Don’t be scared of science stream

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MENTION science and mathematics and many students would cringe in fear. The perception of the subjects being difficult is probably why less than a quarter of secondary students in the country opt for the science stream. Heeding this, the Science, technology and innovation Ministry (Mosti) has taken the initiative to allay students’ fear of mathematics and science. Its minister, Datuk Seri Madius Tangau, said since 1967, the government has set a target of 60 per cent of the total number of students taking up the two subjects. Based on a study last year, the ratio stood at 21:79. He said it was especially alarming in Sabah where only 4.5 per cent opted for the science stream while those in the arts stream made up more than 90 per cent of the total. Despite the low percentage, Madius sees some hope yet as the number of students increased this year 15,952 students in Sabah are in the science stream — a hike of 1,480 students, compared to 14,472 students last year. Madius said this during a recent programme organised by the National Science Centre (PSN) here. Re-shaping the way teachers conduct classes is therefore vital, apart from providing the needed infrastructure that supports technology advancement and innovation. The particular programme organised by PSN aimed to do just that — it was a three-day workshop for 40 teachers for upper primary from 16 primary schools around Tamparuli, here and surrounding areas in a bid to channel a more hands-on approach and promote more effective teaching. Activities included teachers making use of everyday things like lemons to create innovation in the teaching and learning process. Teacher Winna Kuyung from Sekolah Kebangsaan Pekan Telipok said even though she had attended courses and briefings before, this was the first time the educators were actively involved in creating content. Her counterparts from other schools, Mohamad Hafizam Hussin (SK Gayang) and Mas Afiezul Zarien Manson (SK Jawi-Jawi, Kota Belud), agreed that what they learned could be absorbed into their classes in order to spark interest of pupils. “I hope the numbers of students choosing science stream would increase after this programme. “Truly concerted efforts are needed to promote maths and science in order for Malaysia to become a scientifically-advanced nation, which means not being a nett consumer of technology but a nett contributor to technology. “If we look 30 years ago, there were no smartphones and real-time communication and in the future, imagine the type of modern vehicles or things, like no grid needed for electricity and we can democratise energy using the solar system where we not only use solar panel roofing but equip building walls, too,” shared Madius. He said Mosti and the Higher education Ministry are collaborating on a new strategy to promote STEM (Science, technology, engineering and Mathematics). “But it will include engaging educators who are passionate for science and maths because that was how most of us chose a certain career path; we loved the teachers who taught those fields,” said Madius. On the infrastructure side for Sabah front, the district here is expected to be the next focal point for science activities with the upcoming PSN building to be constructed at Kampung Laya-Laya here. The cost and timeline for the PSN Sabah project has yet to be calculated and approved by economic Planning Unit but once started, it will take less than two years to complete. Incorporating various exhibition areas inside and outside the building as well as a water plaza and recreational section, the educational centre on a 8.09ha land will have a futuristic concept and will be the second one after Kuala Lumpur. Ultimately, the centre is expected to increase Sabahan students’ interest in science and change the perception towards the subject, Madius previously said.

Sourced from: The New Straits Times|5 May 2016

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