Nurturing logical thinking in schools


KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry is making every effort to give all schoolchildren the problem-solving skills required for co­ding, in view of the vast opportunities offered by the digital economy.

Last year, as many as 8,000 teachers underwent training and will be fully equipped to teach computational thinking to students, according to Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon.

Combined with those who received training this year, as many as 17,000 teachers have since attended the training, according to the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

“This special training is conducted with the help of 100 lecturers from teacher training institutes, ministry officers who are British Computer Society-certified master trainers, as well as 90 lecturers from Institut Aminuddin Baki,” Chong told The Star in an interview.

In January, computational thinking was made part of the reviewed Standard Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR) for Year One pupils – making Malaysia the first country in Asean to introduce it into the national syllabus.

Form One and Form Four students will also be allowed to take up Basic Computer Science and Computer Science respectively.

New wave: Students will soon learn computational thinking in school thanks to a government initiative and modules developed with the help of the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.
New wave: Students will soon learn computational thinking in school thanks to a government initiative and modules developed with the help of the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.
 

The move was implemented at 10,173 schools nationwide, covering 1.2 million students.

Chong explained that computational thinking and computer science would not be standalone subjects in primary schools but would instead be embedded into core subjects.

“Students will be learning in a fun and engaging way as coding knowledge will be imparted via logic-based games, where they will learn about problem-solving and algorithms,” he said.

“We do not want to burden students.

“We think coding is important because it is not only about computers, but also nurtures creativity and logical thinking.

“It is not rocket science ... we are incorporating it into formal education to ensure our children are prepared.”

Chong added that coding was not only a skill required in the technology sector, but also had oppor­tunities in healthcare, transportation, finance and banking among others.

“These jobs require our children to have advanced digital competencies and technical skills, such as data analytics, machine learning and others.

“Teaching them computational thinking and coding languages will give them a good foundation in preparing for future digital economy jobs,” he said.

Developed with the help of MDEC, the syllabus was benchmarked against courses offered by Britain’s Computing at School as well as the United States’ Computer Science Teachers Association.

According to MDEC vice-president for talent and digital entrepreneurship Sumitra Nair, students who take up Basic Computer Science or Computer Science in secondary school will gradually be introduced to coding languages, including Scratch, Java and Python.

Asked if the ambitious initiative may go the way of the earlier teac­hing of Science and Maths in English (PPSMI) policy, Chong said the programme was developed after a com­­prehensive survey of stakehol­ders, including parents and teachers.

“We have learnt a lesson from PPSMI,” he said.

“A policy needs to reflect the people’s needs and demands to be sustainable.

“We collected the views of various stakeholders before forming the policy.

“When it was drafted, we again brought it back to them to hear their responses. I am confident that the chances of it being rejected have been greatly reduced.”

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