Strong focus to create future talent pool of independent thinkers
Govt supports AIM with additional US$11.5mil in 2013
“WHEN the ecosystem is in place, you will see more successes,” argues Mark Rozario (pic), chief executive officer of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM), explaining that his agency is currently focused on 18 initiatives that together, it believes, would help boost the innovation ecosystem in Malaysia.
Each of these initiatives is moving at its own pace but the key is that they are all moving forward, he declares. Many of the initiatives are designed to become self-sustaining, and AIM expects them to take a life of their own and thrive long past 2020 when AIM itself will be dissolved.
A number of them fall under the ‘Cultivating a Thinking Culture’ umbrella, and these mainly involve the public school system which touches millions of school-children every year – and thus have an outsized impact on AIM’s innovation agenda.
“Focusing on education is important even though the payback is long term,” notes Rozario. He cites the recognition of inculcating higher order thinking skills into the education curriculum by the Ministry of Education as an example of how AIM has helped moved the needle in making Malaysia move towards becoming a more innovative nation.
AIM has five initiatives that focus on creating ‘Higher Order Thinking Skills.’ Two of them involve the public school system. Both coincidentally started with a pilot of 10 schools across the nation, and both are now rolling out nationwide.
The first is called iThink and is a system licensed from the United Kingdom, where eight types of thinking maps are used as visual tools by teachers for their existing subjects.
The pilot in 10 schools produced significant results, says Rozario, and last year the programme was extended to 1,000 schools where 50,000 teachers are being trained in the system. An online platform has been developed where each teacher has to spend 20 hours going through the course to help them use the thinking maps in their classrooms.
From July, the remaining 9,000 schools in the country will adopt the system that encourages students to be independent thinkers and learners. “This lays the seeds of critical thinking,” says Rozario.
In an effort to embed iThink further into the methodology adopted by teachers, the programme will also be introduced at teachers’ training colleges throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the International Baccalaureate (IB) is another teaching methodology that encourages critical and independent thinking.
Starting with a 10-school pilot, it will eventually get to the stage where the Ministry of Education will start thinking of introducing a ‘Malaysianised’ version to bring into all schools to help cultivate a thinking culture, according to Rozario.
But for now, each of the 10 schools has to undergo a certification course to ensure it is IB-certified. The target for this is end-2015.
To Rozario, both are key initiatives to spur critical thinking, long term though they may be. With innovation itself all about creating an academic environment that encourages the sharing of ideas and challenging accepted norms, Rozario is well aware that this is not going to happen overnight in our education system.
“You still have teachers today who write things on the board and tell students these are facts to be accepted,” he laments.
Yet, he sees very positive signs of “the needle moving” and feels AIM is on the right track with its 18 initiatives.
The Malaysian Government feels the same – last year, it allocated AIM a further funding injection of US$11.5 million (RM37 million) for its various initiatives, taking its combined budget to US$33.2 million (RM107 million).
Previous Instalment: AIM to be dissolved in 2020, programmes to live on
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