Archive for the ‘Teaching of Science and Mathematics’ Category

Petrosains Science Festival in Sabah for the first time

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The Petrosains Science Festival, the largest science-themed festival in the country organised by Petrosains, The Discovery Centre has spread its wings to Sabah.

The festival was celebrated at Petrosains PlaySmart Kota Kinabalu on Sept 28 and 29 at the State Library.

More than 19, 000 visitors from all walks of life came for the two-day festival to discover more about interesting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning and take part in the fun activities of the festival.

This year’s festival is held in conjunction with Petrosains’ 20th anniversary and it is all about celebrating STEM.

With the tagline “Meet the Future”, the festival will focus on STEM-related content with the programmes and activities geared towards showcasing the wonders of these fields while taking a look at the scientific and technological advancements of the future.

The festival was filled with educational hands-on activities such as DIY workshops; science shows on lasers, dry ice and chemical reactions; robotic exhibition, Zumba sessions, science busking and many more.

As a corporate social responsibility arm of PETRONAS in the pillar of STEM, Petrosains hoped that through the festival, it could inspire the passion and interest in STEM in the community, especially the younger generation.

Petrosains aspires to make science a culture in the nation and help the nation to produce a future generation of scientifically literate and critical thinkers via a learning platform that is engaging, interesting, and accessible.

For the past 20 years, Petrosains has grown to become a locally and globally recognised institution that provides informal learning of STEM and regarded as an important supporting component in the nation’s education landscape.

“Through the festival, we want to bring STEM even closer to the community and provide more credible and interesting learning in STEM directly to the masses.

“With Kota Kinabalu as the first venue for the Petrosains Science Festival this year, we hope to benefit the community in Sabah by sharing meaningful and impactful learning experiences while providing a fun and enjoyable time to the visitors during the festival,” Petrosains said in a statement.

Organised in collaboration with partners, the first Petrosains Science Festival was held in 2013 and has always been celebrated in KLCC.

In 2018, the festival began venturing outside of Kuala Lumpur and was celebrated at Petrosains’ satellite centres – Petrosains PlaySmarts in Kuantan and Johor Bahru.

This year, the celebration is extended to all four Petrosains PlaySmarts which include Kota Kinabalu and Kuching (Oct 12 and 13), Kuantan (Oct 5 and 6), Johor Bahru (Oct 19 and 20), and the main event at Petrosains, Suria KLCC and the Esplanade, KLCC Park (Nov 1-3).

The festival pools together and provides a unified platform where partners from the corporates, industry players, government-linked companies and agencies, academics and institutions work together to inspire and instill an appreciation towards STEM in the community.

The event brings a diverse mix of activities from interactive to innovative workshops, interesting exhibitions, educational talks, fun science shows, entertaining performances, and many more.

Among the partners involved in the festival in Kota Kinabalu are Sabah State Library as the venue provider, UBTECH, Sabah Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, PETRONAS Dagangan, PETRONAS PLFNG, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and Young Scientist Network Malaysia.

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Deploy science now to reach sustainable growth goals

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019
We have about 11 years to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The question is — can we get there? FILE PIC

THE latest Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019 (SDGR 2019) should ring alarm bells.

Closer to home, on some goals, Asia and the Pacific region are, in fact, “going backwards”. Unless progress is accelerated, the region is on course to miss all 17 goals.

We all want our world to be a better place. However, in efforts to eradicate poverty, hunger, disease and all forms of inequality, there is also a need to ensure that we safeguard the planet for future generations.

For this reason, discussions on sustainable development have taken centre stage and there is raging debate on issues such as poverty, health and the effects of climate change.

Today’s development has yielded significant progress in these spheres but has simultaneously hurt our environment and caused inequality.

The present need is to eliminate the gap between development and sustainability and ensure that both go hand in hand.

Realising the utmost urgency of this matter, the UN began the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 with eight specific goals; it set to achieve them by 2015.

Indeed, by 2015, several targets had been achieved and the UN called it the “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history”.

The success of MDGs paved the way for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In September 2015, 193 countries of the UN approved the global agenda with a broadened list of 17 global goals and 169 targets, with the aim of transforming the world by 2030.

