We need to encourage students to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) fields, not just for the sake of increasing the number of Stem graduates but also to improve the scientific literacy of the general public ("Teach technology's role in shaping society" by Mr Ronald Chan Wai Hong; Tuesday).
Receiving rigorous Stem training in early life is beneficial, even if one decides not to pursue a Stem degree.
Having competent scientific literacy and critical thinking skills helps one sieve out fact from fiction in the deluge of information in the media and on the Internet.
The habit of questioning and critiquing everything one reads comes from the practice of scientific inquiry.
There are many factors that may encourage a child to take an interest in science.
Parents need to dispel their own notions that Stem fields are not as glamorous as finance, law or medicine.
Children are born scientists and are naturally curious.
More often than not, parents unwittingly stifle their children's curiosity by failing to answer their relentless questions about nature or, in the other extreme, send them for too many tuition classes.
My interest in science came about because my parents recognised my insatiable curiosity about the world and bought me a set of encyclopaedias to keep me occupied.
Instead of sending me to a multitude of science enrichment classes, my parents gave me the freedom to explore various "cool" science topics on my own.
Teachers, too, have to encourage students to learn science for its intrinsic value, rather than for examinations.
My teachers encouraged me to read beyond the curriculum and were open to questions which were beyond the lesson material.
Hands-on experiences, field trips and research projects help students understand how various scientific concepts apply in real-world situations, as well as help them better appreciate the great impact that Stem has on their lives and the world.
The various research projects I took up in school enabled me to apply scientific concepts in novel ways to solve problems.
These opportunities also gave me a glimpse of the exciting potential in Stem fields.
It is the confluence of many factors that play a part in encouraging more young people to embark on a Stem career and persevere in it.
This article was first published on June 11, 2015.
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