Archive for the ‘Teaching of Science and Mathematics’ Category

Developing human capital for the future workplace

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017
Students attending a lecture at Universiti Malaysia Pahang last year. We must help make science education more interesting, relevant and applicable to our daily lives. FILE PIC

MALAYSIA needs to be prepared for a rapidly changing, increasingly interconnected and technologically rich world where there will be many new opportunities.  There will also be disruption across many industries, demanding greater career flexibility.

We need expertise in various disciplines, particularly science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). More effort is needed to increase the number of researchers, scientists and engineers. In the future, we will have to compete with our brains, and with science.

Promoting STEM education has long been prioritised in Malaysia, beginning in the 1970s with the first national science and technology enrolment policy, which aimed to see 60 per cent of students enrolled in science studies, 40 per cent in arts

Increasingly today, however, Malaysian students opt out of STEM fields at the secondary school and tertiary levels — part of a worrisome global trend.

To overcome this, science teaching must change, with the overall objective of fostering a living science as a dynamic force for societal improvement. Our efforts must be geared towards the creation of a scientific mind. Science teaching has to evolve from its traditional form, where sciences are taught without showing much of its exciting usefulness and practicality in everyday life.

In classrooms, scientific laws are learnt, not discovered; hypotheses are not tested but taught. This does little to develop an attitude for inquiry, adaptability and objective understanding. Students need the ability to critically observe, analyse and draw conclusions on everyday phenomena. We must help make science education more interesting, relevant and applicable to our daily lives.

Graduates must not only be book smart and curious, but have the “soul” or conscience to know right from wrong; they must have the ethics and integrity to pursue science for the betterment of society.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak believes that increasing the number of STEM students should be a “national movement” to ensure our competitiveness in the global arena

Tabling the 2018 Budget recently, he announced RM250 million to set up a STEM centre to develop the latest learning methods to train STEM specialist teachers.

The computer science curriculum module will be enhanced to include coding by primary and secondary school students, and 2,000 classes will be upgraded to 21st century smart classrooms to enhance creative learning and innovative thinking.

The government is also committed to technical and vocational education and training, announcing the TVET Malaysia masterplan, including 100 TVET Excellent Students Scholarships worth RM4.5 million.

Also of note is the bid to support skilled workers in the rail industry. The new  National Rail Centre of Excellence, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd, in cooperation with higher education institutions, will train 3,000 professionals in the industry.

In 2011, futurist Thomas Frey predicted that 60 per cent of the jobs in the future have not yet been invented.

Among them are drone traffic supervisor, data scientist, avatar designers, 3D printing engineers and autonomous transportation specialist. We need to address the conundrum of how to prepare our young for this

On that point, physician and writer Dr George W. Crane makes this assertion: “There is no future in any jobs, the future lies in the person who holds the job”.

Hence, we can no longer focus on equipping students for specialised careers. Career paths are becoming more flexible and we need to change expectations of what a person’s “career”, or “careers”, will look like. Of course, we need specialists and academics, but businesses need employees with a broad range of skills and experience that can help them to creatively adapt to technology-rich environments. Young people need that range of skills so that they can move between careers.

Graduates of the future should become job creators, rather than job seekers. The world needs new ideas, innovative solutions and visionary leaders who can make them happen.

Today’s most successful entrepreneurs are those who pursue both economic and social values, who create not only wealth but also a wealth of opportunities for others. Entrepreneurship education is a vital part of the overall curriculum.

We also should prepare the education system to support the ongoing re-qualification of the industrial workforce, recognising the need for training to take place in more settings than traditional locations. This support could include providing online-learning platforms and access to free courses at “open” universities, which have no entry requirements, as well as using mobile apps to offer training and access to know-how.


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Robotics competition to instil interest in STEM subjects.

