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Paper Presentation during The Third International Conference on Science and

Mathematics Education (CoSMEd) 2009 Penang, Malaysia on Thursday, 12th


November 2009.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRACTICAL APPROACHES TOWARDS ENHANCING MASS


STUDENTS’ ACHIEVEMENT IN SCIENCE

Nor Erawadi Haji Ibrahim


Science, Technology and Environment Partnership (STEP) Centre
Ministry of Education
Brunei Darussalam

Abstract

This paper examines the attempt of Science, Technology and Environment Partnership Centre (STEP
Centre), a unit under Ministry of Education to increase the uptake of science stream students in the
national upper secondary level to 40% from its current value by means of organised practical approaches.
Through conducting a variety of science activities, Program Peningkatan Pencapaian Sains (PPPS) or
“Enhancing Achievement in Science” programme was thus created. The emphasis is on full participation
of “hands-on” and “out-of-classroom” activities in order to achieve the objective. It is co-ordinated with the
collaboration of 6 selected government schools (3 primary schools and 3 secondary schools). With the
first phase of 3-year period almost complete, some 10 big-scale science activities were implemented.
The science teachers of those schools act as activity creators with an average of around 100 students
involved per activity. Based on a series of surveys and informal discussions, the activities arousing
science interest and achievement involve games that are fun to do yet inquiry-type, problem-solving tasks
and encourage teamwork discussions. Those which received many positive comments as reflected by
the students and teachers were Science Trail, Science Fair, Study Visits and Science Educational
Games. However, PPPS alone is insufficient to justify students’ bona fide improved performance thus
inclined them to pursue education in science stream as many other contributing factors would have come
into play. The finding is hoped to significantly provide an impetus for other interested parties in identifying
or creating programmes which serve similar purpose. Further research to assess the high success rate
and effectiveness of an activity associated towards enhancing student achievement must be undertaken
before one is deemed as the best “problem-solver” for such an eminent issue.

INTRODUCTION

Background
A student’s academic performance in any particular subject has always been based on
the end-of-year results especially in public examinations. The statistics derived from
this help determine the relative standard of education for that particular academic
institution the student is studying in. For Brunei Darussalam, the Ministry of Education
(MOE) in its Strategic Plan for 2007 – 2011 (MOE, 2007) stated specific benchmarks
that must be achieved by government schools. In terms of science subject, the
attainment indicator is to achieve 40% of total number of students enrolled in the
science stream at upper secondary level. Another related indicator states that 5%

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annual increase in credit passes in core subjects namely Bahasa Melayu, Mathematics,
English and Science at PSR, PMB, GCE “O” Level and GCE “A” Level must be
achieved. Currently, the percentage of students nationwide entering the science stream
is lower than 40%. MOE is very concerned of the current status and thus seek different
bodies within the ministry to implement various strategies to overcome this shortcoming.

Education System In Brunei Darussalam


Brunei’s primary education level covers Primary 1 to Primary 6 (approximate aged 6 to
aged 11). The secondary level is from Form 1 to Form 5 whereby at the end of Form 3,
the students sit for a public examination called Penilaian Menengah Bawah (PMB).
Based on PMB results especially in Science, English, Malay and Mathematics, the
individual students will be streamed into either Science or Art. Science stream students
will study all the pure science subjects of Biology, Chemistry and Physics for 2 years
before they sit for Brunei-Cambridge GCE O levels examinations. It is based on the
current minimum number of science stream students to the total population of students
(government schools) in the country that the percentage of science stream students
fared less than 40%. Currently, the country is undergoing a transition process into the
formation of a new national education system known as Sistem Pendidikan Nasional
Abad ke-21 (SPN21). The transition is carried out in stages and will be completely
transformed by 2016 (Curriculum Development Department Brunei, 2009). A major
structural change is the secondary level slashed to four years upon a student’s
satisfactory performance in his/her second year. If not, the student will have 5 years of
secondary study similar to the old system. The new secondary level is known as Year
7, 8, 9, 10 (and 11). The promotion of Year 8 to Year 9 follows the same concept of
determining a student into the science stream or art stream. This puts more pressure
on the students as a three-year study is crammed into two years. The examination is
no more known as PMB but known as School Progress Assessment (SPA). In other
words, all secondary students will have the common curriculum in Year 7 and 8. Based
on SPA results, the students could go to either one of the five education pathways in
SPN21 namely,
• 4-Year General Secondary Education Programme,
• 5-Year General Secondary Education Programme,
• 5-Year Applied Secondary Education Programme (Technical and Vocational),
• Specialised Education Programme, and
• Special Educational Needs Programme.
The study in this paper concerns students who are currently the last batch of PMB.
Thus, the system change is not applicable and does not affect the result of this study in
any way.

