by 2021, leading to a £735 million (RM4.13 billion) in UK investment to 2021, with partner countries providing matched resources within the Fund.

Malaysia is one of the most active of the 18 Newton Fund countries, with one of the highest averages in respect of the quality of their applications. Via the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund, 18 British and Malaysian funding organisations are working together to offer funding opportunities for researchers. A total of 28 activities have been established and about 100 funding grants awarded since the fund’s inception in 2014.

New programmes rolling out this year include collaborations to improve understanding of the impacts of hydrometeorological hazards led by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MoHE) and Natural Environment Research Council UK; and programmes for delivering transferable skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), focusing on transformative and high-quality collaborative projects to raise skill levels in Malaysia involving Science and Technology Facilities Council UK and MoHE.

British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell said UK’s motivation is not just about “how it helps our country, actually it is about our sense of global responsibility as a global citizen, a global nation.

“It is not just the government-to-government political relationship, it is about the broad spectrum of our relationship. So how do we connect with a country on science and everything that flows from that: healthcare, education, knowledge, skills, on defence engagement. We collaborate here with Wisma Putra, on a big global general issue on what we do at United Nations together. That way, it is not about what we can sell to Malaysia, or what Malaysia can invest to UK,” she said.

“Nowadays, disease does not recognise borders, extreme climate condition does not recognise borders, these are things that have a global effect. So by working together and finding solutions, it is not just for Malaysia or Britain, it is actually solutions that can help other countries, too. Cancer research, for example, is not specific to a given race or geography; there might be some cancers that are more prevalent in some regions. But they still manifest themselves in a range of countries around the world,” Treadell continued.

Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, Malaysia’s Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, said the country is seeking a role in science diplomacy.

“Many of the challenges we face today are international — whether it’s tackling climate change, or fighting disease, poverty reduction or tackling food security. That’s why it is important that we create a new role for science in international policy making and diplomacy to plays science at the heart of the programme on the international agenda,” he said.

Treadell and Zakri were participating in a panel discussion entitled “Energising International Collaborations in Science, Technology and Innovation” chaired by Academy of Sciences Malaysia president Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail.

Earlier on, the Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) was launched — a landmark collaboration between the UK Met Office and National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) Malaysia, Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM), and Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) Malaysia.

This project aims to harness Malaysian and British scientific expertise to improve forecasts for severe weather in Malaysia and the region, to save lives and protect livelihoods.

Professor Simon Vosper of the UK Met office said the impact severe weather has in the Southeast Asia region in particular is really important.

“The weather phenomenon — severe thunderstorm, flash flooding, wind damage, landslides and storms — these occur broadly across Asia and this is why working with Malaysia is extremely important to us. Looking at Southeast Asia as a whole is a way to tackle this problem – to find the kind of advices needed, to inform on economic policy — via the understanding of severe weather and how it works.

By ROZANA SANI.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2017/08/265653/art-science-diplomacy

Tackling Lack Of Interest In Stem Subjects

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

News Pic

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — It is estimated that Malaysia has to produce at least 5,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates annually to realise the 2050 aspiration (TN50), where Malaysia will emerge as among the top 20 countries of the world in economic, social development and innovation spheres.

However, there are some who doubt that country will be able to produce sufficient number of STEM graduates due to a number of reasons.

Firstly, interest for STEM subjects among school students is on the decline and this has affected the university enrolment in these fields, particularly in the pure science field. This had been pointed out to the media by National STEM Movement chairman Professor Datuk Dr Noraini Idris.

Noraini said this during the launching of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia’s N9 STEM@Nilai, and Cluster Schools and Adopted Schools Carnival in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan recently.

Moreover, current employment patterns do not indicate a strong demand for STEM graduates as indicated by the Graduates Tracer Study conducted by the Higher Education Ministry in 2015.

The study indicated 27.7 per cent of the Science graduates being unemployed compared with 26.7 per cent of Arts and Social Science graduates.

CREATE JOBS FOR THE STEM GRADUATES

Professor Emerita Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman, the country’s first astrophysicist and the one who helped lay the groundwork for astronomy and space studies in the country, thus urges the government to create an ecosystem that will support the STEM’s graduates.