These goals range from no poverty and reduced inequality to responsible consumption and protection of life below water.

At least once, all the nations came under one umbrella to work together for the shared prosperity of the globe and with a promise of “leaving no one behind”.

As per the SDGR 2019 report, although there has been progress in some spheres, there has been slippage in others. For example, although extreme poverty has declined considerably, ending it by 2030 is a monumental task

Furthermore, our environment is deteriorating at an alarming rate, global hunger is rising and more than half the world’s population still does not have access to essential health services.

In addition, inequality is on the rise.

We have about 11 years to achieve the ambitious 17 goals of the SDGs. The question is — can we get there?

Economic growth alone is not a precursor to meeting the goals. Although this has held true in the past, the next decade would require major intervention through policymaking if that economic growth is to meet social, economic and environmental goals.

Significant policymaking involving science, technology and innovation (STI) is imperative to create synergies within the goals and to reduce conflicts as much as possible. Simply put, STI must be harnessed optimally and should be the driving force of all 17 global goals.

Science and technology drive almost everything in today’s world — from industries and trade to our day-to-day lives. Thus, expecting it to propel efforts to meet global goals should not come as a surprise.

But there is a pressing need to effectively deploy the STI arsenal now. To this end, the UN Technology Facilitation Mission has been conducting regular STI forums to take stock of the actions of member states. STI forums focus on specific goal sets every year.

STI will be instrumental not only in minimising the technology and innovation gap but will also reduce inequality.

For example, in SDG 4 (quality education), the latest technologies for blended learning and making individuals and early learners tech savvy such as in software knowledge and coding, would narrow the gap.

At universities and research institutions, there is a need to further promote research and development. The knowledge generated would help in making better medicines, superior infrastructure and overall connectivity.

Actions would thrive only in an ecosystem that has both fertile national policies and legal environment, which must be linked with national development agendas. For example, Japan has aligned SDGs with its own Society 5.0 agenda and Mauritius has an integrated ocean-based economy.

Malaysia, with its array of national development programmes, has formed alignments with SDGs.

Unfortunately, several developing countries and the least developed countries still lack a national framework of innovation.

At the regional level, Asean Vision 2025 blueprints and the SDGs have several goals in common. Together with the Asean Plan of Action on STI 2016-2025, these could help the implementation of common goals.

However, STI policies must be coherent so that technology transfer and intellectual property protection could occur favourably.

By Dr Sameer Kumar.

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Let’s fight for a policy that’s best for our kids

Sunday, July 21st, 2019
It is important that students not only understand English as a subject but also comprehend English as a medium of instruction.NSTP/File pic

I Was only 13 years old when the government decided to introduce the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) in primary and secondary schools in Malaysia.

At that time, I had completed Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and was enrolled in a new private secondary school.Unaware of the heated debate behind the policy, I was thrilled about the change.

I already loved reading English fiction and my family habitually spoke in English.Best of all,my new teachers were fluent in the language and superb at their jobs.

Fast forward to 16 years in the future and in an institution where I teach public speaking on weekends, my student is looking at me with a flash of panic after I asked for her opinion on a current issue.

I can see her mind working, eyes darting back and forth in thought and as she took a deep breath to speak, she suddenly changed her mind, shrugged her shoulders and abruptly sat down. Later,I found out that the student had opinions on the matter but didn’t know how to express them in words, and in particular, in English.

She told me that her thoughts were in Bahasa Malaysia, which meant she would have to go through a translation process in her head before speaking in my class.

This made it difficult for her to deliver speeches confidently and even when she didn’t understand some of the English words I was using, she confessed that she was usually too embarrassed to ask for clarification.

This troubled me because after graduating from high school and university with (relatively) good grades,I was a huge proponent of PPSMI.

Joining the ranks of students and teachers who were disappointed with the reversal of the PPSMI policy in 2012, I believed the policy had helped me tremendously as a science-stream student sitting the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and subsequently gave me a competitive edge in university and in the workforce.

Now that the debate on the policy has started once again, I am not so certain. In hindsight, I realise that my circumstances put me in an advantageous situation in relation to studying Science and Maths in the English language.

I was fortunate to be fairly fluent in English and was enrolled in a private institution where the teachers were highly trained and effortlessly bilingual.

