Science a key tool in nation-building

INVEST EARLY: Education must be geared towards generating interest in the subject among youth.

IT is no coincidence that the nation is now a leader among the developing economies of world. This has come about through shrewd planning by the country’s leaders.

The country is what it is now because of decisions made decades ago. But, what was the most critical decision then?

Very few would dispute the fact that it was our investment in education that has made the nation what it is today. The prosperity that the country enjoys would not have materialised if not for that stroke of wisdom to commit to education.

If education was the key ingredient then, many believe education will continue to be the instrument to shape the country’s future in the coming decades. This was the consensus reached at a recent forum titled “Future of Science in Nation-Building: The Role of Youths”, organised by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

Each year, the academy hosts two general assemblies to deliberate on issues of science and nation-building. This time around, the focus was on the role of youth. The four panellists, who hailed from across the country’s political divide, gave powerful insight and thoughts on the topic at hand.

They agreed on the importance of investing in education to drive the future of the nation. But they also agreed that the education system of today has to be different from the past, in terms of content and approach. It must take into account today’s realities. What are the realities?

FIRST, society is generally more educated. They want to have more say in the way the education system is designed; and,

SECOND, the world is more interconnected.

The Internet has revolutionised knowledge. It has allowed everyone access to information globally, something unthinkable in the past.

Some are saying that even universities may soon become a thing of the past. One can eventually achieve lifelong learning online.

But while information and communications technology has changed many facets of life and business, the forum was also concerned that there were forces at work that could derail global progress and sustainability in the long run.

Climate change, for example, is a reality we can no longer ignore. Despite earlier apprehension about the United Nations’ climate predictions, the world is now convinced about the science of global warming.

More worrying is the fact that it is man who contributes the most. So, only man can provide solutions to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Many agree that most of the solutions lie in the smart deployment of science. This is why investment in science education is crucial.

The unfortunate part is that many of the country’s youth do not have much interest in science. They view science as complicated and are not encouraged by the less lucrative job prospects. This explains why only 30 per cent of students are taking up science, which is way below the country’s 60 per cent target. How can we reverse this trend?

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