Malaysian Higher Education Minister late January 2012, in his statement at the ministry’s 2012 New Year’s message ceremony at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre, quoted as saying the interest in science education in schools have dropped to a critical level.
The minister said the Science and Technology Human Capital Direction Plan 2020’s requirement of 60 per cent from the science stream and 40 per cent from the arts stream had yet to be achieved.
This, he further elaborate, may stunt efforts to improve technological innovations to make Malaysia a high income country as the number of science stream students has dropped to 29%.
Why is this happening? Well the answer is easy – failure to communicate.
The importance of science, technology and innovation is not compellingly transmitted through all level of the citizen.
There are failures in some party in translating the framework idea outlined in the 2020 Science and Technology Human Capital Direction Plan to simple idea to be easily digested by the masses due to their lack of engagement, coordination and in relaying the information.
Although the number mention by the minister are alarming but there is time and room for damage control.
A simple and comprehensive approach still can be formulated and implemented. All that is to be done is by adapting the art of science communication.
Literacy is known as the ability to make signature, read and write workable letters. Scientific literacy can be referred to minimal quantum of scientific knowledge and skills about our surroundings and ordinary day-to-day living.
Generally, science and technology are born in laboratories, research/development centres, universities and technological institutions.
First hand information about such discoveries/developments comes in the form of research papers, theses and patent specifications prepared by experts preferably in a highly technical composition of texts, graphics, illustrations, photographs and tables.
This kind of writing, publication and communication is termed as technical or research communication. These developments lose their significance, unless the information about these reaches to the end user, the common man.
This involves the process of understanding, digesting and assimilating the complex scientific information and then presents it in a simple, lucid and interesting manner to the masses in the language, comprehensible to them.
Those processes are considered science communication efforts. Though, science communication, it unlock the real treasure of scientific knowledge.
It is now well understood that information is power. Those who have the right information at the right time are powerful.
Science communication involved the ability to interwoven the element of language, topic, medium, target audient and form of presentation in the process of transmitting the intended massage.
For most effective science communication, it is essential to divide and subdivide the subject, go deeper into it and pose questions about all possible queries and answer them.
This is the best way to simplify difficult science concepts and natural phenomenon.
It is also essential in science communication to bring in the dimensions of dynamism and awareness that such analytical features.
Injecting some entertainment, humour, and interesting anecdotes into science communication can make science be made to penetrate masses and scientific thinking stimulated.
Apart from humour, the topics best liked are useful and contemporary ones.
Since the objective of popular science communication is to penetrate into local populace, only regional/local language or dialect can work effectively.
Therefore, it is necessary that the communicator should have desirable command over the language through which he chooses to communicate.
Besides that, it is essential to decide on the topic for communication by keeping the needs of audience in mind. It helps to take up a narrow topic as specific as possible and should be dealt with from different aspects.
The manner of presentation also depend upon the identified target audience either common man, children, students, farmers, women, workers or specialists and only then efficacy of a science communication effort can be ensured.
Medium of communication that is more appropriate and effective must also be taken in consideration such as newspapers, magazines, wallpapers, books, posters, folders, and booklets for print media; radio, television and films for audio and visual media; puppet shows, street plays, sketch, stage performances, folk songs and folk dances and other traditional means of communication belong to folk media.
Interactive media which include science exhibitions, science fairs, seminars, workshops, lectures, scientific tours and conferences also should not be left out.
One of the popular now days is the digital media. It includes Internet, CD-ROM, multimedia, and simulations.
This is an effective medium and it can illustrate difficult concepts through text, audio, graphics, video, animation and simulation. It has also made science communication simpler to the society.