Others were not so fortunate.I suddenly recalled conversations with my cousins during Aidilfitri celebrations back in the kampung where they told me of their struggles with the switch in the medium of instruction and the difficulty they had in understanding new concepts.

Personal experiences aside, let’s look at some hard truths. In a context where the government had in the past flip-flopped on this issue to the detriment of all stakeholders,getting it done right is more important than getting it done quick.

With the bill to amend the Constitution to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 recently passed,education is of utmost importance to better empower our youth for the future.

Therefore, even though the PPSMI policy has been riddled with issues of politics, race, culture and nationality, it is now time to put such sentiments aside, capitalise on the spirit of bipartisan support and fight for a policy that is best for our future – our children.

But how do we bridge the gap between needing to increase Malaysia’s English proficiency levels to fuel economic growth and yet ensure students understand the concepts being taught in a foreign language?

Echoing the sentiment of the National Union of the Teaching Profession urging the government to learn from its past mistakes, a ‘bottom-up approach’ is needed to sustain the PPSMI policy.

I believemore should be done to improve teacher education.

Maths and Science teachers should be bilingual,to better understand and teach the subjects.

All schools, especially those in rural areas,need to retrain their teachers to adapt to the change.

Across the board, standards of English proficiency should also be improved by investing more in English education and information technology capabilities.

It is important to ensure that students not only understand English as a subject, but consequently, also comprehend English as a medium of instruction.Failure to do both would lead to students not learning English, and not learning anything at all.

I believe that everyone is eager to welcome back the policy.Parents are eager to better equip their children for the future.

The government is eager to reintroduce a sustainable version of the policy. I am eager for my students to speak confidently in English, empowered by better proficiency and understanding.

Nevertheless,we must ensure that Malaysia is not only eager and willing, but also able and ready for the change.


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Aspiring for inspirational science

Friday, July 19th, 2019
A handout photo provided by the European Southern Observatory on April 10, 2019 shows the first photograph of a black hole and its fiery halo, released by Event Horizon Telescope astronomers (EHT). PIC BY European Southern Observatory/ AFP

IN the world of science and technology, the first half of 2019 has marked a number of milestones and triumphs. In biomedical research, progress being made in gene editing and immuno-therapeutics has not shown any signs of slowing down despite the controversy associated with gene editing. Years of research are now bearing fruit as these technologies begin to find practical applications in treating human diseases, or are being used to further the research capability.

In April, just days apart from each other, we were presented with the first photographic image of a black hole and the first commercial mission for the aerospace company SpaceX using its Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.

Unsurprisingly, the image of the black hole was just that, a black focal point, surrounded by an orange glow – and it was a fuzzy out of focus image at that. So what’s the big deal?

In order to better appreciate that achievement, we need to imagine being able to discern a black spot in a black background; add to that the fact that the spot is millions of light years away — a distance that the majority of us, including me, will have difficulty coming to grips with.

The existence of black holes have long been theorised by many famous physicists including Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

The first photographic evidence of a black hole was provided by a team that had been working on the problem for well over a decade. Snapping a picture of a black hole in deep space needs a very large telescope named the Event Horizon telescope (EHT). What the team had done was to use the Earth itself as a giant telescope by placing eight receivers across the world to collect data.

The signals received by the EHT were then computationally processed to render the image presented to the public — quite an ingenious solution to the problem.

The success of SpaceX’s first commercial mission using its Falcon Heavy launch vehicle is clearly paving the way for more routine, safer and cheaper space flights.

For those who have never heard of SpaceX, it is a company with the distinction of being the first private enterprise to launch a liquid fuelled rocket into orbit, a capability that used to be only the domain of government space agencies.

Not many may know it, or may have perhaps forgotten that Malaysia and SpaceX has a historical connection.

SpaceX’s first ever commercial mission was none other than the Malaysian Earth observation satellite RazakSAT. Although that particular mission did not quite go as planned, the SpaceX rocket’s launch went about as well as could be expected when one is launching tonnes of explosive flammable materials off into space.

We can all probably agree that although the black hole photograph was quite a feat, we might be left wondering as to what the point of it all was.

