Bringing the Arts and Sciences together


THE Education Ministry is in the early stages of studying the operating mechanisms to implement the streamless schools approach.

Dr Maszlee Malik said the ministry does not want Malaysian students to be categorised as Science or Arts students, any longer.

“The incorporation of reading, writing and arts into STEM will include a humanistic approach thus, making it relatable to students’ daily routine.

“We hope to alter the negative perception (towards STEM), ultimately increasing interest in it,” the Education Minister said.

There are two ways to merge science and arts, he explained.

“Firstly, (through) the usage of STREAM as an educational approach in teaching and learning.

“STREAM represents the fact that we need to produce holistic students in all disciplines, by integrating reading and arts into how we teach STEM, and integrating STEM concepts into how we teach other subjects.

“An example of the application of STREAM is through projects that involve inquiry and problem-based learning, where students work on interdisciplinary activities.

“Students would leverage on, and connect concepts and skills across STEM and non-STEM spectrum to solve problems,” he shared.

Last month, Dr Maszlee said streamless schools are the way forward, and that it was among the suggestions the ministry received from the National Education Policy review committee, or better known by its Malay acronym, JKDPN.

However, two weeks ago, he said only 44% of Malaysian students were in the STEM stream last year, as compared to 48% in 2012.

Dr Maszlee said this when delivering the keynote address at the Bett Asia Leadership Summit and Expo 2019 in Kuala Lumpur.

A stronger curriculum

The ministry is deliberating on

strengthening the current curriculum, Dr Maszlee said, to incorporate elements of arts and reading, such as aesthetic appreciation, design-thinking, and user experience.

JKDPN and the ministry’s Curriculum Development Division are reviewing and studying the curriculum, he added.

“Our vision for (this) new curriculum is it allows students to develop holistically, not just in (their) technical knowledge of STEM, arts and culture, but also in terms of 21st century skills with values and ethics.

“Arts and culture is the cornerstone of human civilisation, resulting in progress just as much as Science and Maths.

“JKDPN is set to table their recommendations next month, and the ministry will deliberate further on the findings.”

Dr Maszlee said the recommendations will cover preschool to post-graduate education.

He believes a head start in education during the early stages of childhood will change the trajectory of a child’s life.

Currently, the ministry adopts an open certification approach in the SPM, which was implemented in 2000.

A circular was released in 2010 by the ministry, limiting the amount of subjects students can take for SPM to 10, with a maximum of two additional subjects.

Upper secondary students can choose a combination of subjects based on their interests, Dr Maszlee said, ranging from science, arts, accounts and commerce,while maintaining the combination of core subjects required for them to further their studies.

“Moving forward, all schools should allow students to select the combination of subjects they are interested in.

“There are guidelines to ensure students have the right prerequisites for further education.

“This freedom of choice is currently subjected to availability of subject teachers and time tabling.”

Including Arts and Reading into STEMThis is done through interdisciplinary projects.

Dr Maszlee said teachers are already carrying out project, problem and inquiry-based learning in schools, where Maths and Science are taught in parallel with Arts and language skills.

“This has practical benefits to teachers.

“Multiple learning outcomes across subjects can be achieved through these projects, while maximising student engagement, teaching 21st century skills and values.

“We are also focusing on including STEM into Arts and Reading, and other subjects.

“Elements such as environmental conservation, science and technology, as well as innovation are embedded throughout the curriculum, where teachers are supposed to contextualise what they teach,” he said.

These concepts will be updated and strengthened in light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“We want our teachers, and ultimately our students to be aware of and comfortable with new-age concepts such as blockchain, cloud computing or even artificial intelligence.”

Moving away from

segmentationKnowledge cannot be compartmentalised.

Dr Maszlee said in the past, a large number of students were separated based on their abilities.

“This system bred segmentation that disproportionately hurt students from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as the B40 (low-income) families.

“We want to dispel the notion that just because one is in the science stream, they are not interested in the arts and humanities, and vice versa.

“My vision for the education system is one where all students have a fair chance – to be in mixed classrooms where students of different strengths and weaknesses can help and support each other.

“Not just learn technical skills, but the human values of love, happiness, mutual respect and empathy.

“Eventually, once the idea of STEM or STREAM for All becomes mainstream and implemented in the over 10,000 schools in our country, we will be able to see this turn into a reality,” he added.

Fun and experiential learning

Dr Maszlee wants STEM to be taught and learnt through experiences.

He said the ministry is investing in providing opportunities for students to experience STEM by expanding extra-curricular activities, having more science fairs and competitions.

“We are also prioritising the expansion of using STEM to teach STEM – where cheap technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality or online platforms can be brought into the classroom to spark wonder among our students,” he said.

STREAM ensures that STEM is taught in a fun and experiential way, Dr Maszlee explained.

It helps students who are more inclined towards arts or humanities, to see the relevance of STEM in their lives, whether or not they actually pursue a STEM career, he shared.

“It brings out the fun in STEM, through projects and hands-on activities where they have to design and express themselves through arts, reading and writing.

“This is also the best opportunity to learn and apply values such as love, happiness and mutual respect.”

Citing a recent study by the Malaysian Science and Technology Information Centre on public awareness on science, technology and innovation (STI), Dr Maszlee said people’s knowledge on STI is less than 50%.

“Not putting our students into streams relates to our vision for STEM for the future, which is STEM4ALL.

“We want all individuals to be able to appreciate and find relevance in STEM, regardless of whether they make a living in it.”

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