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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Malay Mail : 10 things about Dr Yunus Yasin and how he’s helping Tamil school kids be winners -

Yesterday I attended the national level Science Fair for Young Children or SFYC organised by the ASTI (Association of Science Technology and innovation) of which Dr Yunus Yasin is the President. 

Dr Yunus holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Cambridge University.

60 teams from nine States participated yesterday. The winner was the SRJK (T) Alma from Penang.

I have written previously about Dr Yunus Yasin who, along with some equally hardworking friends, is creating a scence revolution in the country, particularly in the Tamil schools.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — As an environmental consultant, Dr Mohamed Yunus Yasin could have stayed back in the UK where opportunities were aplenty. 

However, the words of his father and his passion to make a change led to his organising science fairs for Tamil schools instead.

The Science Fair for Young Children (SFYC), which is organised by Association of Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI), has been active for the past nine years. 

It involves over 350 Tamil primary schools every year and has over 80,000 children participating in it.

Some have even succeeded on an international level; most recently at the 35th Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition where three students who were SFYC participants bagged the first prize.

Last year, two other Tamil school students participated at the British Invention Show and won the Double Gold Award.

Grades for science and maths in UPSR at Tamil schools have also been improving thanks to their participation in SFYC. 

It was reported that a Tamil school in Johore was named the top school for UPSR last year with 43 pupils scoring 7As while others scored 7Bs.
Dr Yunus, who is ASTI’s president, however refuses to take credit for the success of Tamil schools in this field and instead wants to be known as an “enabler” who has helped these children unlock their potential.

In his own words:

We want to get the teachers to think beyond science fairs. We see science fairs as more of an empowerment mechanism. We see ourselves (ASTI) as enablers.  To give these kids, teachers and schools confidence. 

One of the most important things in learning is confidence. You have science but you have no confidence in science, you would consider it to be difficult and then it would be difficult. 

Same thing goes for maths. It is all in your mind, it is human knowledge created by humans to think about the world.
We can complain about the government but it should not stop us from making change ourselves. It all comes down to teaching. 70 per cent depends on the teaching and teachers. 

If you get good teachers, even if the curriculum is rubbish, the teacher can turn it around into an amazing learning experience. We all realise there are a few teachers we still remember and who have made a big difference in our lives. That is important to us.
I was active in volunteer work at Cambridge University which is regarded as one of the best unis in the world. Ironically, a 20-minute bicycle ride away there is another village, which was the worst performing school district in the whole of UK at the time in 1998.

A few of us students decided, why don’t we do community work and teach these kids, A levels Science and Maths. This thing kind of grew and is still going on now. Currently, the district is one of the best performing districts in the whole of UK.
When I came back from the UK, just barely two months... I got into a bad accident and was in a coma. After the accident I had the drive to make my life meaningful.
My father always taught me to help those who are in need. Don’t look at race and religion. My father died when I was 14 but this has always been ingrained in me. This has been my driving force all this while. I decided I wanted to do something with Tamil schools. I wanted to be involved and make a transformation. Be the change.
One day my mother complained about the store room. While I was cleaning it, I found a book. This book was given to me when I was in upper primary. It is about backyard science. It is simple science experiments that you can do with household stuff. So, this was the idea that hit me.
We built SYFC from scratch, all of the ideas were ours. We also wanted to prove something. For some weird reason, we always think that foreigners will come to help us. We want to prove the fact that we don’t need foreigners. We have Malaysians who can help to change our education system and our future.
We have been keeping low-key all this while. There are two reasons. One, we are very shy people. Shy of the media. 

Second reason is the crab theory. Once you come out too early,  the other crabs will grab you. We did not want to be seen as a threat to anyone. So we just worked below the radar and tried our best. 

The problem now is that we are growing so fast but our finances is not growing on par. We received half a million ringgit from the government in the last elections but that was about it. 

After that, very little from the government but we get from foundations.
We are doing this now, to create awareness in the community. Now we want the community to take ownership of the programme for sustainability. 

This programme might have gone on for the past nine years but you don’t know if it will last another nine. 

The community needs to take ownership so that it doesn’t disappear. That’s why we are coming out of our shell. More out of necessity, and we want the community to know about the success of this programme.

Our long term game plan is not to change the education system. That is not within our capacity but we want to make a difference in the children and the teachers. Those are our two main stakeholders.

- See more at:

My comments :  Here are some pictures from yesterday's Science Fair. 

These are nine to 12 year old kids.  

The Science Fair is actually a bit more complex. The kids have to complete five tasks as part of their participation in the Fair, all of which carry points :
  • They must write a detailed Research Paper for their project.
  • They must maintain a Log Book of their activities
  • There is a Question and Answer session by the judges
  • Innovation and new ideas are important
  • Finally their Presentation / Demonstration at the Science Fair
The idea is to create the logical, scientific mind set in the children from a very young age.

Imagine nine year olds participating in preparing research papers and keeping log books.  The kids speak good English and I was pleasantly surprsied to see that they all understood things like 'Variables' and 'Controlled Variables'. 


This years Fair had a focus on renewable energy. In this experiment below the kids worked out optimum lengths, curvatures and optimum numbers of  blades for a wind turbine, given the speed of the wind (provided by an electric fan). There was a small generator attached and they measured the electricity output. 

Another bunch of whizzes worked out (through their experiment) the best angle for  wind turbine blades of similar sizes at same wind speed.

They understood the scientific method, logic and cause and effect - three things that will save the world.

I  have a word of caution for Dr Yunus and friends. All these fantastic successes make the gomen look more bad. They are already morons as it is. Watch out. They may do things to trip you up.    

Better stay under the radar and work quietly.    The Science is more important.

Haze Critical. Gomen Not Doing Much. In Milan For Fashion Show

This year the haze is critical - I believe this is the worst haze situation on the Peninsula. It was not this bad even in 1997.

The news reports say that millions of chickens are dying. Chicken prices will go up.

Other chickens are not laying as many eggs. Egg prices will go up too.

Due to sunlight being blocked out, vegetables are not growing as well or are dying. Vege prices will go up.

Peoples' health is being affected.

We need longer term solutions with Indonesia.

Jokowi is not turning out to be as great as he appeared to be one year ago. Other than lining up for food with school kids at the cafeteria things are slow as usual in Indonesia.

It is doubtful if Jokowi will allow foreign fire fighting teams into Indonesia to help put out the land clearing that are causing the haze.  

We need to send our fire crews over there in a hurry to put out the fires. In 1997 we sent over 1200 firefighters to Indonesia. That was during the time of Soeharto and Tun Dr Mahathir. We cooperate better. Now its Jokowi and moron. One is a dud and the other has an ego.  Even our native Javanese speaker cant seem to help much.

If cloud seeding helps, there should be intensive cloud seeding in Indonesia, over the hotspots. It may have better impact than cloud seeding over here. Again Jokowi must agree to our planes 'bombing' his country. 

Going into the future we may need to spend money creating permanent fire fighting "bases" in Indonesia (for the haze season).  Private or semi private, where we can quickly ship in high power pumps, heavy equipment, build water retention ponds, reservoirs etc to store water for fire fighting.  It will be easier to mobilise and put out the fires.  (Another billion Ringgit contract? This could be on the Defense budget).

The situation is really critical. You can hardly walk outside.  As usual the gomen's response is neither here nor there.