Being able to capture a fuzzy picture of glowing gas being trapped by the intense gravity of a black hole at such an unimaginable distance away does not seem to make our lives any better.

This is where we need to understand that much of the knowledge and technology that we have today were serendipitous outcomes of research.

However, that does not mean that scientists are just aimlessly exploring without direction. It simply means that research directed at understanding something else, may have applications in other areas or that was not its originally intended use.

For example, the microwave ovens found in millions of kitchens was an unintended application that came out of research into radar.

So what about the black hole research? Well, the wireless connectivity that we refer to as WiFi actually came out of research in the field of radio astronomy, the same research area that provided evidence of the black hole’s existence.

A few years down the road, that same technology used to image a black hole may find utility in other areas that seems to be totally disconnected such as imaging of diseased cells for cancer diagnosis.

Progress and leadership in science and technology require a pioneering spirit and the courage to venture into the unknown. As a nation, we have not really made many headlines in the pioneering of things, much more so in science and technology. I am sure there are some, perhaps even many, who may disagree when I say that Malaysia has not had much success in science and technology.

After all, it is an acknowledged fact that Malaysian scientists and academics are among the most prolific at publishing academic papers in the region. But if Malaysian academics are publishing so many scientific research papers, why are we not seeing much success being reported in the world’s news headlines?

Let me first clarify that what I term as success are not achievements such as the number of papers being published, the number of patents being filed, awards or medals being won in expos, or even seemingly triumphant news of cures for a particular disease that are reported in our local media. In some cases, there are also claims of innovation that are unrecognised by many others, or even a success that involves a Malaysian expert but working in a foreign institution.

The success that I am referring to will only come about by focusing on high quality research. To focus on research quality, we have to dig deep and be willing to venture into research that will end up in textbooks, or even rewrite the textbooks. This in turn requires commitment not only from the scientists, but also from the funding agencies.

Developing short-term solutions to solve problems is acceptable and necessary. But we must also consider long-term goals and have the courage to explore the unknown that lie beyond the frontiers of existing knowledge.

This is where the funding agencies need to also play an important role in funding research that answer fundamental questions, but may not necessarily have obvious or any foreseeable applications other than to enrich our understanding of the universe around us.

The scientific output must therefore also be valued under such light — such as the impact it has made in the field and the depth it has achieved. The powers that be must also allow for revolutionary means of assessing research impact that is not dictated by currently used indicators only. We should not target numbers that gives us an illusion of progress but in actuality has stalled us as the rest of the world leaps forward.

We should aspire to celebrate science and technology that sparks excitement and that can inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to continue the progress made by standing on the shoulders of giants.

By Mohd Firdaus Raih.

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Rural, small schools make an impact

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019
The winners from the Frog World Championship.

The winners from the Frog World Championship.

RURAL and small schools have once again proved their mettle in the Frog World Championship.

SJKC Choong Cheng has emerged as a role model to Chinese schools in Kedah, especially schools under the purview of the Kuala Muda Yan district education office, with its third victory in a row.

Having observed evident improvements in pupil behaviour, the teachers from this school are not only dedicating themselves to providing them with a 21st century learning experience through Frog, but have also stepped up in advocating the use of technology in education to the community so that more teachers and pupils have equal opportunities and exposure, and are not left behind.

At SJKC Choong Cheng, pupils have become more motivated and excited to learn through Frog, and with group projects also conducted on Frog, they have also gained confidence in the classroom and are now able to present on group projects with confidence. Noting this, the teachers hope to spread similar benefits to their peers in other schools.

On the academic front, since implementing Frog in teaching and learning, more and more pupils are achieving straight As each year. The pupils’ results have improved after the school adopted FrogPlay for independent learning and revision.

In third place is SK Sungai Baru in Perlis, a rural school that only started actively using Frog in 2018, but has come a long way in this short duration through the sheer commitment of its leadership. Being a rural school, the teachers and pupils faced difficulty in accessing the Internet and devices at home.

The school believed in the potential of Frog in enabling its pupils to compete on a level playing field with urban schools, so they went the extra mile to enable the use of the Internet for education. As a result, the school saw pupil attendance and participation increase. The pupils achieved overall academic improvement in Maths, Science, English and Bahasa Malaysia. Its pupils have also bagged the state prize in the Frog Championship 2018.

