Petronas holds STEM seminar for school counsellors in Sarawak

Some of the PCP participants proudly showing their certificates of attendance.

Follow and subscribe to DayakDaily on Telegram for faster news updates.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, June 24: The recent World Economic Forum projected that 65 per cent of children currently in primary schools around the world will secure jobs that are not in existence today but are founded on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Roles like that of a rainforest habitat data logger, a nano-technology design engineer or an artificial intelligence analyst sounds like highly promising job prospects, but many Malaysians may not be able to secure those jobs in the near future.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik recently stated that only 44 per cent of Malaysian students were in the STEM stream last year.

What is stopping Malaysian students from pursuing STEM? Many factors influence that decision, and counselling teachers may hold the key to making choosing STEM-related subjects more desirable to young minds.

“Most students that I counsel today are not keen to explore STEM-related subjects and the reasons given range from the lack of interest to the fear that these subjects may be difficult to ace in examinations,” laments Alice Liaw, a counselling teacher from SMK Taman Tunku, Miri, recently.

“Nevertheless, as a counselling teacher, I have the responsibility of sharing the potential benefits of STEM with my students. This has become all the more important as our country embraces the digital economy.”

Alice Liaw

On the two-day Petronas Counsellors Programme (PCP) that is exclusively spearheaded by Petronas in collaboration with MoE and partners, Liaw described it as both timely and ideal for a counselling teacher like her to understand, learn and compare notes on how to get students excited about STEM.

Liaw was one of the 100 counselling teachers from selected secondary schools in Miri, Lawas, Limbang, Baram, Subis and Federal Territory of Labuan who took part in the PCP.

According to Head of Student Career Unit at the Ministry of Education, Ahmad Fauzi Mohammad, STEM education is crucial for nation-building as it creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy and enables the next generation of innovators.

“When students find STEM appealing and exciting from the earliest possible age, we have a better chance of preparing young minds to take on future roles and supporting Malaysia’s vision of becoming a developed economy.

“In view of this, MoE’s partnership with Petronas in the Petronas Counsellors Programme (PCP) is a win-win relationship between the public and private sector. We hope to see more collaboration of this nature so that we can meet the national education policy’s goal of reaching a 60 per cent of science stream student population at secondary and tertiary level by 2025,” said Ahmad.

Ahmad Fauzi Mohammad

Following the inaugural programme in Kuching a year ago, there was a three per cent increase in students’ interest towards science and technology, according to an analysis conducted among Form One and Form Three students in participating schools.

“These are small steps in the right direction. Our efforts are beginning to bear fruits as more and more students become attracted to STEM. Going forward, we foresee more students will be interested in STEM as the result of positive peer pressure and influence of counselling teachers, among others,” Ahmad added.

As part of their 48-hour learning journey, PCP participants were able to experience a series of knowledge-sharing sessions conducted by Petronas and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

Speakers from Industri Latihan Perindustrian (ILP), Akademi Laut Malaysia (ALAM), Polytechnic Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) and Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) were also on-hand to present academic and career pathways for STEM-related course choices. Petrosains, a Petronas science discovery centre, also showcased interactive science-related activities that counselling teachers can quickly replicate to promote STEM education in their respective schools.

Dato Raiha Azni Abd Rahman, senior vice-president (Group Human Resource Management) of Petronas said counselling teachers were often overlooked, but they were a highly important conduit to inspire, motivate and influence students in their choice of career and future undertakings.

“We believe in the importance of STEM in education, not just for producing talent for the oil and gas sector but also across industries. As such, the PCP was conceptualised to provide counselling teachers with the skill-set and mindset required to spur young Malaysians to embrace STEM in their education and future vocation,” she said.

The success of the PCP hinges on the enthusiasm and support of the school counsellors.

“PCP is a clever initiative that reaches out and engages school counsellors, encouraging them to be a reliable and dependable source of good advice. It is also just as important for school counsellors to continue to equip themselves with the right skills and knowledge to be effective in their role in counselling and guiding students in choosing their careers,” said Effa Rinny Octavia, deputy director of Guidance and Counselling Unit, State Education Department.

Petronas has been contributing significantly towards education and human capital development in Sarawak via its Education Sponsorship Programme (PESP), Program Budi MRSM-Petronas, Trust Schools projects in Lundu district, Vocational Institution Sponsorship & Training Assistance (VISTA) in six vocational institutions, the construction of MRSM in Bintulu and Asrama Harian Luar Bandar in Paloh. — DayakDaily