Saturday, November 25th, 2017
Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (fourth right) shaking hands with a life-size robot as students and officials looks on during the World of Robotics National Championship 2017

Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (fourth right) shaking hands with a life-size robot as students and officials looks on during the World of Robotics National Championship 2017

THE teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education to primary schoolchildren is the way forward and is in line with the Government’s vision, said Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

“And robotics like the World of Robotics National Championship 2017 (WRC) will broaden minds and create more talents among the young students.

“STEM Education is very significant with the need of Industrial Revolution 4.0 that emphasised on knowledge, skills, technology and innovation in the digital and robotics industry.

“This is to educate students on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics with the integration and application in the real world.

WRC, organised by World of Robotics Sdn Bhd and Pitsco Education with the cooperation of the Education Ministry and APU, had 575 students from 90 schools taking part in five categories.

The categories are Junior (aged five to six), Primary 1A, Primary 1B and Primary 2 (seven to 12) and Secondary (13 to 17).

World of Robotics managing director Lee Yew Kein was pleased with the response from schools and hoped participation would increase next year.

SK Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin teacher Roziah Sulaiman, from Jitra, Kedah, said it was the only rural school that took part and got first place in the primary school category last year.

“In fact, we have a Robotics Club set up in 2002 only but became active in the last three years.

“Our school is very proud of its achievement and a robotic character was painted in murals around the school,” she said.

A total of 575 students from 90 schools took part in this championship.

Nur Elisha Wong Muhammad Elyas Wong from SK Convent Bukit Nanas 1 teamed up with Omisha Dinesh from SJK(T) Simpang Lima to win the Junior category.

In the Primary 1A category, SJK(T) Serdang’s Sakkti Velan Vivekananda, Ghautheam Saravanan and Sharath Saravanan grabbed the first prize.

SK Dato Onn Jaafar’s trio Farah Qamilia Shahnizam, Muhamad Alif Burhan Shahnizam and Muhammad Aqil Hakim Kamal Bahrin emerged champions in the Primary 1B category.

SK Taman Melati’s Nur Maisarah Darwisya Mohd Faisal, Nurul Alya Hannani Nor Isham, and Adam Harris Mohd Khusyairy grabbed the first spot in the Primary 2 category while SMK Gombak Setia’s Muhammad Arif Erman, Ahmad Aiman Nor Azam, and Muhammad Hafizam Masril emerged champion in the secondary school category.

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Children need to be more hands-on in tech

Sunday, November 5th, 2017
The Kuala Lumpur Science Engineering Fair 2017 (KLSEF) aims to encourage schoolchildren to be more involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and cultivate their interest by challenging them to create their own gadgets. (Pic by NURUL SHAFINA JEMENON)
By TEH ATHIRA YUSOF - November 5, 2017 @ 5:26pm

KUALA LUMPUR: The Kuala Lumpur Science Engineering Fair 2017 (KLSEF) aims to encourage schoolchildren to be more involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and cultivate their interest by challenging them to create their own gadgets.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) head of digital lifestyle and society John Tay said it was important to mould young minds for the future of tech development in Malaysia through the three day event which started on Nov 3.

Tay added that the fair held at the Mines International Exhibition Convention Centre (MIECC) was to inspire students to be interested in STEM subjects like programming especially at a younger age.

“Every year, we have more and more schools attending our events. This year we decided to have more hands-on activities such as drone making where they need to use household products like ice-cream sticks. From there, they can learn the mechanics of the gadget and appreciate the toys they are playing with.

“It is important to generate interest, creativity and innovation as many other countries are emphasising STEM education. We want to challenge the kids and make their parents see how technology can enhance their child’s development,” Tay said.

At the three-day event, workshops are held for students and participants in badge, drone and LED circuit making. There is also a robot soccer competition.

Pahang’s Sekolah Kebangsaaan Wan Ibrahim student Farhan Adib Zakaria, 12, said it took him a month to build his Lego robot called R2.

“So far, I have won one match today and I hope to win on the last day of this event.

“It was my teacher who helped me build R2 and the most challenging part was putting in the gears but I enjoyed assembling the robot because it was similar to building a car but on a smaller scale,” said the student who aspires to be a pilot.