FrogAsia Sdn Bhd executive director Yeoh Pei Lou said the Frog World Championship is one of the efforts at FrogAsia to encourage more teachers and pupils to embrace and benefit from 21st century learning.

“We have witnessed tremendous improvement in pupils participating in the competition since it was launched in 2017, not just in terms of the competition results, but more importantly, in terms of overall learning outcomes due to the competition format.

“Schools from the rural areas, which were once eclipsed by urban schools are now emerging as world champions.

“This goes to show that the Frog World Championship has remarkable ability and promise in elevating education outcomes – not only in Malaysia but globally,” she said.

A total of USD10,000 (RM42,300) is on offer to the winners of the Frog World Championship. To win, teachers and students will need to do their part to achieve Leaderboard points for their schools. For teachers, they need to access, create and publish quizzes on Frog VLE while students need to use FrogPlay and Boost to gain Leaderboard points.

Among the global schools, the Westminster Church of England Primary Academy in the United Kingdom was one that achieved a notable outcome. The school – mostly comprised students who are immigrants or asylum seekers who use English as a second language, started using Frog in October 2018 but most of them did not have access to devices at home.

To encourage learning, the teachers initiated the breakfast club where students could come in early to school to use the devices and log in to Frog in school. Through the use of Frog, students started improving their command of English. One particular student who was classified as a failing student improved through consistent and competitive use of Frog, and emerged as one of the world winners in the student category this year!

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NST Leader: Power of the moon

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019
A personnel from the Federal Territories mufti office conducts the sighting of the Syawal new moon to determine Aidilfitri at the Kuala Lumpur Tower. -NSTP/NURUL SYAZANA ROSE RAZMAN.

Malaysians are strange. When it comes to the supermoon or blue moon, we give it a slew of attention.

Not so for the new moon, or hilal as the Muslims name it. Perhaps because the hilal is not exactly visible to the naked eye. Or perhaps the former two are “once-in-a-whilers”.

A supermoon — when a new moon is closest to the Earth — occurs some three or four times out of the 12 or 13 times the crescent reveals itself. This year saw three supermoons — on Jan 20, Feb 19 and March 21. The New Straits Times frontpaged the Feb 19 supermoon. The blue moon, on the other hand, adorns the sky once every 2.7 years. Rarer still is a double blue moon. It happens between three and five times in a century.

Moon watchers assign many names as the orb of light circles the Earth: new moon or crescent, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent and dark moon. The names reflect the phases of the moon’s journey.

If you wonder why the lit side of the new moon isn’t visible at all, it is because it is positioned between the Earth and the Sun.

If you think this paper is waxing lyrical about the many moons, it is. There is a good reason for this: we think what is up there in the sky should fascinate us.

Because, like us, the constellations are part of creation. Anyone who has looked at the night sky far from the city lights would surely come away humbled. And in awe.

There is also a selfish reason for us to keep our gaze skywards. There are thousands of asteroids and other near-Earth objects, or NEOs, hurtling towards us. It pays to know when they will come our way.

There is a more important reason for getting cozy with the constellations. As Bruce Dorminey, the author of Distant Wanderers, puts it, the tiny points of light in the sky are portals through which we might find answers to some of life’s toughest questions.

Two of them are: where we came from and where we are headed to. Serious questions, and seriously we must consider them. If Aristotle is right — that all men by nature have a desire to know — then not many of us are looking up at the sky enough.

We are glad 29 committees of the Falak Syari’, or Islamic astronomy, throughout the country did just that yesterday to determine when Aidilfitri, or Eid al-Fitr, should be celebrated.

A set number of representatives travel to specific locations at maghrib to perform the sighting. If the sighting is not successful, astronomic calculations, or hisab, will follow. They have been doing this for a long time now. The basis for such a determination is to be found in the Quran and Sunnah (sayings and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)). The first Eid al-Fitr was celebrated thus by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Today, three methods prevail in Muslim countries: rukyahhisab or the rukyah and hisab, as practised in Malaysia. Such is the power of the moon in a Muslim’s life.