Purpose of the study


This paper examines the attempt of Science, Technology and Environment Partnership
Centre (STEP Centre), a unit under Ministry of Education to increase the uptake of
science stream students in the national upper secondary level to 40% from its current
value by means of organised practical approaches. As a result, Program Peningkatan

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Pencapaian Sains (PPPS) or “Enhancing Achievement in Science” programme was
devised by STEP Centre (STEP Centre, 2009). Through PPPS, some of the activities
which received positive outcome are highlighted in this paper. It must be stressed that
PPPS programme only provides suggestive out-of-classroom science activities involving
mass students which hopefully help improve their performance. At the same time, the
effectiveness of PPPS is reviewed via informal discussions and surveys. A more
scientific and specific study is thus recommended in discussing the approach.

The concept of PPPS


The goals of PPPS are:
1) To ensure either equal or above 40% successful entry of all government school
students studying science stream in Form 4 ; and consecutively,
2) To ensure successful achievement of 5% annual increase in credit passes for
science for PMB, PSR (end of Primary 6 examination), GCE O and A levels for
each school.
As stated earlier, the second goal above is based on the performance indicator stated in
MOE Strategic Plan along with other core subjects namely Bahasa Melayu,
Mathematics and English. PPPS only focus on Science. A major role of STEP Centre
is developing enrichment programmes through out-of-classroom science activities for
schools nationwide. This approach is incorporated in PPPS. Through a collection of
interactive science activities, PPPS is implemented towards enhancing mass students’
achievement in science. The proposed activities were not new but must be
orchestrated with the main goals in mind. Conceptually, STEP Centre identified three
key factors in mapping PPPS. They serve as points of leverage. They are (1) the
administrators of the school (as an institution); (2) the teachers (as facilitators of the
activities); and of course, (3) the students (as the receptors). This is summed up in
Figure 1. The administrators include the head of each school (a headmaster /
headmistress / principal) plus his/her team of senior officers such as the Deputy
Principal and Senior Masters who are involved in the main administration of the schools.
Their co-operation is very much required as PPPS is a form of school intervention
programme. STEP Centre assists the administrators in terms of planning,
implementing, monitoring and evaluating each school’s PPPS activity. STEP Centre
also provides assistance in financing the activities. The second factor is the group of
science teachers who devise an appropriate PPPS activity with a proposal paper which
is discussed with STEP Centre. The activity must be aligned with the students’ science
curriculum and should indicate how it could help the students. The third factor is the
students who themselves are the recipients or receptors of PPPS. PPPS hopes to
promote the students’ awareness and interest in science. Science is learnt through
experience. When the interest is developed, further scientific knowledge and skills
could be gained. This in turn will hope bring about positive outcome to their academic
performance at the end.

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FIGURE 1. PPPS PROGRAMME CONCEPT MAP

STEP’s PPPS Strategy:

Goals:
1). = or > 40% enter science stream in Form 4 per school.
2). 5% annual increase in credit passes in science for PMB,
PSR, GCE “O” and “A” Levels per school.

PROJECTS / PROGRAMMES /
ACTIVITIES

TEACHERS STUDENTS SCHOOL


As facilitator As receptor ADMINISTRATOR
As an institution

Objectives: Objectives: Objectives:


1). STEP assists teachers in 1). PPPS promotes students’ 1). STEP assists school in
identifying and fine tuning interest in Science. programme selection and
programmes. planning.
2). PPPS promote students’
2). STEP assists teachers awareness of Science in their 2). STEP assists school in
identify new and innovative daily lives. outside communication
science programmes. pertaining to activities
3). PPPS helps to widen the involved, e.g. other govt.
3). STEP assists teachers in students’ knowledge in agencies.
aligning programmes with science content.
science syllabus.
4). PPPS helps to expose
/introduce students’ to new
strategies in learning.

