As Malaysia prepares for the fourth industrial revolution, it seeks to "move away from industries depending on cheap labour and into high technology investments in aerospace, railways and shipbuilding", revealed Tan Sri Zakri Abd Hamid, scientific advisor to the Malaysian Prime Minister.
According to The Malay Mail Online, while speaking during the Honeywell Initiative for Science and Engineering panel session, Zakri added, "industries relying on cheap labour will be phased out and this was a key factor in emphasising STEM and encouraging involvement in it."
During the panel at the Ritz-Carlton, the government representative also addressed the misconception that STEM investments had to be "big dollar projects", saying: "Malaysia had made strides in STEM industries, especially in the electronics manufacturing and oil and gas industries. If you look at Malaysia’s STEM investments, we have been quite good. It is a misconception that STEM has to be a heavy investment."
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Zakri also pointed out that as the country moves towards sustainable technology and energy, the government recognises the need to respond to new challenges, including climate change.
Revealing that Malaysia has invested heavily in developing STEM subjects at the educational level with the end goal of achieving a 60 to 40 ratio of science students versus arts students, he added: "We have done our best to emphasise the importance of the sciences, both in our industrial and economic activity but also in the development of our human resources."
However, Zakri noted, "There is only so much government initiatives can do...parents and educators need to follow through in helping generate interest for STEM and so bring up the next generation of scientists and tech developers."
Also on the panel was Honeywell's Asia Pacific VP of HR, Sarinah Bakar who was of the opinion that non-governmental actors, especially industry players and the private sector, needed to better engage students and could play a bigger role in the development of local talents.
Bakar explained: "If you look at what the country or government can do to prepare students is secondary. It is more important to provide opportunities especially in research. We cannot depend on schools and universities to prepare students.
"There has to be greater industry involvement in the development of STEM. They have to reach out to talented graduates, provide them with the necessary resources, use their core knowledge gained through the academic system and give them real world opportunities in developing their skills."
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