Coding for everyone: Students in Malaysia build dream places and spaces with Minecraft

30 Jul 2021

A tiny worker on a screen diligently moves various pixelated grey and gold blocks into neat rows until a familiar image, of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, slowly takes shape.

Elsewhere, another student is using command blocks to build an elaborate museum.

Yet another is creating a park using a rail system.

Sound impossible? Welcome to the world of Minecraft: Education Edition, where students as young as Lower Primary can play artists, architects, engineers and scientists, all at once.

Microsoft collaborated with the Educational Resources and Technology Division (ERTD) of the Ministry of Education (MoE) and invited schools and students across Malaysia to participate in the 2nd Minecraft: Education Edition Competition Challenge 2021. The Competition, which ran from 18th February until 31st March, saw close to 2,000 student submissions across 6 categories and 3 themes: Pixel Portraits, Comic Books and Building Systems.

Microsoft launched the first edition of the Minecraft: Education Edition Challenge in 2020, when schools transitioned to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pioneering educators who wanted a more creative and engaging mode of teaching than video call lessons turned to Minecraft. The inaugural competition attracted over 1,000 student submissions and countless requests to bring the challenge back this year. Microsoft recorded an incredible 4,474 active users from February to March during this year’s competition period.

Inclusivity is at the heart of Microsoft’s mission to empower all people on the planet to achieve more, which is why we partnered with ERTD in Malaysia, to provide free access to Minecraft: Education Edition to all participants throughout the Competition period. Any student with a device and an internet connection can play and learn, exemplifying Minecraft’s universality.

illustrating how M:EE empowers all students

The Challenge sparked creativity, whilst simultaneously honing problem-solving and digital skills for both students and teachers alike, across a range of subjects from history and biology to sustainability and languages. For example, participants were required to build their own Minecraft World and give a tour in the form of a Flipgrid video – testing their video-editing skills, ability to condense content into the stipulated duration and effectively leverage the Flipgrid platform.

Another task – this time to answer questions using the Microsoft PowerPoint Report Template – polished the students’ writing skills, assessed how well they understood Challenge themes and taught them how to navigate Microsoft PowerPoint. The game not only stimulated critical thinking among students, but also developed key future-ready skills through exposure to design, art, science and math in line with the country’s national agenda to encourage holistic STEM education.

“The Ministry of Education (MOE) hopes that the implementation of such programs can equip students with creative thinking and digital innovation skills, whilst moulding students to become technology innovators and not just consumers. Besides that, this program will increase the participation of Malaysian students in digital activities in an inclusive manner. MOE believes that this Minecraft Challenge program meets and fulfils several core Digital Education goals in line with MyDigital and the Digital Economy Blueprint”.

  • Mrs Maznah binti Abu Bakar, Director, Technology and Education Resources Division (BSTP), Ministry of Education Malaysia

Minecraft: Education Edition is above all, fun, which kept students motivated and interested both inside and outside the classroom. The game also promoted independence, as students were oftentimes more familiar with it than their teachers were, due to their prior knowledge of the game.

“I like to play Minecraft. When I found out about this competition, I thought it would be fun to join so I can play and compete at the same time. My dad ended up enjoying Minecraft as much as I do and now, we play together on the weekends!” said Lim E-Chen, a first grader (Tahap 1) from Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Nan Yik "Lee Rubber” who won 2nd place in the competition.

His teacher, Mr Yong Ying Ki shared that it took some time for parents to understand the application of Minecraft in schools. “When we first introduced Minecraft as part of our remote learning experience, some parents had misconception that we were encouraging students to play online games at home instead of studying. However, over time and through this competition, parents become more supportive. As a result, we are very encouraged to see our students improving their soft skills and gaining interest in design, science, arts, and mathematics.”

Judges were impressed with the quality of submissions which illustrated how students took the initiative to research special codes online, deploying and adapting them to achieve their goals.

“We gained valuable insights, knowledge and new ideas for using Minecraft as a teaching tool. From the competition, we observed that our students are ready to express their creativity, innovative thinking, and problem-solving skills through Minecraft. As educators, we should strive to adopt Minecraft in our curriculum and encourage students’ learning, collaboration and critical thinking,” said Ms Sharon Wong Lee Shyan, Principal of Crafty Minds Sdn Bhd, who was on the judging panel.

digestive system- exemplifying M:EE’s as an educational tool for STEM subjects

The Challenge was also eye-opening because it unlocked hidden skills, creativity, and tenacity for the participants and their teachers. Participants passionately immersed themselves in the Challenge, which tested their time management and discipline as they juggled regular classes with Competition tasks. Teachers found themselves in awe of their students’ dedication and cheered them on as they conquered obstacles to reach new heights.

Motivating students is central to education, and teachers helped their students learn from mistakes and develop the grit to keep going.

“Motivating students to learn is one of the important things that teachers need to think about before starting to teach. By using Minecraft Education Edition, students will be more motivated to learn on their own because it is fun. Teachers only need to apply learning elements related to the topic they want to teach in Minecraft Education Edition.

Aside from increasing students' motivation to learn, Minecraft Education Edition can increase creativity and problem-solving through critical thinking.

Teachers can also infuse moral values ​​through Minecraft Education Edition. For example, A Tale of Two Villages found in Minecraft Education Edition teaches the values ​​of empathy and diversity among students. In A Tale of Two Villages, students are also exposed to the basics of programming using Block Code as well as Python. This indirectly prepares students to become Future Ready Students.”

  • Mr Mohd Fadzli bin Ishak, teacher at Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Bukit Indah, MIE Fellow, Global Minecraft Mentor, and Judge at the Minecraft Education Edition Challenge 2021

Congratulations to the winners of the 2nd Minecraft: Education Edition Competition Challenge 2021 and we’ll see you again next year!

  • Mohamad Farid Bin Basirun from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Agama (National Islamic Secondary School) Tun Ahmadshah, Sabah, won 1st Place in the High School Grade (4 – 5) Category for creating an elaborate digestive system- exemplifying M:EE’s as an educational tool for STEM subjects.
  • Loke Xuan Yi from Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Nan Yik "Lee Rubber“, Kuala Lumpur, won 2nd Place in the Primary School Grade 2 (4 – 6) Category by recreating the Soyuz TMA-11 launch and blasting through judges’ expectations.
  • Muhammad Adam Mukhriz Bin Mohamad Faizal from Sekolah Kebangsaan (National School) - Tasik Damai, Perak, won 3rd Place in the Primary School Grade 2 (4 – 6) Category for his detailed portrait of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
  • Mikhail Zuhair Bin Mohd Azril from Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Rokam, Perak, won the Special Needs Primary School Grade (1 – 6) Category for his depiction of Ungku Abdul Aziz, illustrating how Minecraft: Education Edition empowers all students.

Click here for the full list of winners and their submissions.