Mastercard and Arus Academy partner with MOE to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers
THE gender gap still exists in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), although women have made strides in occupying leadership positions and key roles in the sector and related industries such as banking and finance.
While these trailblazers hold the door open, there is a need to continue empowerment initiatives as early as the start of education.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the traditional mode of education, it accelerated the shift to digital education as students and teachers moved from physical classrooms to virtual ones.
Although schools have reopened, online learning is still important to ensure continuity and that learning does not stop regardless of the medium.
This brings forth opportunities in the STEM field for girls to explore educational opportunities and career paths through online learning.
By providing more STEM education, girls can better see themselves in STEM roles with good opportunities for educational advancement and professional growth, and they will be empowered to break even more glass ceilings.
To help narrow the gender gap and increase STEM awareness at the grassroots level in Malaysia, Mastercard has partnered with the National STEM Center of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and social enterprise Arus Academy to launch Agents of Tech, a Girls4Tech STEM education programme, within the Digital Educational Learning Initiative Malaysia (DELIMa) portal.
“Today, people in Malaysia are living more digital lifestyles, including children who had to pivot to virtual classrooms and learning. As Malaysia’s digital economy continues to expand, it is essential that everyone is included and has access to this world,” says Mastercard Malaysia and Brunei country manager Perry Ong.
“The partnership with the Government and Arus Academy will enable students, especially girls, to better access STEM subjects and gain an educational experience that will fuel their passion in these areas.
“Girls4Tech will also give them the skills they need to help accelerate the country’s digital future.”
He said this initiative is part of Mastercard’s ongoing support for Malaysia’s MyDigital roadmap, which aims to create first-class digital capability in the next five to 10 years.
“It is also part of Mastercard’s global commitment to bring a billion people into the digital economy by 2025,” he added.
As a digital platform, Agents of Tech offers a fun, engaging curriculum built around global science and math standards, while localising its content to inspire Malaysian students.
It is curated especially for girls between the ages of eight to 12 years to explore STEM in their education and future careers.
Besides that, the content is available in both Malay and English, which underscores DELIMa’s mission to promote lifelong learning, providing the opportunity for students to develop the necessary skills to be employable globally.
Based on the foundations of Mastercard’s Girls4Tech curriculum, students will learn through a series of comics and interactive dialogues where they will follow a character – Agent Aliya – to solve five missions.
These missions are based on themes of cryptology, detection, digital convergence, as well as big data and artificial intelligence for social good.
Students need to come up with fresh ideas and innovative solutions to issues revolving around the themes and will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the missions.
To date, there are some 3,007 agents who have completed the programme, with 90% of participants being females.
Mastercard and Arus Academy aim to reach even more students this year.
District education officer Ling Tian Wong extols the easy-to-master code techniques and use of code in information management.
Mohd Hafiz Md Esa from Sekolah Kebangsaan Dato’ Yayha Subban, Perak shared that the programme offers an easy-to-understand learning kit for students and teachers to use in the teaching process.
“We want students throughout Malaysia, especially girls, to take on STEM-related subjects so that they would be able to think analytically and be more creative and innovative, as these are the most needed skills in the future, especially amidst a highly technology-savvy environment,” said MOE’s deputy head of secretariat (technical), Digital Education Policy Dr Ihsan Ismail.
Mastercard and Arus Academy have received support from the Perlis State Education Department and Miri District Education Office to implement Agents of Tech as one of the learning modules to supplement their school syllabus.
“If we want to see equal representation across the board, especially in male-dominated fields like the technology industry, it is important that girls are exposed to STEM from a young age.
“Agents of Tech is not only about foundational STEM knowledge and 21st century technology skills, but empowering them on how they can play a role in making sure technology is used for good, enabling them to break glass ceilings as future cryptologists, fraud detectives, data scientists, software engineers, among others and creating paths for themselves and other women after them,” said Arus Academy co-founder Alina Amir.
Out of 376 educators surveyed, some 80% said they will recommend Agents of Tech to other students and parents, while 90% of workshop participants will recommend Agents of Tech to their friends.
To access Agents of Tech, students, teachers and parents can visit https://sites.google.com/moe.edu.my/login and key in the ID and password provided by the school. Students can also access the site directly at arus.cc/agentsoftech.