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School Participants
As part of a trial, 6 pilot schools were chosen for this programme - 3 primary and 3
secondary schools. Over a period of 3-year phase, the progress and feedback of the
students were analysed. The primary and secondary students are mainly from Primary
4 and Form 1 respectively when PPPS first introduced in 2007. Their results in the
public examinations by the end of 2009 will be used as an indicative tool for PPPS.
Primary 6 students sit for Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (PSR) examination whilst Form 3
students sit for Penilaian Menengah Bawah (PMB). The six chosen schools are within a
cluster area. The students in the three primary schools are most likely transferred to
one of the secondary schools involved in PPPS. This will give a better result if the
programme is monitored for a long period. The names of the schools are:

Primary Schools:
1) Sekolah Rendah Dato Jamil
2) Sekolah Rendah PAP Hajah Besar
3) Sekolah Rendah Junjungan
Secondary Schools:
1) Sekolah Menengah Awang Semaun
2) Sekolah Menengah Sayyidina Umar Al-Khattab
3) Sekolah Menengah Masin

Each school came up with their own science activities which were participated by
student cohort of the other two schools. The activities for primary were: Study visit to
PAP Rashidah Nursing College, science enrichment programme at Oil and Gas
Discovery Centre in Seria, Science Trail at Hadfa Plant Nursery and Science
Educational Games. The activities for secondary were: Secondary science quiz,
science teacher workshop on identifying appropriate science field trips, science camps,
study visits to Mengkubau Water Treatment Plant and Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park
and Science Fair (see Figure 2). A lead school co-ordinated each activity (see Figure
3). The leading school for each activity would first discuss the proposal paper with
STEP Centre together with the other 2 related schools. The primary teachers who
prepared them were the science teachers of the upper primary for each school. For
secondary, the Head of Science Department (HOD) was responsible along with the
staff. All activities were done together in one particular venue. Hence, only about 100
students were involved in each PPPS activity as it was not possible to involve all the
students logistically. The co-operation of the teachers involved was crucial for
conducting such big scale activities.

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FIGURE 2. PPPS ACTIVITIES IMPLEMENTED BETWEEN 2007 - 2009

PPPS PROJECTS / PROGRAMMES /


ACTIVITIES

PRIMARY PPPS SECONDARY PPPS

Educational study visit to PAP Science Quiz


Rashidah Nursing College (21 July & 21 August 2007)
(19 & 22 Nov 2007)

Science Enrichment programme at “Conducting Field trips for science


OGDC Seria teachers” Workshop
(30 & 31 Oct 2007) (20, 21 & 22 Nov 2007)

Science Trail at Hadfa Science Camp (Scouts Gadong)


(18 May 2008) (1, 2 & 3 Dec 2007)

Science Educational Games Science Camp (SM Masin school)


(27 Nov 2008) (15,16, 17 & 18 June 2008)

Study visits to Mengkubau Water


Treatment Plantand Tasek
Merimbun Heritage Park
(9 August 2008)

Science Fair
(17 January 2009)

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FIGURE 3. SCHOOL CO-ORDINATORS OF PPPS PROGRAMME

No PPPS programme Date Level School co-


ordinator / Lead
school
1 Science Quiz 2007 Secondary SMSUA

2 “Conducting Field trips for science 2007 Secondary SM Masin


teachers” Workshop
3 Educational study visit to PAP 2007 Primary SR Pehin Dato
Rashidah Nursing College Jamil
4 Science Enrichment programme at 2007 Primary STEP
OGDC Seria
5 Science Camp (Scouts Gadong) 2007 Secondary SM Awg Semaun

6 Science Trail at Hadfa 2008 Primary SR PAP Besar

7 Science Educational Games 2008 Primary SR Junjungan

8 Science Camp (SM Masin school) 2008 Secondary SM Masin

9 Educational visiti to Mengkabau 2008 Secondary SM Awg Semaun


Water Treatment Plant and Tasek
Merimbun
10 Science Fair 2009 Secondary SMSUA

DISCUSSIONS

Analysis Of PPPS
As a preliminary study, the performance of the same students in science subject at the
end of 2007 (Form 1) and 2008 (Form 2) for secondary schools concerned was
analysed. Only two schools had given the results. These schools recorded a drop in
the number of students achieving credit (50% and higher) in science (Lower Secondary
Science). In SM Awang Semaun, the number of students who achieved credit out of a
total 215 students dropped from 34% to 13% in 2007 and 2008 respectively (SM Awang
Semaun, 2009). For SM Masin, based on the marks of each student (population = 254
students), about 88% of the students achieved lower grades than the previous year’s
mark. Do these results reflect negatively on PPPS? Not really. In reality, PPPS could
not account for the negative result in the two secondary schools. This is mainly due to
several reasons:
1) The number of PPPS activities per year was very low, about 2 or 3 per year.
Most consisted of one-day affair with the most was 4 days (science camps).