“The government must be consistent about this. If you encourage people to do STEM, but you don’t encourage the development of the industry that provides them jobs then it would be pointless,” she said during the Powering the Future discussion by Exxon Mobile recently.

In order to achieve this, Mazlan suggests the government upgrades more SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to a level that they can create jobs to the graduates, as well as to develop more scientific institutions.

The Director of MegaScience 3.0 project also points out that more parents will encourage their children to take up STEM if they could see a clear career path for their children.

STEM STUDENTS MUST MASTER OTHER SKILLS

However, it is also important for STEM students to enhance their potential by mastering other skills, including soft skills to get them better prepared for the future.

The future, according to Mazlan, will see several trends that is already emerging in small scale today.

It is predicted there will no longer be more long working hours, instead it will be normal for a person to have three to five jobs at the same time.

“For instance in the Scandinavian countries they are already experimenting with 30 hours work per week with no decrease in salary or productivity.

“And if you are going to have several jobs, it is good to have variety of skills or fields mastered,” she said.

Another scenario is that in the future they will be a group of people who will be classified as the ‘useless class’.

“These are people who cannot re-skill themselves. They cannot learn new skills. For goodness sake we hope we will never be in this class because the next thing that is surely to come is the artificial intelligence (AI),” said the former National Planetarium’s director.

AI will replace human in many occupations including doctors, scientists, movie directors and teachers.

TEACHER; THE KEY TO BOOST INTEREST IN SCIENCE

Professor Yang Farina Abdul Aziz of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) believes that teachers play a crucial role in boosting the interest in science among students.

Yang Farina, who is leading the National Science Challenge (NSC) Steering Committee, has seen how teachers from non high performance schools coached and motivated their students in the NSC until they reached the top five.

By Ainul Huda Mohamed Saaid.

Read more @ http://education.bernama.com/index.php?sid=news_content&id=1380238

Human Benefits: Science and technology in Islam

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

Standfirst: Islam is supportive of scientific research that brings benefit to humankind, but knowledge of science and technology that is harmful is discouraged. QUESTIONS have been asked on how Islam relates to science and technology. We respond to this from the perspective of maqasid, which refers to the higher purpose of syariah, and the benefits it seeks to realise for the people.

Many have argued that the whole of syariah is meant to promote human benefits, which are, however, beyond enumeration and too many to count.

Muslim scholars have, therefore, identified certain types of maqasid and classified them from different perspectives.

Some of the maqasid, especially in the daruriyyat (essential purposes) category, are taken from a general reading of the Quran and Sunnah, and are, therefore, textually based.

There are five essential maqasid of syariah — protection of life, faith, intellect, property and lineage — and a sixth is added according to a variant reading. A minority opinion adds protection of honour to the list.

Daruriyyat is only one of several other classifications of the maqasid, which need not be elaborated here, but only to say that all classes of maqasid are not scripturally grounded — some are also based on interpretation and ijtihad (the effort put in an activity). Yet, it is believed that all of the rulings (ahkam) of syariah have their purposes, some of which have been identified in the text and the rest may be discovered through investigation and ijtihad.

Islam is supportive of scientific research that brings benefit to humankind, but knowledge of science and technology that is predominantly harmful is discouraged. The Islamic view of technology and science is, thus, geared towards the purposes they advance.

If science and technology can be used to facilitate better methods of truth discovery while involving no violation of the Islamic principles, there is no question over their acceptance.

For instance, if new methods of fact finding, such as DNA analysis, can resolve confusion over paternity or identification of war dead, and those who die in a plane crash, this will serve in a better way the syariah objective of the preservation of lineage (nasab), and ties of love and compassion (sillat al-rahim) in the family, who may need to know the facts of death of their loved ones.

Similarly, if technology can determine the precise time and location for prayer and fasting in unknown places and outer space, this will be in line with the protection of religion, which is also one of the daruriyyat.

Then again, if science can help find a better cure for lethal diseases, this will help to protect life, which is also one of the essential purposes of syariah.

