President Obama has recently placed great focus on the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, and especially in piquing the interest of the younger generation in this field. “Science is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world,” he said (US Department of Education, 2015).
In line with this goal, the Obama Administration has been committed to providing students at every level with the skills they need to excel in the STEM field. In fact, November 2009 saw the launching of “Educate to Innovate”, an initiative geared towards moving American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and mathematics achievements in the next decade (The White House, 2013). This campaign incorporates the combined efforts of the Federal Government and leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science & engineering societies which have come forward to answer the President’s call for an all-hands-on-deck initiative to realise this goal.
Apart from that, President Obama has also pledged to call for a budget approval of UD$4 billion to help the United States pay for computer science education in schools when he presents his 2017 budget to Congress (The Atlantic, 2016). This money will be spent over a period of three years, and will be primarily used to train teachers, connect schools with corporate and non-profit partners and expand instructional material.
President Obama’s effort has created a ripple effect as closer to home, our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has also expressed the need to invest in STEM education for the country’s future. He shared at the Global STEM Alliance at the United Nations headquarters that Malaysia aims for 60 percent of our country’s children and youths to take up STEM education and careers for a better future for Malaysia (The Star Online, 2014). “In 2000, the ratio between STEM and non-STEM was 25:75. This has improved to 42:58, and we are optimistic about achieving a 60:40 ratio as the country moves towards becoming a developed nation come 2020,” he said.
To reflect this, Malaysia’s education blueprint prioritises STEM education. It is an indisputable fact to say that digital knowledge is the new currency of the 21st century and STEM education is a major player in that new economy.