Encouraging Our Youth To Be Innovative And Creative In Science

Thank you for taking time to attend the first Protem Penang Science Council meeting. The Penang state government has decided to take a step forward in setting up the Penang Science Council due to the shortages faced by the industry in terms of experienced and qualified electrical engineers. From the state government’s perspective, the state has been successful in attracting many R&D and high-tech industries into Penang and there is an urgent need to recalibrate our education agenda. Therefore, we are not only addressing the short term issues at hand but also the long-term issues which will eventually shape the industry in Penang.

When I announced this initiative in December last year, many academicians and industry captains expressed interest to play a part in this council. The main objective of the Penang Science Council is to encourage more young children and young adults to be innovative and creative in the area of Science. We intend to start with young minds, to inculcate a healthy interest in science subjects by organizing quiz and science related competition so that they will start to learn sciences via innovative methods.

Here, the Science Council wants to promote awareness of the contribution of professional scientists to science and society. Also, the council wishes to help advance science education and increased understanding of the benefits of science. We believe that the council will support innovative and entrepreneurial students as they progress and enter into careers in the province’s advanced technology industries. From primary through secondary school to post-secondary education, support must be given to students in the main phases and transition points of their education.

The Penang Science Council will also deal with shortage of engineers and those in science disciplines, vital for our future growth and transformation into a creative, innovative an knowledge-intensive and high-income economy.

At this juncture, these are the strategies of the Penang Council:

(a). Foster cooperation amongst member bodies in driving more in the young children and young adult in the field of science and technology

(b). Influencing science and technology subject matters in the following manner –
1. Raising awareness amongst key stakeholders of the inter-disciplinary nature of science.
2. Enabling and championing the inputs of individual member organizations.
3. Being the contact point for the government and others to reach out to the wider science community
4. Providing a forum for the dynamic exchanges between the communities in the science council.

(c). The council will also assist to advance science professionally by –
1. Increasing the engagement role of the scientists with society and raising public awareness of their roles and contributions to the society.
2. Assisting professional bodies and industry players to advance the scientific knowledge
3. Allowing the best practices within the academics and industry players to be shared in advancing scientific knowledge

(d). Promote, enhancement in the level and quality of science education, knowledge and skills in Penang –
1. Promoting innovative learning activities other than the conventional learning methods of science to young children and young adults
2. Communicating the benefits of having careers in the sciences through career talks done by key industry players and academicians
3. Encourage and stimulate knowledge transfer by developing of collective approaches to the needs of society and the economy.

(e). Establish and develop international links with scientific communities throughout the world to reach out, network and build contacts that can promote understanding and exchange to foster participations and engagement as a tool for the advancement of people’s welfare.

In the longer term, we hope that the council will play a critical role in addressing the shortages of talented engineers and those in science disciplines, vital for our future growth and transformation into a creative, innovative an knowledge-intensive and high-income economy. The Penang Science Council will meet regularly and we are hopeful that some of these meetings will drive more activities and proposals to do programs that reach out to the right target audience.

For instance, industry driven programs such as Agilent after School program, NI’s Robotics Championship, are some of the successful industry programs that have touched many young children and young adults in Penang. We believe that more can be done from the state government’s level through collaboration with the academics and industry. Such collaboration will touch and inspire many young children to cultivate more interest in the field of science and technology.

We also want to provide retraining and upgrading centers for mature professionals and university students. Through the involvement of the existing industry, science learnt in schools is not a mere academic exercise but can be applicable, practical and commercially rewarding.

I hope this protem Penang Science Council will be formalized soon and immediately start to formulate short term and long term goals for this science council. We hope council members will take the opportunity to drive more focus to achieve the vision of having a state with a society that is highly educated and trained as well as appreciate the knowledge of science and technology.

It is the state government’s hope that Penang will lead other states in setting a model for them to follow in this initiative. We believe innovation is an important element in the learning of sciences and technologies. Many MNCs in Penang need to diversify and compete with their fellow colleagues from Korea and Taiwan. Hence, we hope the science council will create an innovation zone in this state where science and technology will prosper.

Science and Technology are important subjects for young children and young adults to excel in if Malaysia wants to achieve a developed nation status by 2020. Science and technology are fundamental forces behind economic development in industrialized countries. In Malaysia, there are reports on performance in science learning; especially those that highlighted students’ lack of interest as well as declining ability to do sciences parked much concern about the ability to achieve the targeted goals.