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2) Not all the students were involved in PPPS due to absence or limited number
allowed to participate. Even the frequency of participation also differed. For
example, in SM Semaun, percentage of participants involved in 4 activities was
2%, 3 activities was 20%, 2 activities was 29%, 1 activity was 12% and nil was
12%.
3) Other factor – as suggested by one of the schools – was due to a science
teacher who pursued further studies by joining a local university in the middle of
the year. Replacement was late and the class had disruptive science lessons
(reliance only on relief teachers).
STEP Centre and the HODs agreed that a more extensive analysis must be made to
ensure the validity of PPPS’ success towards the goals. Similarly, all the schools
involved (including the primary schools) must provide all the required statistics for
comparison as this was not done so.

Through informal discussions


Based on informal discussions and post mortem meetings between STEP Centre and
the school principals and teachers involved, several positive outcomes were reflected:
• Feel good factor for the students. The students found PPPS fun, helped develop
further interest in science and understanding science concepts became easier. It
encouraged them to become more independent in their learning.
• The activities in PPPS were relatively easy to implement. They were not new but
should be devised in such a way that the purpose of such activities must be
linked to the goals. PPPS could be done as a whole-school approach.
• The exposure could drive the students to choose related careers such as
forensic, astronomy, engineers and others. In terms of personal character-
building, it has helped them to improve their communication skills as language of
medium used is English.
• Teachers also benefited from PPPS. The experience in handling big scale
activities helped them to become better organisers. They also had a deeper
knowledge in identifying local plants, their medicinal values and so on.
Friendship amongst the teachers from the participating schools grew and
nurtured as more and more PPPS activities were carried out together.

Identifying the appropriate activities


A more scientific analysis should be carried out to justify the true effectiveness of PPPS
towards improving mass student academic performance especially in science, thus
improving the number of science stream uptake in Form 4. Nevertheless, the basic
findings and suggestions hoped to encourage other researchers to carry out further
study. At the same time, schools are hoped to use the information as valuable options
in terms of stimulating interest on science for their students. Those activities identified
are explained below.

Science Trail
It was held at a commercial man-made natural park called Hadfa Park in Rimba Village,
Gadong. The leading school was SR PAP Hajah Besar. It involved 112 students and
40 teachers from the 3 participating primary schools. Teachers designed the trail using

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their own creativity. The stations for the trail included observing and describing certain
plants and measuring the length and temperature of a Tilapia fish from a pond. Prizes
were given to the top three teams that were made up of a mixed group of students from
the 3 different schools at the end of the trail. It was also publicised in the local
newspaper and television. Science trail provided a bridge between the curriculum learnt
in school with the daily lives as well as appreciating our natural and cultural heritage
(STEP Centre, 2008). The students also explored the rich flora and fauna grown in that
park. Students sat for a pre-test a day earlier and the post-test upon their return to
schools the next day. Results showed an improvement in the scores showing that the
Science Trail is viable and offer additional extension to the curriculum learnt in school.

Science Fair
It was a one-day event full of hands-on science activities based on the syllabus.
Students were exposed to a different perspective of learning science and the winners
even got to win some prizes. The leading school was SM Sayyidina Umar Al-Khattab.
The leading school also added some other features during that fair by inviting relevant
agencies to exhibit their areas such as the Narcotics Control Bureau and Oil and Gas
Discovery Centre (OGDC) which showcased science and technology games and
materials. 120 students from the three schools joined the activity. The science
teachers devised several activities and named them as:
• Activity 1: Quicksand “Run’’way
• Activity 2: Killer Loop
• Activity 3: Burst-Me-Not
• Activity 4: Smoking Pail
• Activity 5: Rocket Splash
• Activity 6: Win, Lose or Draw
• Activity 7: Surprise Pool
• Activity 9: Unit Conversion
• Activity 10: BMI
• Activity 11: Egg in a bottle
• Activity 12: Fantastic Contraption
These activities were placed in 12 different stations/venues of the school. Pre-Tests
and Post-Tests were done to evaluate the students using similar questions. From the
result obtained, the students fared better in the post-test as expected. According to the
organising school, students have enjoyed most of the hands-on activities. It made them
aware of the role that science plays in their daily lives. The teachers also felt that more
participants could be accommodated if there was enough manpower (teachers) and the
duration of the fair was made longer, for example 2 days.