The event also holds exhibitions by STEM companies like Park Easy, Nazrol Tech and Quadtech Entreprise showcasing new developments in the industry.


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National STEM Movement Woos STEM Enrolment

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 (Bernama) — The National Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Movement is actively approaching students to make them interested in STEM which is important to spur the growth of the country in line with the vision of the National Transformation 2050 (TN50).

Its chairman Prof Datuk Dr Noraini Idris said various programmes such as townhall, colloquium and roundtable conference were held in each state to show the importance and opportunities offered through STEM.

“Alhamdulillah we have seen an increase in the number of students joining the STEM streams, for example in Terengganu, although the actual percentage has yet to be ascertained because we are still at the stage of collecting data, but there is an increase,” said the deputy vice-chancellor (Research and Innovation) of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI).

She said this when presenting a working paper entitled ‘Mentoring STEM Talents: Current Challenges and Future Expectations’ at an experts discussion with the theme ‘Strengthening STEM Education: Value and Culture Approaches’ here today.

Noraini said the movement was set up in 2015 as an initiative by academicians from various universities under the Higher Education Ministry to address the shortage of students joining the STEM courses nationwide.

Based on the programmes being organised, the acceptance of students including from primary schools is encouraging, Noraini said, adding that programmes for parents were also organised so that they would support and encourage their children to be involved in STEM courses.

“We tell them that not all students who take up STEM will be doctors or scientists but the knowledge will help their everyday life and in the workplace,” she said.


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Stopping the decline of STEM enrolment

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017
Hong (middle) and Prof Lee (second from right) posing for a group photo with representativesof the fair’s partners. They are (from left) Norhasrizam Hashim, Koh and Dr Tan.

Hong (middle) and Prof Lee (second from right) posing for a group photo with representativesof the fair’s partners. They are (from left) Norhasrizam Hashim, Koh and Dr Tan.

MILLENNIALS could perhaps be the most fortunate children of all generation so far.

They are born into a technologically advanced era and are blessed with the best their parents can afford — be it education, latest gadgets, well-being, and more.

Some of their parents even take a further step, planning every little detail to ensure their children would secure a good job upon graduation.

The Kuala Lumpur Engineering Science Fair (KLESF) organising committee chairman, Prof Lee Sze Wei, says parents who are concerned about the employability of their children, should encourage them to join the Science stream – known as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

He stresses that society, parents in particular, need to break away from the perception that a STEM education is unnecessary if the child doesn’t plan to become a scientist or engineer.

“Students themselves should also learn to conquer their fear towards Mathematics and Science, they are not that difficult with a little bit of practice,” he says.

This is why the KLESF would be an informative platform for people of all age groups to truly understand STEM education and its significance, adds Prof Lee.

Entering its 4th edition this year, the KLESF is set to be bigger and better, with fun, interactive and interesting activities for parents and students to familiarise themselves with the STEM sector. It will be held from Nov 3 to Nov 5 at the MINES International Exhibition & Convention Centre. Admission is free.

The fair was first organised in 2013 by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Asean Academy of Engineering and Technology (AAET), Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM), and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR).

Prof Lee says it aims to enhance interest in STEM and emphasises practical and hands-on skills.

“A lot of children cannot learn just by theoretical thinking. They have to see, touch and feel to absorb new knowledge,” he explains, and adds that more than 20 private and public universities will host all kinds of actives for the children at the fair.

Over 50 companies, as well as multiple government agencies, will be exhibitors at this year’s fair.

One of the main activity is the KLESF challenge – a STEM international competition where students (in teams of three) have to exhibit their creations during the fair and be judged.

Other activities include the 13th Malaysia Festival of The Mind 2017 by MMLM, RAC’17 rero Annual Championship by Cytron Technologies Sdn Bhd, 2nd International Junior Chem-E Car Competition by IEM, and Pistek, an annual Science competition organised by the Education Ministry.

