NewsFrom laboratory to classroom – a journey of self-discovery via STEAM education

From laboratory to classroom – a journey of self-discovery via STEAM education

1 March, 2024

Dr. Sathisha Goonasakaran is Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Coordinator at Tenby Schools Penang, and was recently named as one of Bett Asia’s Top Ten Influential Female Leaders in STEAM and EdTech.

Our HR colleagues in the ISP Malaysia team spoke with Dr. Sathisha to find out more about her career journey.

Sathisha reached a crossroads early in her career. After a year of working as a Quality Assurance Junior Executive for a food company in Malaysia, she realised her true passion was for teaching science.

“I realised that my passion lay in science education and inspiring young minds, rather than being confined to routine laboratory work in a company. Science is always exciting, and I felt that I can offer more to the field by reaching to young minds,” she says.

Sathisha left the corporate sector to pursue a teaching career in international schools. Armed with a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Biotechnology, she found her passion reinforced when she noticed students were increasingly interested in the subjects she taught.

“While teaching, I pursued my Master’s Degree to stay updated in this ever-evolving field and shared my research experiences with students to ignite their excitement. Eventually, I identified my true passion in science communication,” she adds.

STEAM – stretching beyond teaching science

Sathisha broadened her knowledge of science education by delving into the STEAM pedagogy while pursuing her PhD in Education. She recognised STEAM’s vital role in bridging the gap between knowledge and real-world skills, crucial for success in the workforce.

“Via STEAM, I finally found a way to bring real-world science, industrial expectations, and transferable skills into the classroom,” she adds.

When she began her current role at Tenby Schools Penang, part of the International Schools Partnership group of over 80 schools around the world, Sathisha implemented the STEAM approach on a small scale in her classroom.

The school’s senior leadership team noticed students’ enthusiasm for STEAM learning, prompting them to increase opportunities for STEAM weeks, competitions, integration into the International Primary Curriculum, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) sessions and talks for the entire school community. Sathisha advocated for STEAM to prepare learners for future careers in a world redefined by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, emphasizing its interdisciplinary approach over teaching subjects separately.

“I regularly met with individual teachers and staff to provide further explanations and lots of support to implement STEAM in their classrooms, school events, marketing content, and more as we progressed towards rebranding Tenby Schools Penang as a STEAM specialist school with a designated three-story building featuring STEAM specialist rooms,” she adds.

Paving the way forward for STEAM in Penang

STEAM activity with students at Tenby Schools Penang

Tenby Schools Penang is now pioneering STEAM education in Penang. The school’s STEAM Engine – a purpose-built campus with a learning space equipped with facilities such as a Makerspace, Recording and Art studios, Robotics and Coding Zone as well as a Food Tech Room – is launching soon this year.
As part of her responsibilities, Sathisha decides on STEAM resources for various subjects and specialist rooms in Tenby Penang’s STEAM Engine to ensure meaningful, real-world-based learning. She also connects with relevant partners from various organisations and education institutes such as universities, building critical networks for collaboration.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of her job is hearing students’ voices on their amazing learning in reports, reflection journals, and interviews, she says.

“Most importantly, I have observed students expressing interest in exploring career options in the STEAM field, where previously it wasn’t considered,” she adds.

Addressing the gender gap in STEM education

Cultivating interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields among students is essential to address the gender gap that persists in STEM careers.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023 noted that while the growth of women in STEM jobs is outpacing the number of women in non-STEM jobs, women make up just 29.2% of all STEM workers. This is despite a growing number of women who are graduating with STEM degrees (38.5% of women in 2021 vs 35.5% in 2017).

Sathisha says integrating a STEAM approach in education that focuses on solving real-world problems emphasises that skills, passion, and the ability to apply knowledge are the primary factors for success in STEM fields, rather than gender.

“Starting this education early can empower young females, creating a STEM identity and helping them envision themselves in STEM careers,” she adds.

She says educational institutions can go further by showing female students a successful career in STEM is possible by inviting female leaders and role models from STEM fields as guest speakers during lessons or teaching sessions.

It is also important to create an inclusive, supportive environment that fosters collaboration, mentorship, professional development programmes, career advancement and peer support to promote diversity and inclusion in STEM, she adds.

For now, Sathisha is focused on continuing her work to make an impact in STEAM education.

“As educators and professionals, we must be bold enough to move away from traditional chalk-and-talk methods and instead engage in hands-on approaches to cultivate knowledge and skills in our students,” she says.

“It’s important to believe that every effort we make can inspire children to pursue their dreams of innovating, investigating, analysing, articulating, or coding,” she says, cultivating learners’ confidence to explore opportunities in the STEAM field.

Would you like to find out more about how Tenby Schools Penang is transforming learning experiences? Book a meeting with the team at Tenby Schools Penang.

To find out more career opportunities at ISP schools in Malaysia and around the world, visit our careers site.

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