Selangor Journal
Candidates of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination from SMK Bandar Baru Uda sitting for the Bahasa Melayu Kertas 1 paper, in Johor Bahru, Johor, on February 20, 2023. — Picture by BERNAMA

Students lose interest in science, maths due to weak foundation — Academicians

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — The weakness in mastering the basic concepts of science and mathematics among primary school students is believed to be one of the main factors behind the decline in the number of students opting for the science stream in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), said academicians.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Centre of Education and Diversity senior lecturer Anuar Ahmad said the weakness caused many students to find science and mathematics difficult and eroded their interest to study these subjects in secondary school.

He said the teaching method was uninteresting and focused more on the goal of getting high marks, and correct and accurate answers, resulting in primary school students being afraid of making mistakes, while the key objective of science and mathematics is to instil experimenting until they get the answer.

“As such, our primary school children, aged seven to 12, are stressed by the demand and found learning science and mathematics hard and stressful.

“(If you continue to get answers) This is not science. It is a form of rote learning. But science is a process of trial and error, observation and testing,” Anuar told Bernama.

Using Thomas Edison as an example, he said the American inventor had failed many times but tried repeatedly until he finally succeeded in inventing a light bulb that is still in use today.

The stigma that science and mathematics are difficult makes students in Form One to Form Three less interested in the subjects, but they still have to take them because they are compulsory subjects

However, when Form Four and Form Five students have the opportunity, they choose other subjects besides science when the subject is no longer compulsory in SPM.

Meanwhile, he said the syllabus used by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to teach science and mathematics in schools is also too heavy, which contributes to the subjects being not popular in primary schools.

“Primary school students should not have such a heavy syllabus but should emphasise on students conducting exploratory activities, scientific investigations and observations outside the classroom to see how flowers grow, how photosynthesis works and how water is formed from the combination of two gases,” Anuar said.

Due to the volume of the syllabus, teachers teaching the science and mathematics subjects are in a rush to complete the entire curriculum within the academic year to meet the key performance index (KPI).

“Sometimes there are students who do not quite understand what the teacher has taught, but the teacher does not have time to explain or make sure they have really understood. The teacher then has to move on to the next subject because he has to catch up with the syllabus.

“In the end, many students are left behind when it comes to understanding the meaning and purpose of a scientific phenomenon they are studying,” he said.

National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) president Aminuddin Awang said due to the stigma that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are difficult to study, many students choose the arts stream.

He agreed with Anuar the science and mathematics syllabus plays a big role in determining the direction of STEM learning, as he has received many complaints from teachers who have to speed up the learning process due to lack of time.

“I think the MOE is keeping an eye on the STEM learning syllabus. I am sure the matter will be improved,” Aminuddin said.

On August 4, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim urged the MOE and the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (Mosti) to find new approaches to attract students’ interest in Science and Mathematics.

The study conducted by the National STEM Association (NSA) found that only 19 per cent of students have chosen science subjects since 2020.

— Bernama

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