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Sunnah, science to determine months

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019
Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri using a telescope to sight the new moon in KL Tower yesterday. PIC BY ZULFADHLI ZULKIFLI
By Nur Aqidah Azizi - June 4, 2019 @ 7:35am

SEREMBAN: Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which will be celebrated tomorrow, marks the end of Ramadan, when Muslims fast daily between dawn and sunset. The festival, too, heralds the beginning of Syawal in the Islamic calendar.

Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the start of a new month in the Islamic calendar is determined by the lunar cycle, which is 29 or 30 days, coinciding with the birth of a new moon.

However, determining this occurrence is not straightforward. One debate is whether to take a traditionalist or modernist approach.

Many ulama believe a new month begins when the crescent-shaped new moon can be seen by the naked eye.

On the night when the new moon is expected, Falaq Syarie (Islamic astronomy) committees will observe the hilal (the crescent moon), but the reliance on eye sighting means that even a cloudy night may extend Ramadan or delay Hari Raya Aidilfitri by a day.

According to Malaysia Falaq Syarie Association deputy president Dr Kassim Bahali, the country adopts the rukyah and hisab in determining the beginning and ending of Ramadan, as well as the beginning of Syawal, known as imkannur rukyah (possibility of sighting).

In the rukyah, the sighting of the new moon is observed with the eye after sunset. If the moon can be seen, it is considered the beginning of a new month.

Hisab is the use of astronomical calculations to determine the arrival of the new moon.

Federal Territories Religious Department personnel preparing to sight the new moon from KL Tower yesterday. PIC BY NURUL SYAZANA ROSE RAZMAN

Kassim said both methods, which combine the sunnah (exemplary customs and conducts of Prophet Muhammad) and scientific calculations, were implemented since 1992.

“On every 29th of Ramadan, a committee appointed by the Conference of Rulers will observe the hilal as soon as the sun sets. According to the Islamic calendar, a new day begins after Maghrib, when the sun goes down.

“To determine the dates for Ramadan and Syawal, the committee will observe the crescent moon, either through the naked eye or supported by equipment, such as a telescope and theodolite. This process is conducted in 29 locations in the country.”

He said Syawal would fall the next day if the appearance of the new moon on the 29th of Ramadan was apparent.

However, Kassim said, the rukyah, even with the help of equipment, might sometimes be affected by weather.

“Cloudy nights, rain, fog and haze can prevent the sighting of hilal. If this happens, then the hisabwill be applied.”

Kassim said hisab could determine the beginning of all 12 Islamic months, including Ramadan and Syawal, based on the calculated positions of the moon and sun.

“When using hisab, there are two conditions that must be met. First, the age of the thin crescent moon must be a minimum of eight hours at the time it sets, or the moon at sunset is above the horizon at an altitude greater than two degrees, and the curving distance between the moon and sun is more than three degrees.

“If these two conditions are fulfilled, then the new month will begin and, in the case of Syawal, Hari Raya Aidilfitri will be celebrated the next day.”

However, in the event where rukyah and hisab fail to give a clear result, then Muslims in this country are obliged to fast until the 30th of Ramadan.

With the increasingly sophisticated technology available, many countries have adopted them in favour of rukyah, which is said to have many weaknesses.

Recently, Pakistan announced its Aildilfitri dates for the next five years with the establishment of its moon-sighting centre.

Kassim, however, said technology would not be totally relied on in determining the dates of Ramadan and Syawal.

He said rukyah is a sunnah, which the Prophet had told Muslims to undertake.

“Despite technology, rukyah is still a priority because this was what Prophet Muhammad used. There are methods that we still refer to in al-Quran and sunnah,” he said.

“Sighting with the naked eye under r ukyah is a manifestation of our devotion in Islam. Observing nature is also one of the fields in science that can’t be ignored.”

Commenting on some nations that relied on technology, Kassim said the matter depended on the country’s fatwa council.

“There are countries that rely solely on rukyah and there are those that choose to use hisab. This decision is up to their fatwa council.”

He said Malaysia also had its fair share of inaccuracies in determining Ramadan and Syawal.

“We used to rely on rukyah solely in the past. When confusion arose, the fatwa council began incorporating hisab in 1992, which is used until today.

By Nur Aqidah Azizi .

