MDEC takes #mydigitalmaker to next level
By Goh Thean Eu June 13, 2017
- Will increase its focus on students in rural areas
- Hopes to have 30 new Digital Maker Hubs this year, and a couple hundred more in few years
MALAYSIA Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the country's national ICT custodian, has received encouraging responses for its #mydigitalmaker movement and is now looking at taking the movement to the next level.
#mydigitalmaker is part of MDEC's efforts to galvanise industry and academia to deepen their engagement with efforts to boost the adoption and awareness of ICT among students, in particularly primary and secondary school students.
The movement is also aimed at getting students in Malaysia to be interested in ICT and to be more innovative in digital technologies. It also goes well with the national agenda of building a stronger base of students taking STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.
Since its launch in August 2016, the #mydigitalmaker movement has managed to boost ICT awareness on 15,000 students. During the period, 12 Digital Maker Hubs were established.
According to MDEC vice president of talent development and digital entrepreneurship Sumitra Nair (pic left), most of the students took part in #mydigitalmaker activities are from urban and sub-urban areas. These activities - which are mainly organised by the Digital Maker Hubs operators - include coding classes, robotics classes, as well as ICT-related competition.
"Of course, we also have success stories of students from rural areas taking part in #mydigitalmaker activities. For example, three students from Sekolah Luar Bandar (about 30km from Miri) managed to create a palm fruit sorting device using colour recognition. These students don't have personal computers at home, so, driven by passion, they arrived school an hour or two earlier, and uses the teachers' computers and did their programming there," said Sumitra.
Expanding to rural areas
This year, the #mydigitalmaker will be expanded, and reaching out to the students in the rural areas.
"We are working with PINTAR Foundation. They have a few buses, and one of the buses, equipped with digital creation tools, will be used to travel to rural areas in most states in Peninsular Malaysia.
"We hope to get 50,000 participation this year," said Sumitra.
The digital tools-equipped bus will go to most schools in the rural areas, with the aim of exposing students to the new technologies and also to spark their interests in these areas.
"We are also looking to have another 30 Digital Maker Hubs established this year. The idea is to have a couple of hundred hubs in the next few years," she said.
With more of such hubs, the hope is that students in rural areas will be able to learn more about new technologies. In the long-run, it could also help bridge the nation's digital divide.
Sumitra stressed that these hubs have different business models -- some of the operators may run the centres for free, some may want to charge a fee, while some may find a balance in between (charging those who can afford, and provide free classes for those who can't).
Embedding ICT mindset into curriculum
Ministry of Education (MoE) 's curriculum development division deputy director Ng Soo Boon (pic above) said that major changes are being made to primary and secondary schools' curriculum this year.
Instead of just having a ICT-related subject/ class, the ministry have decided to embed ICT-related activities into all subjects. For example: In a science class, one of the activities may involve students having to produce multimedia content relating to pollution in city centre; in mathematics classes, students may need to learn how to use spreadsheets like Excel. In short, by having more ICT-related activities across all subjects, it allows students to be more exposed to various digital tools.
For Ng, the major change is crucial and plays an important part in the national agenda. Currently, about 40% of graduates and students are taking STEM-related courses/ subjects. The country aspire to have 60% over the medium-term.
"Our focus is also to ensure that the curriculum are being well-executed at the primary one levels, because this will form the base for the future.
"We will also be reviewing it from time to time, and improve it when necessary," said Ng.
Ng said that making curriculum and syllabus changes can only solve part of the equation, as another key pillar for success is depended on the teachers.
"From our observation, the teachers are buying in to the idea," said Ng.
MoE, which is also a key stakeholder in the #mydigitalmaker movement, will be working closely with MDEC and academia. As part of the efforts to ensure teachers remained well-trained, MDEC is working with several universities in Malaysia to provide the training to the teachers.
"Some teachers may need refreshment courses on coding or other related subjects, so they can go to the universities for retraining," said Sumitra.
Another challenge that most schools will have is having adequate computers and related ICT tools. For example, as part of the #mydigitalmaker movement initiative, the life skills (Kemahiran Hidup) labs may need to be "digitalised".
To address this challenge, while government funding is important, Sumitra believed that private sectors can play a role in providing schools with the necessary tools.