STEM spared from wrath of pandemic

A secure future: Prof Asma says the next generation must be nurtured from young because the sciences are an important component of the economy. — File photo

MALAYSIA must start nurturing the next generation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals from young because the sciences are an important component of the economy.

Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) president Prof Datuk Dr Asma Ismail (pic) said Covid-19 is proof that individuals and industries in the sciences are spared the negative economic repercussions resulting from the pandemic.

“Businesses in general are impacted but corporations that have science, technology and innovation as their foundations are shielded, with some actually recording a growth.

“We need to bring this to the forefront to show parents, who are important stakeholders, that careers in science pays, ” she told StarEdu, in conjunction with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which was on Thursday.

She said from an ecosystem perspective, there is still plenty that can be done to enhance the country’s current science, technology and innovation ecosystem to ensure that companies are confident of our STEM talent.

“With the launch of the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (NPSTI) 2021-2030 and the 10-10 Malaysian Science, Technology, Innovation and Economic (MySTIE) Framework, this can be addressed so that within a decade, the ecosystem is enhanced and will showcase the spectrum of STEM careers, instilling confidence in parents about the ability of their children to earn adequately in their professions, ” she added.

Last week, StarEdu highlighted that school students are still preferring Arts and Humanities to STEM despite initiatives to promote the sciences since Malaysia set a target ratio of 60:40 science-to-non-science students at the upper secondary school level in 1967.

While the debate over students’ dwindling interest in STEM continues to worry experts, Prof Asma thinks interest in the sciences among students is still “alive and kicking”.

Just last year, she said, students from more than 1,000 schools took part in ASM’s annual National Science Challenge, which was held virtually due to the pandemic.

“We found their interest infectious and quite refreshing, ” – By SANDHYA MENON

THE British Council has launched the British Council Scholarship for Women in STEM.

This new scheme, it said in a press release, is aimed at supporting women who wish to pursue their master’s degrees in universities in the United Kingdom (UK) but are in strong need of financial support. The areas must be related to STEM.

“This new scholarship will allow over 100 women from countries in the Americas, South Asia and East Asia to obtain their advanced degrees from a UK university, permitting them to further develop their careers in science.

“This scholarship scheme includes tuition fees, monthly stipend, travel costs, visa and health coverage fees.

“It is also open to women with dependents and contains provision for scholars who might need a short pre-sessional English course to achieve the language level needed to undergo their studies, ” it added.

Applications are open until March. Potential candidates from Malaysia must apply directly to either University of Glasgow, Liverpool John Moores University or University of Stirling, the British Council said.

According to data from Unesco, fewer than 30% of researchers worldwide are women and only 30% of female students select STEM-related fields in higher education, the British Council said.

“Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in Information and Communications Technology (three per cent), natural science, mathematics and statistics (five per cent), and engineering, manufacturing and construction (eight per cent).”

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