PRODUCING something in a lesser quantity does not mean compromising its quality.
This is especially true in the case of students who opt for the Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in Malaysia.
Although the number of students choosing this stream is on the decline, the quality of the STEM education in Malaysia is the magnet for foreign tech companies to invest and set up their operations here.
According to National Technology Advisor to the UK Government, Liam Maxwell, one of the main reasons for UK tech companies’ investment into Malaysia is due to its highly skilled talents – talents produced by the STEM education.
“I think you have a very strong heritage in science, technology and maths in the university, and that is one of the things that attracts companies to come here. I was told by BT (British Telecoms) this morning and that was the first thing they said,” he told Astro AWANI in an interview earlier this week.
Maxwell was not the only credible individual who believed in Malaysia’s talent pool. Findings in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Human Capital Report 2017 highlighted that Malaysia ranked 33rd out of 130 countries, having developed 68 percent of its human capital.
This is higher than any other nation in ASEAN, next to Singapore.
The report, released last month, also noted Malaysia’s key strengths to be in the know-how; the measurement for the use of specialised skills at work, and also the capacity measurement in the secondary school education system, among others.
According to the report, Malaysia’s measurement for the use of specialised skills at work ranked 28th and 10th overall for availability of skilled labour.
As for educational attainment, the brightest spot for Malaysia is its secondary education which ranked as high as 23rd (out of 130 countries) in the 15-24 age bracket.
The only thing that held Malaysia back behind Singapore is the employment gender gap, where we ranked 84th in the key 25-54 age bracket. PRODUCING WELL-ROUNDED TALENTS
Despite the seemingly rosy numbers, the Malaysian Government might consider relooking at its 60:40 policy for the science to arts student ratio.
Maxwell stressed that emphasis should not be given to only STEM subjects but also those that trigger creativity, such as arts, to create more well-rounded talents.
“There is importance in making sure that science and technology and maths are strong in the education system in the country, but don’t neglect the creative industry and arts which can deliver great services such as design,” he said.
Previously, it was reported that Malaysia was still lacking in producing STEM graduates
. Only 47 percent of school students opted for the science stream despite substantial investment in STEM.
Meanwhile, CEO of a local data company, KATSANA, Syed Ahmad Fuqaha Syed Agil opined that the arts and creative industry ‘humanises’ a person and therefore would make better engineers, scientists and programmers.
“Our graduates are taught how to answer questions but not to question questions, and since they trained to only give correct answers, they aren’t able to provide other possible answers,” he said.
He said this limits a talent’s thinking ability.
“If you have knowledge in arts, you will know that it’s not black and white, and each question might have different answers to different audience,” said Syed Ahmad Fuqaha, whose company recently secured a funding of RM4 million from Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (ADIF)
He said in order for the situation to change, there needs to be a change of mind set first.
“It’s the parents’ mentality, they equate science to better job security. Many parents don’t realise that there are other greater opportunities beyond graduation.”