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Creating an interest in STEM

Monday, May 20th, 2019
Students learning how to operate drones at the event.

Students learning how to operate drones at the event.

HOMEGROWN education service provider and social enterprise, LeapEd Services Sdn Bhd recently held the STEM Festival 2019 in partnership with Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, GREAT UK Challenge Fund and Youth Made Malaysia.

The STEM Festival 2019 emphasises the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics-related subjects and experiences among Malaysian students.

Forty students from four secondary schools within LeapEd’s Trust Schools Programme participated in the event namely SMK Cyberjaya, SMK Pulau Indah, SMK Bandar Sunway and SMK Salak Tinggi.

Held at the Heriot-Watt University Malaysia campus in Putrajaya, the festival included a series of workshops and theory-focused sessions for students, culminating in an exciting drone flying challenge.

Throughout the day, students had hands-on experience in designing and building pre-engineered micro drones, mentored by students and lecturers from the university, as well as representatives from Youth Made Malaysia and LeapEd Services.

LeapEd Services managing director Zulhaimi Othman said: “In line with our commitment to develop holistic students with 21st century competencies, we see a gap that requires immediate attention in the education landscape today.”

Students today do not realise the full potential of STEM and how its application can prepare them for their future careers, he added.

“This STEM Festival is one of our many efforts in helping to raise the awareness among students on the importance of STEM-related skills and knowledge,” he said.

University provost and CEO Prof Mushtak Al-Atabi said since 2016, Heriot-Watt University has organised annual STEM Festivals for school children to further emphasise the importance of innovation and STEM-related subjects.

“As the first Mechanics Institute in the world when it was established in 1821, Heriot-Watt has had a long history in producing STEM practitioners and graduates since the first industrial revolution.

“Now as we are faced with the fourth industrial revolution, we are keen in supporting the promotion of STEM among the youth to lead the way in a challenging work landscape in the future,” he said.

According to a recent “School-to-Work Transition Survey” by Khazanah Research Institute, only one third of all upper secondary school students are taking Science subjects followed by 44% for Mathematics, while only 32% tertiary students are enrolled in STEM-related courses.

Zulhaimi said that most students do not realise that career opportunities are constantly evolving alongside the emerging technologies of the digital age.

“It is therefore no longer merely a question of interest but a requirement for students to equip themselves with the critical skills they will need as working adults.

“The STEM Festivals in the coming years will continue to provide students with the opportunity to explore new technologies and digital applications,” he added.

SMK Cyberjaya student Riena Adriana Rudie described it as an amazing experience to learn and work with seniors who are engineering students and lecturers to build and fly a drone.

“It was an exciting learning journey for me and my team mates,” she said.

The STEM Festival 2019 aims to inspire and engage students, parents and teachers with STEM-related fields and its importance as well as impact on the future job market. students throughout the day.

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The crucial role of mentors in STEM education

Friday, May 10th, 2019
Mentors can guide their mentees based on their individual capacity rather than imposing the same material and structure to all of them on the STEM e-mentoring system.

LEARNING in traditional classrooms in schools usually follows a pattern of “listen and learn” and “remember and regurgitate”. Students are given facts and steps, and told: “Do and say exactly what was taught to succeed in this subject.”

As in other subjects, the learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related fields also takes this path in many instances, said Dr Kalaivani Chellapan, a senior lecturer at the Electrical, Electronic and Systems Engineering Department at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment .

However, this method of education deliveryis no longer applicable for studentslooking towards having a future career in science — attempting to move into STEM roles after the completion of their schooling, she said.

“STEM programmes, too,have been frequently providing a theoretical education where experiments are conceptualised, physical actions are imagined, chemical reactions and biological processes are described, and perhaps, students may getto see the video of these concepts.

“This may sound good, but those students are, generally, being handed the answers and told to memorise, rather than being encouraged to find the answers and apply critical thinking,” she said, adding that this is not the essence of STEM, where curiosity and exploration take centre stage.

Kalaivani believes students would be able tounderstand the different levels of STEM and possible applications based on the underlying concepts if they are mentored.

“By having educators or teachers mentor the students,paving their curiosity with fundamentals, showing them how to find additional resources and answers to their questions, then releasing them into an immersive education, their breadth of knowledge will expand,” she said.

