09 November 2012 | last updated at 11:55PM
To attract the young, science must be taught creatively
KNOWLEDGE, whether in the sciences or the arts, should not spark the synapses of our brains differently, and potentially everyone ought to be able to put their intellect around both these categories of academic disciplines. Just because the current environment in the study of the sciences does little to stimulate the minds of the nation’s young to make them want to study Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics, for instance, it is no reason to assume that these subjects are hard to grasp. Rather, there ought to be a way to make these subjects intriguing enough so that young Malaysians will pursue them as interests and thus increase the number of science stream enrolment in schools where the development of human capital begins.
The alarmingly low rate of enrolment in the sciences in schools needs to be addressed urgently. Currently, heavily skewed to the Arts, local university graduates will not be able to meet the country’s growing need for human capital to man the K-economy, which demands expertise in the different scientific disciplines. Even now, the government is pushing to transform the economy in this direction: Malaysia will by 2015 produce three global information and communications technology titans. The policies are in place, the 2013 Budget has set aside allocations to make the objective realisable and the government agencies are ready. Manning this goal, however, is of grave concern — one that has given rise to the suggestion of incentivising parents, which aims to secure their help to develop their children’s interest and capability in the sciences and thus increasing enrolment. After all, a child cannot join the science stream at the drop of a hat. They must qualify for the privilege.
That the problem is not one of inadequate higher education institutions, which would be improved by 2015 when Pagoh becomes a university town and a multi-university higher education hub, is what is shifting the focus elsewhere and parents are an obvious target. Parents though cannot do this without help. Science centres in every major city would be ideal as a place to trigger a child’s initial curiosity, but they must be designed accordingly. Malaysia needs its own Smithsonian Institute, a Natural History Museum, a Museum of Mankind and much more that will contribute towards the development of scientific interest among the young. Science holiday camps revolving around the specific intention of making science, mathematics and technology accessible and seemingly simple is another avenue. Children can be identified by teachers to participate. The fact is science subjects are not difficult, rather it is currently being taught without much imagination.