Yet, if scientific research is pursued only to produce weapons of mass destruction for hegemonic purposes, which also exacerbates hostility and conflict among people, this would violate Islamic principles with respect to preservation of life, and the building of a safe and peaceful order on earth. It cannot, therefore, be supported in the name of Islam or syariah.

The harm to people would be even greater if a country with meagre resources allocate vastly disproportionate amounts of their national wealth to belligerent purposes, when peaceful approaches and policies would offer preferable options.

Genetic engineering applications that are used to fundamentally alter human nature and constitution is broadly considered a violation and prohibited.

Human cloning is one such interference. Whereas the normal child has 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 from the father, a cloned child has twenty-three pairs of chromosomes from just one person.

The Quran, on numerous occasions, refers to the natural way of human creation from male and female, and entitles the child to the care of a mother and father. Human cloning is, thus, a violation of normal family life, which is one of the essential maqasid.

In a similar vein, propagation of misleading and heretical doctrines, and those that entail terrorism and loss of innocent life in the name of religion or jihad, violate the maqasid both of religion and life.

Scientific evidence show that the harmful effects of industrial pollution have reached alarmingly dangerous levels that threaten dire consequences for humans and other life forms on planet earth.

By MOHAMMAD HASHIM KAMALI

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/08/263970/human-benefits-science-and-technology-islam

Stepping up on science tie-ups

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
Nancy Shukri (seventh from right) with the recipients of the research grants to 12 winning collaborative projects under the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund. To her right are Vicky Treadell, Asma Ismail and Zakri Abdul Hamid. Pix by SAIFULLIZAN TAMADI
By ROZANA SANI - August 2, 2017 @ 6:01pm

MALAYSIA and the United Kingdom are set to step up collaborations in the areas of science, technology and innovation with the extension of the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund.

Started in 2014, the fund has thus far enabled local researchers to collaborate with research partners in the UK on projects that address specific issues on climate change and sustainability. Announced last week, the extension will see a 50 per cent increase in committed resources and funding from both countries from 2019 to 2021 to promote larger-scale research calls, innovation-focused activities and capacity building activities that support the development agendas of Malaysia.

“Malaysia is one of the most active of the 18 Newton Fund countries, with one of the highest averages in respect of the quality of their applications. Currently, 18 British and Malaysian funding organisations work together to offer funding opportunities for researchers. A total of 28 activities have been established and about

By ROZANA SANI.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2017/08/263388/stepping-science-tie-ups

Science, a must for country to reach greater heights.

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

THE public and media practitioners must encourage the younger generation to have a love for science so that the national aspiration of becoming a developed country can be realised.

Chairman of the National Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Move-ment Prof Datuk Dr Noraini Idris said in order to become a developed nation, the country needed to produce at least 5,000 graduates a year.

“However, going by the enrolment into the pure science stream, there is a shortage (of students) in the schools for STEM.

“The shortage in the schools would lead to a shortage at the university level because one of the contributory factors is the negative perception about STEM, and a lack of interest,” she said in her speech at the recent launch of the Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) Cluster and Foster Schools Carnival and N9 STEM@ Nilai.

The event was launched by Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Datuk Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah. Also present was USIM deputy vice-chancellor (Academic and International) Prof Datuk Dr Zulkiple Abd Ghani.

Noraini also said under the national education policy, there was a need for 60% of students joining the science stream while the remaining 40% for the non-science streams.
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/07/23/science-a-must-for-country-to-reach-greater-heights/#vKjhQYBJUggWqhgB.99

Company renews support for STEM initiatives

Saturday, July 29th, 2017
Kamalanathan (fifth from left) sharing a light moment with Prof Yang Farina (left), Graham (third from right) and International Mathematical Olympiad secretariat at PermataPintar director Prof Datuk Dr. Noriah Mohd Ishak (fourth from right).

Kamalanathan (fifth from left) sharing a light moment with Prof Yang Farina (left), Graham (third from right) and International Mathematical Olympiad secretariat at PermataPintar director Prof Datuk Dr. Noriah Mohd Ishak (fourth from right).