“The students will learn tobe more independent and have higher competency and versatility in their future trades, as well as set a new standard for their fields.”

Another development thatis evolving the way STEM subjects are being taught at schoolsis the rapidity of technological growth.

Kalaivani said with interactive communications enabled by technology,educators and teachers are no longer regarded as the sole source of information for students.

“In the 21st century education system, students have the ability to capture the depth of knowledge across disciplines via technology.

“As such, learning a science topic from a teacher in a schoollimits the mind growth among studentsas compared with having access to a mentoring system, where they can capture data from different mentorsand integrate the knowledge into information and translate it into creative and innovative thinking.”

She believes higher learning institutions can play their role by preparing their postgraduate students to be engaged as mentors based on their expertise.

The Graduate Academic Competence Empowerment Programme (PKAS) at the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, of which Kalaivani is the director, has introduced an online mentoring platform formotivated mentors and mentees to be engaged virtually under a guided platform to share data and translate it into meaningful information that facilitate learning.

“Thee-mentoring system provides mentors a platform to exercise their mentoring by personalising the needs of each mentee by takingtheir learning abilities into consideration. The platform allows a mentor to facilitate five mentees at any point of time. Mentor and mentee are matched based on their interest areas stated upon their enrolment in the system,” she explained.

Thee-mentoring system won a gold medal in the recent Malaysia Technology Expo 2019, The 18th International Expo on Inventions & Innovations in the STEM Mentor-Mentee Awards 2019 category.

The STEM e-Mentoring Platform is an in-house design that was used to facilitate the UKM- Selangor State Education DepartmentMentor-Mentee programme, which ran from 2017 to last year.

The system matches the mentor (undergraduate and postgraduate students of UKM) and mentee (school students) based on the area of interest.

“Mentors can guide their mentees’ progress in learning STEM concepts at different paces depending on their individual capacity rather than imposing the same material and structure to all of them. All mentoring structure and material can be controlled and monitored by the system administrators. And all communication between mentor and mentee and their activities will be recorded for security purposes,” said Kalaivani.

The e-mentoring system has been on trial for the last 6 months.

“It will take time to achieve the targeted objective fully due the cultural and technological barriers. Both the mentors and mentees are still in their learning curve in adapting to the new approach of online mentoring rather than the classroom setting,” said Kalaivani.

Asked about future plans for the system, whether it will be rolled out to a bigger audience, Kalaivani said there are plans to introduce this platform in other potential mentoring application in both industry and academia.

“We won the gold medal in the Mentor-Mentee category in which the participants are evaluated on their inventions and innovation in creating the ability to reach mentees in large numbers and at the same time able train the mentors among the university graduates who can share their knowledge to the mentees in need.

The gold medal confirms the need of such system in making mentoring a reality in the long run and also approving that our approach is innovative,” she said

By Rozana Sani .

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Teaching of science, maths in English to start with primary 1 next year, says Sarawak

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Sarawak Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Michael Manyin.

KUCHING: The teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English in Sarawak will only begin with primary one next year, state Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Michael Manyin said.

He said the two subjects will be taught in English at 891 primary schools in the state except in Chinese primary schools.

On April 24, Education Minister Maszlee Malik announced that Sarawak will be the first state to implement the teaching and learning of the two subjects in English for primary schools.

The decision was made following Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement in March that the government had taken the middle-road approach to the teaching of Science and Mathematics in schools.

Mahathir said the approach would allow schools to choose whether to teach the two subjects in English or Malay because some Malaysians supported the idea while others were opposed to it.

Manyin said there were challenges that needed to be resolved before the implementation of the initiative next year.

These included the training of teachers, production of resource materials and the assessment and examination format.

“This is a tough task for us but it’s good for Sarawak.

“I believe that in the next six to seven years, the standard of English among our pupils will improve,” he said.

He said the ministry had started discussions with the Sarawak Education Department on the number of teachers that have to be trained, the module for training and the resources needed.

“We will also be engaging with the institutions of higher learning, namely Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Curtin Univerisity and Swinburne University, and the teachers’ training institute to discuss the training for teachers,” he said.

by Larissa Lumandan.

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