PETALING JAYA: An academic is proposing that students with high grades in Mathematics and Science in Form 3 be made to go into the science stream to tackle the huge gap between science and arts students.
“It should be made mandatory for them to stay in the science stream for the benefit of the country,” the National Professors Council’s head of education and human capital, Zakaria Kasa, told FMT.
At present, only those with a high aggregate in PT3 are promoted to the science stream, and they have a choice to opt for the arts stream.
Zakaria added that these students could proceed to take up engineering, science and medical courses at tertiary level.
“At present even science stream students opt for the arts stream in Form 6 because they find it easier.”
He was asked to respond to TalentCorp’s announcement last week of a list of the top 10 jobs that employers are offering and the skill sets they are looking for.
Most of the jobs require skills in the sciences and in mathematics. The top job sectors are oil, gas and energy (including petrochemicals), financial services (including insurance and Takaful services), business, information and communications technology (ICT), global business services, electrical and electronics (including machinery, equipment and medical devices), as well as aerospace.
TalentCorp said it was sourcing talent by rolling the red carpet for Malaysians living abroad with such skills to return home.
Zakaria, who is attached to Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Perak, said he was very concerned over the dip in science stream students compared with art stream students in Malaysia.
He said only 22% of students were in the science stream, while the arts stream had 78%.
In contrast, 70% and 50% of students in South Korea and Finland, respectively, are in the science stream. The Malaysian education ministry is aiming for 60% of students in the science stream.
According to the Science and Technology Human Capital Report and Science Outlook 2015 produced by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia , the country needs at least 270,000 science students sitting for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination annually. However, only about 90,000 science students now sit for this exam.
Experts have said that to move the country forward, Malaysia needs more scientists and engineers.
Zakaria said the huge gap between science and arts students was a cause for concern, especially when the country required people to take up speciailised jobs in science and engineering.
Zakaria also proposed that an interest in science be cultivated from kindergarten and primary school.
“We have to groom them from young. So that they are interested in the subject from an early age,” he added.
He said at university level, exhibitions, briefings, and conferences were being held to woo students to sign up for science subjects but the interest was not encouraging.
Another education expert, Prof Teo Kok Seong of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said that being in the arts stream was considered to be easier to pass in SPM.
“That is the perception at the moment. Science subjects have to be taught in an interesting way in schools. There is too much theory at the moment. Students find it hard to relate to the subject” he said.
Teo said to create interest students should be involved in more hands-on experiments.