According to a report from the EPU in 2006, the enrolment in the sciences as compared to the art stream at higher secondary level is less than the expected 60:40 percent ratio. In Penang for instance, Chung Ling High School far surpasses this policy with almost 90% of its 3000 over students taking up science subjects in schools. As for SMJK Heng Ee, the school has well over 3000 students and has 45% in the science stream. Convent Pulau Tikus has well over 600 students and it has 10% students studying the sciences subject. I believe the realization of the importance of science subjects for future manpower provision has encouraged schools to have more science students as well as sufficient teaching staff to teach students. In 2006, the number of secondary teachers in Penang was 7398 but the number has declined to 7250 in 2008. This trend may have impacted good teaching staff needed to drive the teaching of science subjects.

Here, The Penang state government recognizes the challenges in terms of strong human capital and we need to path the way forward to look for newer solutions that will generate better results. Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” With the participation of industry captains and academicians in this council, the Penang state government is confident that they will come into the council with their proven and tested methods to drive the science and technology studies amongst the young children and young adults.

A mark of good leadership is not merely the ability to show a better performance than others but that room and opportunity is offered for others to perform better than the leaders. Similarly to fulfill the promise of youth, we do not just build the future for our youth, but we must build our youth for the future. This is the promise Penang will try to accomplish to build not only a more desirable Penang but equip our youth with the capacity and ability to face the future.

Once again, I wish to thank all participants who are here today for their presence in this first protem Penang Science Council meeting. I hope that all members will use this opportunity to share their inputs for the betterment learning of science and technology in the state.

Opening Remarks by YAB Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang at the Protem Penang Science Council Meeting on 25 January 2010 at 11 am, Komtar

One Reply to “Encouraging Our Youth To Be Innovative And Creative In Science”

  1. Dear YAB Lim,

    I am concerned with some of the statements in your speech for the following reasons.

    1. This scheme does not appear to differentiate between Science and Engineering. In universities, Engineering faculties and Science faculties are different because these are very different disciplines with different aims and work culture; They feed off each other, but are different by necessity. If Penang is to have a ‘Penang Science Council’ that is has significant focus on and is predominantly supported by people from the engineering industry, then where does that leave science in Penang? This encourages a grave misunderstanding of science and is *not* helpful for our youths.

    2. Comparison of percentages of students taking up science in the 3 schools cited is unhelpful. 1stly, anyone who knows Chung Ling will know that students in that school really have *no option* but to choose science or leave that school if they want to genuinely pursue “Arts” (inverted commas for a reason). 2nd and IMPORTANTLY, it is a step BACKWARDS for the State to any way imply that students *should* choose science. DAP tries to portray itself as forward thinking. Hence, it must realise that Arts has value too and it is NOT RIGHT for Malaysian students to blindly choose science subjects. A developed society where its people are best utilised is one that is able to match it’s people’s skills to their aptitude. Students who are suited for arts subjects should not feel pressured to study science.

    3. The best scientists (I don’t mean engineers) are ones who have a variety of interests. You’ll find that many scientists are intelligent and able to comment on a variety of topics even outside of science. Using different parts of their brain and being able to see and analyse observations from different angles make the best scientists and (engineering) innovators. This means that if the State wants to encourage science and innovation, it must provide a *diversity* of stimulation (including arts, cultural, social & humanities) and *not* just narrowly in the direct field of science or engineering-related activities organised by industry players.

    Even though Penang currently houses many engineering companies, we are not generally viewed as the place where innovation and cutting-edge design occurs. We are merely the place between cheap Chinese labour and American/Japanese/European innovation. The companies only need us to be good enough to maintain, work with and perhaps improve technology developed in their own country. As China catches up and Malaysia’s education fails us, we will lose our niche. We must aim higher! We can be the ones who innovate! But to do that, we must move beyond our primitive understanding of science & research. Even some of the people who are currently within the engineering industry in Penang were trained and molded to fulfill a primitive purpose.

    I laud your government’s initiative to do something about the lull in Penang, but caution that doing things the old-fashioned way doesn’t cut it anymore. Your speech doesn’t convey that Penang is going to be dynamic, interesting, with things happening at every corner every day! THAT is what we need to make us innovative. I hope the Penang Science Council is of the calibre necessary to spark Penang.

    Unless it is a Penang Engineering Council…

    With warm regards,
    Soo Huey
    A molecular biologist who was one of <10% of science students in CPT… and my science was better than my college mates from Chung Ling, so percentages you quote don't matter!

Leave a Reply