KLESF 2017 will have exhibitors from China and Hong Kong for the first time.

KLESF steering committee chairman Datuk Hong Lee Pee describes STEM as a “gateway into many fields”.

He points out that students would be trained to possess analytical capabilities and logical thinking skills – which are absolutely necessary in the workforce in the future – if they pursue a STEM education until Form Five at the very least

“If the percentage of students in STEM continues to decline, Malaysia would have a severe shortage of skilled workers,” he says, citing China and India, as countries that are also concerned about the rapid decrease of STEM students and workforce.

“Teachers and headmasters are more aware of the importance of STEM education, but we need more help from all parties to boost interest in STEM.

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STEM’s teaching challenge

Thursday, October 12th, 2017
Participants in the ExxonMobil-Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia STEM club programme in Kuala Terengganu last week. The programme aims at improving the quality of STEM teaching, and increasing students’ interest and participation. PIC BY ROZAINAH ZAKARIA

YOU may have noticed the term STEM has been making headlines and introduced as the “next big thing”. Most of us know what the acronym stands for, but do we really understand what it means, how it shapes our lives and why it is vital to the future of a country?

STEM refers to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but the term has a broader meaning in education.

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit in a session with a group of Terengganu teachers who attended the ExxonMobil-Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) STEM club programme to undergo pedagogical training and build content knowledge in STEM.

With my last formal exposure to science and maths coming from secondary school days, I had many questions on what STEM is from an educational perspective.

Can science and maths alone be STEM? What makes a STEM lesson? Are technology and engineering integrated in science and maths only when appropriate?

The three-day programme for teachers majoring in science, mathematics and technology is one of ExxonMobil programmes leading the charge in STEM initiatives to support the country’s pursuit of a STEM-driven economy.

It is understandable for ExxonMobil, a multinational oil and gas corporation operating in Terengganu, to broaden its STEM support, particularly in this state. This pilot project, in its first phase, aims to develop a group of 64 STEM Master Trainers with the hope that the programme will be self-generating by the third phase.

Educationally, STEM is about creating innovators of the future. The programme’s training modules and content, developed and delivered by UKM, emphasises questioning and discovery rather than rote memorisation.

With the declining appetite for science among Malaysian students, the programme aims at improving the quality of STEM teaching and, subsequently, increasing students’ interest and participation in these subjects.

ExxonMobil-UKM STEM Club programme leader Dr Mohamad Sattar Rasul said while the science and mathematics curriculum had changed in the last few years, changes in teaching practices had been minimal.

“While our students are good in memorising, they lack application and reasoning skills. They may have good grades, but they are not literate in science because they do not understand the science concept in depth,” said Sattar, who is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Innovation in Teaching and Learning at UKM’s Education Faculty and a UKM STEM research member.

Data analysis by his colleague, Professor Dr Lilia Halim, shows that the cognitive domain of knowing the content in science among students in Malaysia and Japan, within the same age group, is similar.

Japan is one of the top performing countries in TIMSS, a global assessment of maths and science education.

However, there are indications that some of the cognitive domains, such as applying and reasoning skills of our students, which can be developed by STEM lessons, are lower compared with students in Japan. This is the reason why our students did not score high in TIMSS.

So, are our teachers implementing the best practices for teaching STEM in schools? Or, maybe the question should be: Are our teachers prepared to implement STEM education?

At present, it seems that there is inadequate attention to the teaching of STEM in school. As with almost all new initiatives, conceptual challenges are a major roadblock.

Talking to some teachers during the programme, I came to the conclusion that the meaning of STEM education has not been properly clarified to them, yet the term is widely used these days in relation to the need to increase the number of science students.

Our students are so used to a teacher talking at the front of a classroom while taking notes and doing worksheets. There is no practical science activities during lessons.

The limited attention to STEM subjects may also be due to other priorities, such as the number of As achieved in exams.

Traditional testing poses a challenge to STEM integration. The culture of overtesting in the last two decades has led to students facing more pressure than ever to get the right answers during exams.

