Friday, September 17

Centralisation of education to instill interest in STEM

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Manyin (third left) listens to an explanation by a participant at one of the booths in STEM Playground Miri 2019. The minister is flanked by Awangku Merali on his right and Salina.

MIRI: Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research (MESTR) is considering the centralisation of education as an alternative approach towards improving Sarawak’s performance in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field.

Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong believes that such move would allow three to four teachers to handle each subject under STEM.

“If we had money, we would go for centralisation – (it is) one way to improve STEM performance, the centralisation through schools,” he said while officiating at STEM Playground Miri 2019 in Pustaka Miri yesterday.

In his opening remarks, Manyin expressed his concern about the current student’s enrolment into the Science Stream in Sarawak, which is still far below the national target at 60 per cent.

The percentage of those enrolling into Science Stream after having completed the Form 3 Assessment (PT3) is 24.3 per cent this year – representing only one per cent increase over last year’s figure.

“While other countries are embarking on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0), we are still in the second wave of the industrial revolution – more or less.

“That’s why we have to leapfrog into the IR4.0; otherwise we would be left behind. Therefore, we need to work extraordinary hard to catch up with others.”

Towards this effort, Manyin pointed out that the Sarawak government, through the MESTR, was giving strong emphasis on how to improve the students’ performance in STEM.

In this respect, he was totally supportive of the STEM Playground programme, describing it as an effective platform to expose school-children to STEM at an early age.

“Through this programme, it will give students the opportunity to explore STEM-related concepts.

“The children, (starting at the) primary level, will slowly develop interest in STEM; so there is no problem for them to handle the subjects during secondary level because they have already built a strong foundation at the primary school level.”

Additionally, Manyin also voiced out his concern about the non-availability of ‘option teachers’ to teach Science and Mathematics in rural schools in Sarawak.

According to him, there are about 550 teachers in the rural areas, who are specialised in other subjects but have been forced to teach Science and Mathematics subjects due to certain circumstances.

Manyin also pointed out that there were ‘too many schools with too little pupils’ in the rural areas, which he believed to be among the factors why the rural pupils were far less motivated than their urban counterparts.

In this regard, he called upon the parents to give their total supports to and build up the interest in STEM in their children from an early age.

“The parents should change their perception about STEM being something that they children cannot handle. Instead, they should be more supportive – among the best ways that the parents can do are to allow their children to ‘dream something creative’, and also to let them read more books on fiction.”

The two-day STEM Playground Miri 2019 is an interactive exhibition, held in conjunction with Curtin’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Science and Technology Exhibition 2019.

Organised and run by Sarawak government through Tabung Ekonomi Gagasan Anak Bumiputera Sarawak (Tegas), the event is supported MESTR and Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA), in collaboration with Curtin University Malaysia Miri Campus.

Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, Batu Danau assemblyman Paulus Palu Gumbang, Miri District Officer Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf, Tegas chief operations officer Awangku Merali Pengiran Mohamed and Pustaka Miri regional manager Salina Zawawi were also present at the event.