The HEAD Foundation offered a grant to Arus Maker Academy, an after-school program that promotes interdisciplinary learning, to expand its curriculum and to extend its reach in 2017.
At Arus, students learn and apply their STEM knowledge in Maker fashion to create technology solutions to solve real-life problems. By making knowledge relevant, the Arus curriculum “brings meaning back to knowledge” among students who might have otherwise lost interest in learning.
By asking students to apply what they learn, the program lets the students become applicators and controllers of knowledge, instead of its passive recipients.
Arus focuses on endowing 13- to 16-year-old students from low-performing schools and underprivileged backgrounds with 21st century skills such as design thinking, software coding, innovative problem solving and public speaking. They learn from their highly committed Arus teachers and enthusiastic peers, and through hands-on prototype development. They also learn to communicate and exchange ideas in an open and inclusive learning environment.
By asking students to apply what they learn, the program lets the students become applicators and controllers of knowledge, instead of its passive recipients. Increased student confidence is one of the program’s main results.
Earlier this year, the Foundation visited Arus in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. The students’ excited cries and hurried footsteps as they ran into the humble shop house and classrooms spoke for their enthusiasm to learn. Unlike the initial energy rush that soon dies out in many classrooms, the constant energy of students in the Arus program remained throughout the two-hour class time. They laughed, rushed to raise their hands and confidently competed with one another during class activities.
The Arus model encompasses competition but also collaboration. Students give one another feedback and are asked to reflect on how they challenge one another. This is done particularly during their TED-Ed Club, where they learn to deliver TED-like speeches. A great speech, they are taught, “is like a miracle.”
The Arus team boasts a cumulative profile that supports our confidence. Consisting of youth leaders recognised by the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers programme, former Teach for Malaysia fellows and those who once taught in Malaysia’s public schools, Arus has great potential to keep students inspired to learn the STEM subjects.