While academicians recognise that STEM learning is crucial, as the world moves towards a knowledge-based economy, the last letter ‘M’ of ‘STEM’ which stands for ‘Mathematics’ is often regarded as the most vital component within ‘Science’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Engineering’ . When embarking into any discipline of STEM, students need a strong foundation in mathematics to succeed in any STEM field.

In grooming STEM talents for the future, INTI International College Penang has some of the world’s best maths lecturers and subject matter experts, among them are (from left) Saw Kian Hwa, Mok Kam Fatt; (from right) Teoh Chun Yew and Yap Gim Ley, posing with Dinash Kandasamy (centre), the Head of Centre of Excellence for Pre University Studies.

Teaching mathematics well is an important component in providing a comprehensive STEM education, especially in grooming up students for much sought after roles in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). With roles including data analysts and data scientists, software and applications developers, e-commerce and social media specialists, cryptographers, actuaries, statisticians, fraud investigators and other jobs of the future requiring hyper-adoption of new knowledge within a short period, mathematics remains the foundation for students in preparing for these opportunities.

As an established centre of excellence for STEM education, INTI International College Penang is home to some of the world’s best lecturers and respected subject matter experts, who groom future talents for the most innovative companies and brands around and beyond Penang island. This aligns with Penang aspiring towards being a STEM centre in the region, with the establishment of high-tech manufacturing areas, industrial parks and science parks.

Many of INTI’s mathematics lecturers are based in the Centre of Excellence for Pre University Studies (CEPS), lecturing Mathematics subjects for students from the Cambridge A-Level programme, and guiding them to achieve outstanding results right from the start of their tertiary education.

Among them are Mok Kam Fatt, a Pre-U Mathematics & Further Mathematics teacher by training, who has been teaching for more than 40 years and is currently serving as the chairman of INTI Penang’s Subject Expert Group in Maths; Saw Kian Hwa, a professionally trained teacher in Mathematics with more than 30 years’ teaching experience; Yap Gim Ley, who started teaching the first batch of A-Level students at INTI Penang when it was launched in 2009; Teo Chun Yew, who teaches maths subjects across INTI programmes from Foundation to Degree level; and Ng Ci Xiang, who joined INTI in 2010 and is a firm believer of conducting face to face tutorials for better learning outcomes.

Mok Kam Fatt (seated at the centre), Senior Maths Lecturer of Cambridge A-Level Programme at INTI International College Penang, is greatly loved by his students for his good teaching skill and helpful personality.

Talking about his teaching methodology, Mok explained, besides lectures, tutorials, assignments and practising past exam questions, he uses INTI’s online learning management system – Blackboard – as an e-support for his teaching routines.

“All my lecture notes and tutorial questions are uploaded to the system. Online quizzes are uploaded for students to gain a better understanding of the topic being taught,” he shared.

“As they get closer to the exams, students will make personal arrangements for private tutorials, and this actually takes up all the non-teaching hours of the lecturers. Due to the time constraints, and as I want to ensure all students are given sufficient attention, I share my personal contact with my students. This way they can text me their problems whenever they encounter difficulties in solving maths questions, or snap their solutions and send to me for checking,” continued Mok.

Saw believes it is important for students to understand the concepts rather than just applying the mathematical formulae.

“Students should be encouraged to practice and work out the full solutions systematically. These solutions can then be used as references and will make revision for exams easier,” he opined.

While INTI allocates four hours of weekly consultations for students to clarify any of their subjects, Teo, who is well known for his patience, explained, “We also have a mentor-mentee system for the lecturers to adopt a few weak students during the semester, in order to help them overcome their academic challenges. We also provide Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) for mathematics. This is similar to a tutorial session, which is conducted by senior student who is proficient in maths to assist juniors.”

Student results over the past two years have proven the dedication of these passionate and knowledgeable maths lecturers. The faculty has saw 47% of A-Level students scoring A and A*(A star) in maths during the May/ June 2018 examinations; with 53% of students scoring A* and As for the Oct/ Nov 2018 examinations. Apart from that, an A-Level’s student, Tan Yin Xiang, earned a High Distinction and was ranked among the top 1% of entrants from Malaysia for the Australian ICAS Maths Test in 2018.

Over the years, INTI’s A Level students have also been awarded ‘Top in the World’ and ‘Top in Malaysia’ as part of the Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards. These outstanding students have gone on to further their studies at top universities around the world, including Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the United Kingdom; Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States; the University of Melbourne in Australia and the National University of Singapore. Many of them have also been offered full or partial scholarships from these universities.