IF Prakash Mallya’s mandate for schools can be summed up in one sentence, it may be this: to create bright students for jobs that do not exist yet.
“What I’m doing today, and what I was taught are two very different things,” he says.
“It’s the same for children in schools today, they’re being taught things that may or may not be relevant in the future.
“So what’s important for us is to keep students challenged and intellectually motivated.”
As Intel’s managing director for South-East Asia, Mallya’s interest in education is not just about being socially aware – it is also about ensuring business sustainability.
“Innovation is the foundation of our success, and we really want to see quality education for all.
“Without great education, you can’t have great technologists, and without great technologists you can’t have great innovations.
Intel has invested some RM20mil on education initiatives in Malaysia over the last 15 years, a portion of USS$1bil (RM3.27bil) spent for similar efforts globally.
A key component of these initiatives is to inculcate and equip students with “21st century skills”.
“In a world that’s connected by technology, you can engage with different people seamlessly.
“We should be looking at how we can train students to look at problems differently, and solve these problems themselves by using all the resources available.
“Students also need to be proficient in English, to improve their career prospects. They must also have a good understanding of science and technology,” he says.
While advances in ICT can drive new ways of teaching and learning, Mallya warns against seeing technology as a “be-all-and-end-all on its own”.
“You need to have the right vision,” he says.
Real transformation in education, he explains, requires investment in the fundamentals – policy-making, curriculum development, and teachers.
“Without a great set of policies defined, we can’t drive the right behaviour – that’s the first step.
“Then you have to build the right curriculum, to get the right outcomes of critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students.
“You also need professional development, because great students come out of great teachers, not the other way round. So ICT is just another element to all this,” he says.
To tie all these elements together, he adds that proper evaluation methods should be in place to ensure that targets are being met.
“You always have to push boundaries on how to make things better, because 10 years from now, the kind of education that society would need is going to be vastly different from what we have now.
“You need to know how to research and evaluate your education infrastructure in order to keep improving,” he says.
Mallya adds that initiatives under Intel Education, link back to these objectives.
“One example is Intel® Teach, which essentially makes teachers aware of using technology and integrating that into learning.
“So far, we’ve globally trained 10 million teachers, including over 85,000 in Malaysia.
“We also have ICT-orientated initiatives like what we’ve done in Terengganu, where we deployed around 10,000 PCs to schools.
“Then there’s the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for students, which has been held in Arizona, the United States since 1997 – students are assessed locally, and we invest in the teachers who are involved as well.
“Around 15,000 students compete at the fair every year, and Malaysians have done quite well too,” Mallya adds.
He adds that the tech giant also provides for adult learners, through programmes such as Intel® Learn Easy Steps which teaches basic computer literacy.
Mallya hopes that education systems will be geared to offer students the ability to solve problems, collaborate with each other, and develop a healthy dose of curiosity.
“From a business point of view, even we don’t know what might happen in 10 to 15 years from now.
“But we are convinced that we’re in the best position (to deal with change); we’ve always kept ourselves hungry to succeed.
“We need to teach our children to do that as well,” adds Mallya.