EXXONMOBIL is renewing its support for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives in Malaysia with a RM250,000 contribution to the 2017 National Science Challenge, as well as sponsoring RM120,000 for the Malaysian delegation competing in this year’s International Mathematical Olympiad held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

During the cheque presentation ceremony recently, ExxonMobil Subsidiaries in Malaysia chairman Edward Graham said: “In the energy industry where demand continues to increase, STEM experts are highly sought after to create solutions for tomorrow.

“By participating in programmes such as the National Science Challenge and the International Mathematical Olympiad, we are able to give students a chance to gain additional exposure and experience that extends beyond the classroom environment.

“This allows students amazing opportunities to further enrich their STEM knowledge and to also develop soft skills, which are useful when interacting with others and working in groups,” he added.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk P Kamalanathan said problem-solving skills, the ability to gather and evaluate evidence, and making use of information can be learnt through STEM education.

“STEM education is widely acknowledged as a need for a nation to be successful in today’s highly competitive and globalised digital economy,” he added.

Unfortunately, he added, according to the ministry’s data in 2014, only 46.7% of students are opting for the science stream at the secondary and tertiary school levels.

This is the reverse of the target to have a 60:40 ratio of science and technical stream students to arts students.

He said it is “too late” to be promoting STEM in secondary schools as students start narrowing down their interests while in primary school.

Kamalanathan said that by using fun learning methods, teachers can draw primary school pupils to the sciences.

To encourage more students to take up the challenge and participate in STEM competitions or at least spark an interest in the sciences, National Science Challenge Steering Committee chairman and Academy of Sciences Malaysia fellow Prof Dr Yang Farina Abdul Aziz said teachers need to be just as excited and enthusiastic about STEM in the classroom

This year marks the 28th edition of the National Science Challenge, organised by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

By REBECCA RAJAENDRAM
Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/07/23/company-renews-support-for-stem-initiatives/#czcKWCZ0GowihGB0.99

Prepping for a STEM-pede: Igniting interest in the education pipeline

Saturday, July 29th, 2017
University students can help inspire interest in STEM among school children.

MUCH has been said about how STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is critical for the nation in terms of wealth creation and global competitiveness.

Defined as disciplines of knowledge consisting of science (physics, chemistry and biology) and mathematics with the integration of various technologies and engineering, STEM incorporates all the technologies collectively considered core underpinnings of an advanced society.

The strength of the STEM workforce is often viewed as an indicator of a nation’s ability to sustain itself and Malaysia, in its Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (Preschool to Post-Secondary Education), has set the roadmap for strengthening delivery of STEM across the education system.

This is being done via three measures: raising student interest through new learning approaches and an enhanced curriculum; sharpening skills and abilities of teachers; and building public and student awareness.

Despite the plan and efforts put into various STEM programmes since 1967, the 60:40 ratio for Science/Technical and Arts Policy has never been achieved — neither at school nor, subsequently, tertiary level.

There is also the STEM paradox where many believe despite having a STEM-based qualification, there is no guarantee there will be suitable jobs requiring their skills in the employment market upon graduation.

The National STEM Movement, headed by representatives of several universities in Malaysia as well as those from the Education, Higher Education and Science, Technology and Innovation Ministries, aims to drive the passion in fundamental subjects in STEM, nurture excellent scientists for the country and develop a career path for scientists.

Its chairman, Professor Datuk Dr Noraini Idris, who is the deputy vice-chancellor (research and innovation) of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, said currently — like the rest of the world — Malaysia is faced with various challenges in the STEM issue.

“Young children are no longer keen on science. This leads to a decreased number of students taking up science at secondary school level. With a poor population at secondary school, by the time they get to university there isn’t enough supply of good and talented science students to be trained in STEM fields,” she said.

Today only 27 per cent of students in the entire education system in Malaysia are in the science stream, said Noraini. “We are lagging far behind in science and mathematics at secondary school level as observed in international assessment studies. Math and science encourages logical thinking — what concerns us is the poor critical thinking skills among students. While UPSR is trying to encourage it through a different exam format, the results are still wanting. How are we then to have the talents with exploratory minds that could harness knowledge in STEM to transform the country into a high income nation,” she shared.

And why the ardent concern on producing a STEM workforce?

