State launches STEM education lab

KUCHING: The Sarawak government has launched a major push on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in schools, given the importance of these subjects for the children’s future and economic prosperity of the state.

SK Rakyat Haji Bolhassan, located in Satok, was the first of six pilot schools to implement the Sarawak STEM Education Lab that aimed to encourage and increase students’ interest, engagement, understanding and success in these areas.

Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg launched the lab and the school’s upgraded hall which has been named Dewan Dato Hajjah Juma’ani yesterday.

“We need to put STEM as a high priority in our education in order to prepare our children for the future ahead, for the competitive global economy in a digital world. We want to produce a technology-and-digital-literate generation,” he told a press conference.

“This programme, which also emphasised on the English language as it is the basis of STEM subjects, is on top of the National Education Curriculum,” he added.

The Sarawak STEM Education Lab, an intervention programme supported by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), was one of the six initiatives under the fourth Key Result Area (KRA 4) — Quality of Education and Human Capital under the state’s Performance and Service Delivery Transformation (PSDT).

Good knowledge and skills in science and mathematics, Abang Johari emphasised, were critical for the younger generation to compete and thrive in the future where jobs will demand highly skilled qualifications.

“The government is committed to helping and guiding our children into the digital era. We need to ensure that they are equipped with the latest skills and knowledge relevant to the changing times,” he said.

More importantly, he added, the approach will help Sarawak produce quality, skilful and talented human capital who will become the engine that drives and steers the state to greater heights.

“As you can see in the lab, children already have a creative mind because they are growing up in a world surrounded by technology, making it easy for them to grasp the knowledge, and with greater exposure on how things work, hopefully it will prick their creativity to innovate and later pursue careers in STEM fields,” he said after checking out students’ projects made using Lego.

Abang Johari pointed out that Sarawak cannot rely wholly on the central government to decide on education matters.

“Education cannot be handed over to the central government. We have the right to human capital development. We will subscribe to the fundamentals but we need local solutions to the weaknesses,” he said.

As such, he urged elected representatives to help and support education matters, especially small projects like upgrading of school facilities using their RM5 million Rural Transformation Programme (RTP) fund.

“We will help all schools including Chinese schools so as to provide a conducive ecosystem for children to learn,” he said, acknowledging that education was the key to not only achieving human capital and the state’s growth but improving livelihoods.

For a start, the state government has invested RM750,000 to implement the labs in six schools this year including SK Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Daud, SK Abang Abdul Rahman (Saratok), SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman, SMK St Joseph Kuching and SMK BM Saratok.

According to Unimas vice-chancellor Prof Dato Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi, the STEM Education Lab project has been planned for 164 schools across Sarawak — two schools (one primary and one secondary) in all 82 state constituencies.

“Under the programme, we will introduce and recommend interesting activities and programmes to do in the lab where kids can explore, engage and experiment on things and ideas. This way we can encourage them to interact, nurture creativity and inspire them to innovate,” he said.

To support the improvement of STEM teaching and learning, he revealed that 30 teachers — five from each of the six selected schools — have gone through intensive training at Unimas so they can impart the knowledge to the students.

“The lab programme, which is aimed at creating awareness of STEM right from an early age, will be expanded to more schools next year,” he added.

The Chief Minister’s wife Datin Amar Datuk Juma’ani Tun Tuanku Bujang, Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Assistant Minister of Infrastructure Development Datuk Talib Zulpilip, Deputy State Secretary (PSDT) Datu Dr Sabariah Putit, Education Department director Rakayah Madon, Kuching North City

Hall Datuk Bandar Datuk Abang Abdul Wahap Abang Julai and event organising chairman Mohamad Azman Ahmad were among those present.

Abang Johari (seated, second left) listening as pupils explain how a windmill created with Lego works. Also seen are (standing from second right) Kadim, Abdul Karim, Sabariah and Talib. — Photo by Jeffery Mostapa and Kong JL.