Future not bright enough for science
Monday, January 30, 2012 - 19:00
PUTRAJAYA is “a bit” concerned that we don’t like science. How funny.
Seriously, how many of us really enjoyed science subjects at school?
I didn’t care at all, to the extent of dropping Physics, Chemistry and Biology from my SPM exam in 1986, and happily taking Accounting, Commerce and Rampaian Sains (general science).
But to Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, it’s not a joking matter; it’s rather alarming.
Statistics revealed interest in science education in schools had dropped to a critical level. The Science and Technology Human Capital Direction Plan 2020’s requirement of 60 per cent from the Science stream and 40 per cent from Arts had yet to be achieved, Khaled griped.
He said the number of Science stream students had dropped up to 29 per cent since 2007 and the trend continued at the universities.
If left unchecked, it may impede efforts to improve hi-tech innovations to make Malaysia a high income nation.
Many countries consider advances in science, technology and healthcare as the pathway to regaining their foothold in the global economy. Our government was compelled to set up Agensi Inovasi Malaysia under the Prime Minister’s Department via the AIM Act 2010 as the driving force to establish an “innovation economy”.
It’s a grim outlook considering that our future leaders have no interest in pursuing careers in science and technology.
Khaled said students entering universities found Science difficult, boring and not worth the effort, adding they needed to imagine the interesting and profitable career prospects in science.
Now, it would be folly if I were to be blamed for finding Science as such back then at school and university.
Fifty years ago, we may have been inspired by the Apollo missions to the moon, but not now. The thought of wearing white long coats and working in laboratories is not sexy. If I had been asked back then to draw a scientist, I would have portray a man in a lab coat with a test tube, alone in a chilly room, looking stressed. So, I stopped imagining interesting careers in Science.
You can’t fault my orang kampung parents either as some quarters would argue that they, not teachers, were to blame for the lack of interest their children have in Science.
I agree parents often exert the biggest influence on a child’s choices. But bear in mind the range of careers and prospects an average family knows about is naturally limited.
One of the many reasons (in my opinion), students cite for not wanting to enter science and technology fields are lack of knowledge of careers in these fields and a general feeling they are not good at Math and Science.
I once felt science served no purpose later in life. How wrong I was. I only knew you had to be good in Science to become a doctor or a mad scientist. I didn’t want to be either.
I also couldn’t recall other interesting moments learning Science, apart from the part on human anatomy and when I did minor surgery on a frog. My eldest, when he was in Tahun 1, came home beaming with the product of his Science class project. I don’t get that from him anymore. Once, I had to buy various springs to make him grasp how they worked as he didn’t understand what was taught in class.
Science needs an image makeover. We all know science and technology save and improve lives. Scientists are opinionated and creative people. They are expected to act aggressively and nobody trains us for that in school.
We all know the younger the kids, the better the ideas. But many of us start losing our creativity and imagination in due course, no thanks to our lack of determination and our education system.
We have a society so fixated by materialism, sports and entertainment, it has drained our children’s interest in Science.
The curriculum needs to be reviewed. Teaching methods need to be improved. It’s important to make science subjects more inviting to all, especially if they want to draw a variety of thinkers and innovators. Of course, that’s the job of the education panel which was set up several months ago by Putrajaya to review our education system.
I am telling my children, in my own innovative way, that physics teaches us how mirrors work, how glasses can aid my poor vision. Chemistry is about atoms, molecules and compounds making up the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the medicines we take when we are sick. Biology is the study of life; why we are the way we are, how all living things complement us.
So Putrajaya should continue innovating.
Muzli Mohd Zin recently allowed his boy to embark on a ‘Science project’ and he collected six spiders from their wooden kampung house. The arachnids will be now being ‘taken care of’ in a big bottle and he hopes they are released soon. Muzli receives brickbats at [email protected]