'Stemaritans' help breathe life into maths and science

Coder Turner Lam (far left) and user experience designer Louis Phua are among the industry experts SIM International Academy has hired as part of the school's Stem programme.
Coder Turner Lam (far left) and user experience designer Louis Phua are among the industry experts SIM International Academy has hired as part of the school's Stem programme.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Experts hired for Stem programme at SIM academy, which is drawing foreign students

At the newly set up SIM International Academy in Clementi Road, visitors may be surprised to see user experience designer Louis Puah, 27, and coder Turner Lam, 38, working hand in hand with students on their projects.

The two "Stemaritans", as Mr Puah and Mr Lam are called, are among a team of industry experts hired by the international school to bring science and mathematics education to life for its students, aged 13 to 16.

Mr Puah guides students through solving problems using a design thinking approach, while Mr Lam helps students write coding solutions. Other experts brought in by the school include entrepreneurs and engineers.

Deputy principal John Yeo explained that the school uses experts from different science and technology fields in its Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programme as it wants to go beyond teaching the sciences as academic subjects.

As Mr Yeo explained, the programme is aimed at nurturing critical thinking, science literacy and enabling students to apply technology in meaningful ways.

He added: "We want our students to develop an appreciation for the sciences and see how they are interrelated. We also want them to find deeper connections between the real world and what they learn in the classroom."

The school's Stem programme has been drawing students from neighbouring countries, as well as from China and South Korea.

CATERED TO STUDENT'S INTEREST

My daughter, Myat Thuzar Kyaw, is good in science and mathematics and is keen on software development. I want a school that will cater to her interest.

 DR WIN NAING KYAW, who is from Myanmar and has two daughters studying at SIM.

The school, which opened in September on SIM's campus in Clementi Road, has received more than 100 applications and 60 students have joined at Secondary 1, 2 and 3 levels. Most of the students are from China, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Next year, the school expects to draw another 90 to 100 students, including some at the JC1 level. It has been given approval to offer the Cambridge International A levels, on top of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, the equivalent of the O levels.

School principal Balamurugan Krishnasamy said foreign students are drawn to the Singapore brand name and the quality of teachers.

"Parents think highly of the Singapore education system and like the fact that the bulk of our teachers had taught in mainstream Singapore schools previously," he said, adding that SIM's reputation and popularity in the region as a private education provider is a plus point.

SIM, which runs degree programmes with overseas university partners such as University of Sydney, has an enrolment of 20,000 students, including 3,500 foreigners, mostly from the region.

After completing their O levels, SIM International Academy students can go on to take up the foundation, diploma and degree programmes offered by SIM Global Education. Those taking the A levels will also be prepared for direct entry into universities in countries including the United States, Australia and Singapore.

Dr Win Naing Kyaw from Myanmar has two daughters studying at SIM. One is on a diploma programme and the other is in Grade 8 at SIM International Academy.

"My daughter, Myat Thuzar Kyaw, is good in science and mathematics and is keen on software development. I want a school that will cater to her interests," he said, adding that older daughter Yadanar Kyaw is studying for a diploma in banking and finance.

Australian Susie Crosswell is considering SIM International Academy after her 15-year-old did not get a place in a mainstream secondary school.

Said the mother of two girls: "The expensive international schools, which charge about $35,000 yearly, are out of reach, so SIM International at $25,000 seems reasonable. My husband and I see our future in Asia, so it is good for our children to go to a school where there's a good mix of Asian students."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline ''Stemaritans' help breathe life into maths and science'. Print Edition | Subscribe