Media statement by Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera, Syerleena Abdul Rashid in Kuala Lumpur, 13 September 2023:
As Malaysia gears up to meet the challenges of an ever-increasing digital age, STEM education has always been one of the many pillars that guide strategic educational frameworks needed to assist students to meet the demands of the 21st century.
Initiatives like Penang STEM show the existing commitment to further enhance science and technology education. Located in a state known for its vibrant industrial and tech sectors, Penang STEM aims to cultivate young talents within these fields. However, the inclusion of Arts can elevate such initiatives by adding a layer of creativity and emotional intelligence, thereby producing not just skilled technicians but innovative leaders and problem-solvers.
STEAM education, standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, is a holistic approach to learning that integrates different disciplines to foster well-rounded individuals. While STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education has long been a cornerstone in preparing students for the modern workforce, the addition of Arts creates a more balanced and comprehensive education model. Moreover, Malaysia, being a country in the midst of a digital and economic transformation, can particularly benefit from adopting a STEAM framework in its educational system.
The integration of Arts into the existing STEM-focused education is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, Arts enrich problem-solving and innovation by encouraging creative thinking and lateral approaches to challenges. These skills are invaluable in Malaysia’s quest to move up the value chain and transform its economy from being production-based to innovation-driven. The ability to look at problems from multiple perspectives can facilitate more sustainable and human-centered solutions, be it in urban planning, healthcare, or technology.
Moreover, the Arts contribute to the development of emotional intelligence, a trait that is indispensable in an increasingly interconnected world. For Malaysia, a country rich in cultural diversity, emotional intelligence nurtures social harmony and mutual understanding. The arts — encompassing everything from visual and performing arts to literature — allow students to explore diverse cultures and viewpoints, thereby fostering an inclusive and empathetic society.
A STEAM-centric education system can greatly enhance Malaysia’s global competitiveness. Companies like Apple and Google, which lead the global market, integrate technology with human-centric design and user experience. Furthermore, these two companies are well known for being supporters of cultural diversity. As Malaysia aspires to produce home-grown companies of similar stature, it needs a workforce skilled both in technological proficiency and creative design. For a diverse nation like Malaysia, when broad engagements across various ethnic and social groups are done without bigoted insecurities and mistrust, we can maximize our country’s human capital.
To make this vision a reality, Malaysia should extend initiatives like Penang STEM and even the National STEM Association, to include arts components and promote interdisciplinary curricula. Teacher training programs should be revamped to equip educators with the skills to teach in an integrated STEAM environment. Public-private partnerships can also be encouraged, linking educational objectives closely with industry needs.
The long-term economic prospects for Malaysia with a fully implemented STEAM education system are promising. Producing a generation of multi-skilled, emotionally intelligent individuals will attract global businesses and foster homegrown innovations.
Embracing the importance of arts and tapping into the right brain, STEAM education holds immense potential for Malaysia. By adding Arts to the equation, Malaysia is not just preparing its youth for the jobs of tomorrow but also nurturing citizens capable of contributing meaningfully to a complex, interconnected global landscape. Adopting STEAM is not just an educational strategy; it is an investment in our nation’s future.
SYERLEENA ABDUL RASHID
MP BUKIT BENDERA