Data from Academy of Sciences Malaysia show that a total of 1 million people are required by 2020 to be in the science and technology fields: 500,000 in support and services comprising technicians, those in the vocational field, science officers, nurses and ICT personnel; 470,000 implementors like engineers, doctors and architects as well as well as scientists, technologists and applied scientists; and 30,000 in research.

“The type of nurses that we want, for example, is not those who obtained a diploma or degree — they must be thinker nurses also. Doctors will not be able to observe patients every second as they’ll focus on the critical cases first. So, nurses need to have a strong science base to think critically and be good at problem solving. With a workforce of a high knowledge base like these, they will be able to help the department, the organisation or the country move to greater heights,” she illustrated.

The pipeline for STEM starts from the cradle right up to career, Noraini highlighted.

“So that means as academics at tertiary level, we lecturers have to go down and carry out campaigns on STEM to educate our people. When we talk about science, we must learn about physics, chemistry and biology even at kindergarten and the primary school level. We must be strong in math. Of course, the focus will be different at those levels. STEM provides the basis for inquiry, exploration, innovation… When we do sciences, we don’t necessarily become doctors or engineers — we can become entrepreneurs, successful corporate heads, innovators, policy makers and more with the knowledge of sciences. This is the thing we want to impart — through knowledge of STEM, we can do a lot of things,” she said.

The National STEM Movement has introduced numerous initiatives.

“We are now in the midst of designing a STEM Career Portal. The general public — parents and students — need to know there are a variety of careers in STEM other than the traditional ones. For example, Malaysia is surrounded by the ocean — we can learn a lot of things from our environment and turn this learning into a future career based on marine sciences,” she said.

The National STEM Movement have already begun to organise the Malaysian Young Scientist Competition fashioned after the US Science Competition. “This is carried out at every state. Other than teachers, university students play a role as advisors or coaches. We want more collaborators to help to encourage and inspire people to take up science,” Noraini said.

The movement has also organised the Malaysian STEM Colloquium in a number of states with the next one to be held in Johor in September. “Although there is a university coordinator for the event in every state, we welcome others to join. These colloquium do not only highlight pure sciences, we also link STEM to the arts and social science. In Kelantan, STEM dikir barat was performed and in Melaka, STEM was featured in a Hang Tuah setting,” said Noraini.

She is particularly excited about the National STEM Mentor-Mentee Programme that involves facilitators from the National STEM movement, mentors comprising science students from universities, and mentees who are students from Form 1 to 3 — with one mentor assigned to five mentees.

The programme involves both rural and secondary secondary schools as well as public universities in all states.

“We expose the students to the wonders of science and also university environment. Our key performance indicator is that after undergoing the programme, each school involved will set up more pure science classes for those interested. Because this has just started, we need more manpower from public and private universities and also industry partners to help us out,” she said.

On the perceived inability of some STEM graduates to gain employment, Noraini said universities now have to relook at the courses being offered in STEM areas.

“What we see is that many universities are offering the same courses. What if the programmes that we are designing do not match with the real world situation? We have to study properly what is the area of concern and whether this suggests that multidisciplinary STEM courses should be introduced. That is why when we design a curriculum, we need to discuss thoroughly with the industry partners,” she said.

Dr Logendra Ponniah, Taylor’s University head of School of Education, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said when discussing STEM, many educators do not focus on its intrinsic values of problem solving ability, critical thinking ability, inquiry and so forth.

“It is the competency of the person that is acquired through a STEM-based education; an engineer, for example, will make a systematic thinker and planner who can conceive engineering design principles that are widely used in many industries.

If you look at the CEOs of today, many of them have STEM education and they subsequently moved on to management. And they attribute their thinking style to their STEM education. So parents and educators must align: constantly emphasise that STEM is not a body of knowledge, it is a kind of thinking, and it is not a professional engagement. And if teachers can emphasise competency more than knowledge, I think we stand a second chance in the future,” he said.

Professor Emerita Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman, Malaysia’s first astrophysicist and the founding director of the Malaysian National Space Agency observed that unemployment among science and engineering degree holders does exist.

By ROZANA SANI.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/education/2017/07/260862/prepping-stem-pede-igniting-interest-education-pipeline