Study Visits (to Mengkubau Water Reservoir And Water Treatment Plant and National
Heritage Tasek Merimbun)
A one-day study visit to venues that most of the students had never been before is a
very effective way to ensure the students learnt what they saw, observed or
experienced. For the study visits, the lead school was SM Awang Semaun. Both visits
were concurrent. The students were divided into 2 groups as both locations could not
cater for big number of students. Each location accommodated 45 students (15

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students from each school). Each group was accompanied by 6 teachers with the
assistance of 5 Scout members provided by the lead school. The students had a quick
pre-test related to the areas they were visiting before departure that morning. A post-
test was done before they left the sites. The questions were prepared by SM Awang
Semaun teachers who had pre-visited the sites earlier. To motivate the students
further, separate prize presentation in each school was done. Besides creating more
interest and knowledge in scientific areas, the students were able to improve their
question-and-answer skills especially with the experts in those areas.

Science Educational Games (SEG)


Another way of developing the interest in learning science as well as sustaining them is
through games. It could be school-based but not confined to the classrooms. It
combines cognitive knowledge and a certain level of physical skills whereby all students
regardless of their ability would be able to participate by competitive means. Winning or
losing was not an essence but more importantly, the knowledge acquired. The leading
school was SR Junjungan. It was held in the school hall and participated by all the
primary 5 students of the 3 schools. The related science topics to the games are as
listed:

No. Activities in SEG Science topics


1 What is wrong? (Jigsaw puzzle) Properties of materials – choice of
material
2 Relay Living things
3 Instant make over Healthy habits
4 Float your boat Properties of materials – float or sink
5 Hovercraft launching Air pressure
6 Hop into the Hoops Water
7 Human tree Parts of a plant
8 Strongest shape Properties of materials
9 Sinking and floating soda cans Properties of materials
10 Jet propulsion Air
11 Keep Brunei Clean Health and Environment - Recycling

It was made formal with the prize presentation ceremony held after the event by an
Assistant Director of the Primary Section of the Ministry of Education. The
headmistress of the leading school reported that the students and teachers enjoyed and
learnt some relevant science concepts from SEG. She also pointed out that the
students were able to interact in a conducive manner and strengthened the bond
between the three schools as they seldom had such an opportunity.

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CONCLUSIONS

A more scientific analysis should be carried out to justify genuine effectiveness of PPPS
towards improving mass student academic performance especially in science, thus
improving the number of science stream uptake in Form 4. Such study must also be
able to assess the success rate of each “value-added” activity mentioned in this PPPS
programme. This paper describes a very brief guide towards introducing and
implementing the selected scientific activities. Nevertheless, the basic findings and
activity suggestions are hoped to provide an impetus for schools, in particular, in
identifying or creating similar science enrichment programmes for their students. The
activities arousing science interest and improving achievement involved those which
incorporate games, fun to do yet exercising their problem-solving skills as well as
encouraging discussions. Those which received many positive comments as reflected
by the students and teachers were Science Trail, Science Fair, Study Visits and
Science Educational Games.

REFERENCES

Curriculum Development Department, Brunei Darussalam (2009), Sistem Pendidikan


Negara Abad Ke-21 SPN21, Brunei.

MOE Brunei Darussalam (2007), The Ministry of Education Strategic Plan 2007 – 2011,
2nd Edition, Brunei.

SM Awang Semaun (2009), Report about PPPS initiated by STEP Centre, MOE,
Unpublished report submitted to STEP Centre.

STEP Centre (2008), Exploring Nature Through Science Trail, STEP Forward
Newsletter, June 2008 edition.

STEP Centre (2009), Laporan Progress PPPS, Unpublished report submitted to MOE
Brunei Darussalam.

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