SCIENCE, technology, engineering and mathematics education or STEM has become an important component of Malaysia’s education system in its drive to prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution(4IR).
The ratio in the number of students enrolled in science and arts is 60:40, but this is insufficient as the objective is to develop an innovative Malaysia that can compete with highly industrialised countries.
STEM education can be made more realistic through the integration of the 4Cs — Creativity, Communication, Critical Thinking and Collaboration. Such an approach will make learning more enjoyable for the students. Besides developing students’ interest in STEM, it is equally important to select suitable and interesting pedagogy.
Creativity fits well with STEM education in terms of shaping the students’ foundation in innovation. This approach does away with students rote learning their way to important concepts in STEM. Contextual learning with practical exercises will add a creative dimension to the teaching and learning of the subject matter.
Good communication skills are a must for expressing ideas. Teaching students to express technical ideas in simple but correct English will increase the interest of the students in the technical subjects as well as in the English language as a communication tool.
Helping students to transfer their knowledge to real world situations will in turn develop the students’ critical thinking. Making students work on collaborative projects also helps them to develop innovative ideas as they can tap into each other’s diverse backgrounds. All the 4Cs complement each other, and, have a significant impact on the teaching and learning of STEM.
Through emphasis on the 4Cs, STEM education can shape a well-rounded pool of 4IR-ready workers. The 4Cs concept should be implemented at an early stage. All parties including teachers, policymakers, industry captains and parents need to collaborate to inspire our schoolchildren to develop interest in STEM. Teachers should have in-depth knowledge of pedagogies that are relevant to STEM education.
It is becoming apparent that the 4IR wave cannot be stopped. Making STEM and 4IR relevant should be part of our considerations when preparing the curriculum. Academia and industry must march in step in implementing STEM education. Only then will our academics and students be 4IR-ready.
Dr Siti Mistima Maat, Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia