Computational thinking comes to the fore in Malaysian schools
By Karamjit Singh August 12, 2016
- Catalyst to transform nation from being digital users to creators
- Real focus not on IT skills but thinking skills to apply to problems
MALAYSIA has launched the #mydigitalmaker movement, a public- private- academia partnership initiative to move away from being digital users and towards a nation of digital ‘makers.’
At a launch event in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 11, Ministry of Education Director-General Khair Mohamad Yusof also announced that computer science and computational thinking will be embedded into the national education curriculum starting January 2017.
Without a doubt, the headlines will be about this, but they will be missing the real point about the value of Malaysia embedding those skills sets into the national education curriculum.
“The focus here is on embedding thinking skills, not IT skills, into our students for them to then apply to problem-solving,” said Yasmin Mahmood (pic above), chief executive officer of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the country’s national ICT custodian.
The hope is that these higher level problem-solving skills would then lead to the real transformation of Malaysians from active and creative users of digital technologies, to becoming actual producers of digital products and services.
Computational thinking is the ability to dissect problems and formulate solutions by drawing from concepts in computer science. Khair said this is not just about having computer science as a subject or programme.
“We are developing students to have computational thinking skills,” linking the move to also helping Malaysia achieve its goal of being in the top 30% of the 2025 PISA assessment.
The PISA assessment ranks the performance of students aged 15 in math and computing knowledge.
“We will achieve that,” said Khair.
MDEC and the Ministry of Education are keenly aware that the responsibility to educate, excite and enrich students cannot just start and end in school, which is why the private sector and academia have been roped in through the #mydigitalmaker movement.
Specifically, the private sector and academia will continue to nurture and groom students outside of the classroom through the introduction of Digital Maker Clubs in schools and Digital Maker Hubs in communities, according to MDEC.
There are six such Maker Hubs at present, expected to rise to 14 by the end of the year.
Yasmin said that the curriculum is one aspect of the plan to imbue thinking and digital skills into students.
“Everybody is exposed at this level but then you will always have those with higher interest and this is where the Maker Clubs in schools come in to further develop their interest,” she said.
This is also where academia comes in, as these clubs will be manned by university students, especially those in computer science majors.
The Maker Hubs in the communities then further feed the interest of students who want to spend yet more time to pursue their interest in computing or digital technologies.
From here, students can then take part in robotics competitions, for example, after which they may even enter accelerators to take their interest to a higher level.
“After that, you will have industry partners ready to take these students on as interns,” Yasmin said.
To be rolled out in phases, from next year students in Standard 1, Form 1 and Form 3 will enjoy the new computational thinking curriculum. 2018 will see a further deepening with full rollout by 2020 where every year from Standard 1 to Form 3 will be covered.
This integration will benefit an estimated 1.2 million students from 10,173 schools nationwide.
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