Just how important is STEM?


It is curious how much emphasis is put into STEM. Not just in Malaysia, but globally. Does this mean the Arts should take a back seat?

I love the convenience that technology offers but at the same time worry about society’s over reliance on it.

Some believe that technocrats have long hijacked the American education system for their own agenda. What once was a system of actual education of students, has now become a system to produce nothing more than conditioned Technocrat workers. (A technocrat is a scientist, engineer, or other expert who is one of a group of similar people who have political power as well as technical knowledge.)

The current educational system no longer emphasises liberal arts, which addressed outdated moralistic solutions to human problems. It is slowly replacing the humanities with the machine shop. In the process, members of society would be conditioned to think in terms of engineering rationality and efficiency.

STEM, a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics is being ‘encouraged’ worldwide. The arts (including music and languages) is being forced out of the public education system, with governments citing lack of funding as an excuse.

It seems more like a deliberate effort to curtail creativity and freethinking and encourage a more structured and conditioned society suited for technology based industries.

STEM might be necessary for technological progress, but without the arts. It is impossible for students to reach their full potential. Because art subjects give students the freedom to harness the capabilities of STEM subjects. Thus a STEAM movement has started in a bid to emphasise the arts by adding an ‘A’ to STEM to create the STEAM curriculum.

The “A” in STEAM is a term that represents liberal arts, language arts, social studies, physical arts, fine arts, and music. STEAM education is about applying creative thinking to STEM projects, igniting students’ imagination and creativity through the arts. It will work towards sparking students’ imagination and consequently help them concentrate more on innovation through hands-on STEM projects.

In Malaysia, it appears the trend to embrace STEM is still very low, with most students inclined towards the arts. The government is stepping up efforts to encourage STEM because there is a declining trend in students opting for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects in schools and higher education institutions (IPT).

Interestingly, every year when the budget is announced in Malaysia, the allocation for the Arts sector is a big disappointment. Recently, when the government announced the RM250 billion stimulus package to help the rakyat cope with the effects of Covid-19 and the MCO, little if any was directed at the arts and cultural sector. The Penang goverment, recognising the importance of arts has allocated RM200,000 for Show Penang, a project to digitalise arts, culture and heritage content, a first in the country in a bid to boost tourism. Not much, but still a start.

Meanwhile in UK, the Arts Council England, announced a £160 million (RM 854 million) emergency response package to ensure that organisations in the Arts and Culture Sector are able to continue functioning or to help them get back on their feet again. In Singapore, the government announced an additional SGD $55 million (RM 167.5 million) for the Arts and Culture Sector. The Penang government announced recently a


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