Drop in number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics students

KUALA LUMPUR: Chairman of the National Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Movement Datuk Prof Dr Noraini Idris is not surprised with the statement made by Education Minister Maszlee Malik on Tuesday that the number of students taking these subjects has declined over the years.

Maszlee had said that although STEM-related subjects were connected to new emerging jobs and the fast-growing digital industry, the available talent in these areas was worrying.

Noraini said the drop could be seen in schools which previously had four or five science-stream classes but now only had one or two.

“The problem was not just about the students, but there are various factors, including the school management which does not seem to be confident of the ability of the teachers and students in STEM areas,” she told Bernama recently.

She said this included school management which were not cooperative to teachers who wanted to be more creative in teaching science and mathematics subjects.

Noraini also said the background of school heads and management who were not from STEM fields also made it difficult for teachers to be creative in teaching the subjects.

She added that the downward trend in the number of STEM students also had an implication on the available professional talents needed for the country’s development.

“The drop in the number of students in secondary schools will have an effect on tertiary educations where there are currently 11,000 places in various STEM-related fields which could not be filled,” she said, adding that this will affect the ‘output’ of engineers, scientists, and doctors.

Meanwhile, chief executive officer of the Malaysian Science Academy, Hazami Habib said what was more worrying was that parents were giving the wrong signals on science and mathematics subjects, thus killing their children’s interest in these subjects.

“This is one of the reasons why each year, the national education system is losing about 6,000 students with potential in STEM areas,” she said.

She added that parents were taking the safer route to ensure that their children excel in the Sijil Pelajar Malaysia examination, but in the end, their children will suffer when they cannot realise their full potential.

Hazami proposed that science subjects be taught at the pre-school level and parents be informed of the importance of these subjects. — Bernama