Rebrand ‘Sekolah Rendah’ to instil early interest in STEM subjects — Minister


Pupils visit a booth during the National Science Week 2018 at Pustaka Negeri. – Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

KUCHING: The name ‘Sekolah Rendah’ for primary schools in the state should be changed or rebranded to create emphasis on the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin said the word ‘rendah’ is a clear indicator of what the national education syllabus is doing to deprive students of interest in STEM subjects.

“During the formative years of a child, if we do not inculcate (in them) the interest (in STEM) and not teach them the right and proper way, it will kill their interest. This needs to be reversed,” he told a press conference after launching the state-level National Science Week 2018 at the Sarawak State Library (Pustaka Negeri) here yesterday.

He said if the interest in STEM subjects is already killed at primary school level, there is no way for a student to cope at the secondary school level.

Pointing out that teachers were not to be blamed as many were not trained for such subjects, Manyin said the ministry would look to address the issue in the next three to four years to ensure that primary school teachers are trained and will teach the same subjects they are trained in.

He added that the British and the Indonesian ways of naming ‘Sekolah Rendah’ as ‘Primary School’ and ‘Sekolah Dasar’ shows that much emphasis is given on a student’s education while they are still at a formative stage.

“So maybe we should rename our schools to ‘Sekolah Utama’ or something along that line to ensure that we will look and prioritise our primary schools first.”

According to him, only 19 per cent of students in Sarawak are entering Science stream in Form 4, while only about five per cent will subsequently enter STEM-related fields at universities.

“This will be the biggest challenge for Sarawak as the nation gears towards the Industrial Revolution 4.0, which will disrupt the way everyone does things due to the advancement of technology.

“This can also, however, be seen as a constructive disruption or a creative disruption,” he said, adding that the revolution would create more jobs and services such as techno-entrepreneurs, biotechnologists, data analysts and ICT professionals.

He also revealed that the state government has decided to set up a science centre near the Kuching Civic Centre in the next two to three years.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) deputy secretary-general (Science, Technology and Innovation) Assoc Prof Dr Ramzah Dambul, who was present at the launch yesterday, thanked Manyin’s ministry and the Bioeconomy Corporation for their collaboration on the event.

According to Ramzah, the programme is part of efforts to make STEM subjects more appealing to the younger generation by getting the involvement of all parties.

“This is especially important to ensure that the country has sufficient knowledgeable and skilled human capital, capable of advancing the field of global technology as we become a developed nation by 2050,” he said.

The National Science Week has been held every year since 2002 in line with World Science Day organised by the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco).