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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 08:25 GMT
School Day 24: About Malaysia-UK link-up
Composite images of MRSM residential school, Kuala Kubu Baru, Malaysia and UK's Royal Latin school

The BBC's science section has hosted a link-up between schoolchildren in Malaysia and the UK.

Click on the links below to read more about the schools and the pupils.

MRSM residential school, Kuala Kubu Baru, Malaysia

The MRSM (Maktab Rendah Sains Mara - Mara Junior Science Colleges) residential school is about an hour's drive from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. The school is close to the rain forest; from the playing fields you can see mountains covered with dense, tropical vegetation.

Students talking to science section team in Malaysia
Most of the students come from rural areas

There are about 850 boys and girls at the school, and they all study science subjects.

The school is one of several boarding schools run by Mara (Majlis Amanah Rakyat - Indigenous People's Trust Council).

Originally, only Malay children could go to Mara schools, but nowadays ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian children are also accepted.

Most students come from rural areas. They have to pay a small entrance fee. If their parents cannot afford the tuition fees, they will be paid for by Mara.

In the school, the atmosphere is very competitive. The students know that if they do well, they are likely to qualify for another Mara scholarship that will pay for their higher education.

Meet the pupils:

Gurpreet, 16
Gurpreet, Malaysia
Ever since Gurpreet can remember, she has been interested in science and technology: "Even when I was small, I was curious to know how things worked. At home, if our computer is down, my parents will look for me, and say fix it!"

Gurpreet wants to be a dentist: "When I apply science to daily life, I know that it can make the things around us better and improve people's lives."

Triven, 16
Triven, Malaysia
Triven is studying Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Maths. He says: "Science is our life. It is part of the clouds and the pavements we walk on every day."

Triven wants to be either a nuclear scientist, or an agronomist: "I feel sad when I see people suffering, and I think science can make everyone's lives better and put a smile on everyone's face, including mine!"

Royal Latin School, Buckingham, UK

The Royal Latin School is about two hours' drive from London. It is surrounded by typical English parkland with many beautiful trees, rare plants and wildlife.

Map showing UK and Malaysia
Unlike most government-funded schools in the UK, the Royal Latin is selective. Pupils have to pass a written test before they are admitted. This system of selecting pupils on academic ability is controversial in the UK as some people think it creates upper and lower classes of school.

The Royal Latin is a specialist science college. It receives extra money from the government to be spent on science facilities such as lab equipment and computers.

It also means that pupils and teachers from the school are able to visit surrounding schools and help and encourage others to 'switch on' to science.

But evidence suggests that the UK government's efforts to increase interest in science amongst school-aged children aren't working. Many young people in the UK just aren't interested in science, and even though the Royal Latin pupils we spoke to for the programme are very interested in science, they know there is an attitude problem amongst other people of the same age.

Emily is studying three sciences at A-level. She says she chose to study science because she likes to know what is going on around her and why. But why is science losing popularity amongst young people in the UK?

Science in Action presenter Sue Broom with pupils and teachers outside The Royal Latin School in central England
The Royal Latin is a specialist science college
"Part of the problem is you're seen as uncool. There's a big trend in the UK at the minute... if you're creative that's a good thing to be - not scientific."

Also - "a lot of famous people in the UK, celebrities, are famous because they've been on reality TV, not because they've invented something."

Greta is taking physics, chemistry and biology at A-level and she wants to go on to study medicine. She says science definitely has an image problem as, "there are no famous scientists in the UK that I'd want to be like", but she also says the way science is portrayed in the media is also a problem.

"News articles about science tend to be negative - bad drugs trials, moral issues to do with stem cells etc," she says.

Sam is studying the same subjects as Greta and also want to go on to study medicine.

He thinks money may be part of the problem with science in the UK: "It's a materialistic society - very few of the rich have risen there through science."

The pupils from the Royal Latin School were also joined by two students from neighbouring Buckingham School for the recording of the programme.






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