The results of these exams are also being tied to teacher evaluation systems. Teachers feel pressured to teach to the test, drilling students so that they can regurgitate information accurately.

At the same time, only a handful of these teachers have taken the full complement of STEM courses in life sciences, natural sciences and mathematics as part of their formal education and may need formal training in these fields as part of their professional development.

An effective teaching system needs to be developed before STEM learning can be fully integrated. Research has provided evidence that conceptual teaching has benefits not offered by traditional teaching and students do as well if not better in tests.

A STEM lesson must provide students with the opportunity to explore hands-on real-world scientific problems. The goal is to make clear that science is a process. Students identify a real-world problem, ask questions to explore and solve the problem, and develop solutions and explore a hands-on activity.

An example: When covering renewable and non-renewable energy, students examine which renewable energy type would work best for a fictitious town and why.

Research also shows that students can understand relatively advanced concepts in STEM and enjoy learning experiences that explore such subjects.


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A boost for STEM education

Monday, October 2nd, 2017
Students in the midst of a chemistry experiment in the school laboratory. — File photo

Students in the midst of a chemistry experiment in the school laboratory. — File photo

THE Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) module is an approach taken to help boost interests in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects among students in the country.

The IBSE module developed by the International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre (ISTIC) under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry is a step in the right direction and it envisions a paradigm shift in the teaching and learning of science.

Prof Dr Yang Farina Abdul Aziz from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysa and also a fellow of the Academy Sciences of Malaysia (ASM), an agency under the ministry, underscored that the module advocates shifting the role of teachers from instructors to facilitators in raising students’ curiosity, creativity and reasoning by including them in the investigative and discovery process through experimentation.

“The approach is to get learners involved. We need to tap into the curious nature of children, encouraging them to identify problems, find possible explanations or solutions, build hypotheses that need to be tested, design solutions, conduct investigations, validate the hypotheses that have been made, and structure the knowledge to answer the questions that arise, and compare them with proven facts,” Prof Yang Farina added.

She added that there was a method called the La main a la pate or the “hands on” approach founded by the French Academy of Sciences in 1996.

“It is about simple experiments that teachers can conduct in the classroom. This is where they can make an impact on their students because seeing is believing.

Prof Yang Farina says that teachers must conduct experiments in class to get their students interested in Science.

Prof Yang Farina says that teachers must conduct experiments in class to get their students interested in Science.

“Science is not about things that you don’t see, students get interested with what they can see, and when they are interested, they will start asking questions … this is how we get students to be interested,” said Prof Yang Farina.

In its effort to disseminate the knowledge, ASM in partnership with ExxonMobil recently organised a three-day workshop for teachers from all over the country, held concurrently with the National Science Challenge (NSC).

The effort is seen as crucial in fulfilling the country’s aim of 60:40 ratio of Science stream students to non-science students as Malaysia looks towards achieving a STEM-driven economy by the government’s National Transformation 2050 (TN50) initiative.

The academy had in the past conducted IBSE workshops for teachers in Tuaran (Sabah), Setiu, (Terengganu) and Jerlun (Kedah).

It also initiated workshops in Klang Valley schools that brought about positive outcomes in their UPSR Science paper.

Following the success of the workshops, ASM then decided to incorporate the IBSE programme in the 2017 NSC agenda in order to introduce the method to more teachers.

Kolej Yayasan Saad emerged champion of the 2017 National Science Challenge, beating the three other top finalists namely SMK Subang Jaya, SMJK Perempuan Cina Pulau Pinang and Kolej Tunku Kurshiah.

There were 3,930 teams from all over the country that took part in the 28th edition this year. It is seen as one of the nation’s foremost and significant STEM competitions for Form Four Science stream students

“The challenge is closely aligned with ASM’s mission to promote national awareness, understanding and appreciation of the role of science, engineering and technology in human progress,” added Prof Yang Farina, who is also the NSC Steering Committee chairman.


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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.”

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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.

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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.


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