STEM is a way of thinking


IN recent years, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education has been the focus of many conversations among policy makers, educators and corporations.

From issues of poor quality STEM graduates to lack of females in STEM industries, we have time and again pushed for more capable STEM talent that may hopefully prepare the nation to face a digital future.

In fact, STEM has been identified as a main priority in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025. The Higher Education Ministry has been doing its part by actively reaching out to researchers and industries, organising research and development exhibitions, publication of books and technology competitions.

Schools are also trying their best to supply more STEM students by creating interest in Science and Mathematics among them through creative learning methods, equipping their teachers with improved skills and knowledge, as well as educating parents and the public on the urgent need for STEM.

But after all is said and done, we still find ourselves struggling to supply a steady stream of qualified, capable talent who are ready to take on the real-world problems of our century.

We need to frankly ask ourselves what more we can do to prepare our nation for the future. Is it truly the number of scientists and engineers that we should look at? Is our workforce able to transform Malaysia into a developed nation?

Anglo-American author Christopher Hitchens once said: “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

STEM education is more than just nurturing young talents to take on STEM-related careers, but rather the competency of the person that is acquired through a STEM-based education. We, as educators and parents, sometimes neglect the role of education as a way of helping young people see and make sense of the world.

STEM helps young people to shape a creative and critical thinking mindset. It instils in our children intrinsic problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills and a sense of curiosity – qualities that are of the utmost importance to readily take on the future.

To break it down, STEM is a lens to the world. As children, Science became an interest to us when we realised that inquiry and critical thinking can explain various phenomena in our environment.

Since its existence, technology has been integrated into a large part of our lives and has become a tool to solve numerous real-world problems covering connectivity, trading and business, healthcare, education, and many more.

Engineering teaches design thinking and systematic thinking, which make for systematic thinkers and planners who can conceive engineering design principles that are widely used in many industries.

Mathematics, as a subject, should introduce to students methodical, logical teaching to enable them to see patterns that form our world.

Indeed, the value of STEM as a subject matter is undeniably vital to a nation’s growth. However, a country needs not a large number of unqualified STEM talent to progress but rather quality talents equipped with the right skill sets who are problem-solvers and critical-thinkers with the desire to see our world become a better place.

If you look at the CEOs of today, many of them possess a background in STEM-related education and have subsequently moved on to business management.

STEM is neither a body of knowledge nor a professional engagement; it is a way of thinking. If teachers can emphasise the competency of STEM more than knowledge, we stand a better chance at grooming a generation of great leaders who can bring Malaysia forward.

DR LOGENDRA PONNIAH

Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Taylor’s University

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