Parents steering kids away from STEM subjects for easier SPM, says ASM chief

Hazami said parents are ‘killing’ their children’s interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Parents are contributing to the decline in the number of students taking science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, Academy of Sciences Malaysia chief executive officer Hazami Habib said.

She told Bernama that parents were sending out the “wrong signals” on STEM, thus killing their children’s interest in these subjects.

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

“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 when interviewed by the national news agency.

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

Meanwhile, National STEM Movement chairman Datuk Prof Dr Noraini Idris said she is not surprised with the statement made by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik on Tuesday that the number of students taking STEM had 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.

She said this included school managements 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.

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