Face off: Should students have the choice to focus on just maths and science or music and art?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

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Nester Chik, 17, Sing Yin Secondary School

Students should have the freedom to choose the subjects they are interested in.

Scientist Albert Einstein played the violin and piano. But he didn’t become a musician. He studied science and became one of the pioneers of modern physics.

A person’s choice of subjects is very important. That’s why students – not parents or teachers – should decide which subjects they are going to study at senior secondary level. Most Hong Kong parents want their children to become doctors, lawyers, or engineers. I don’t think this is right.

Through success and failure, students will end up knowing what they are good at and if they have the ability and motivation to make a successful career out of it.

If they lack passion and interest in a subject, they cannot succeed in it.

Teenagers are curious and want to try new things. Arts can encourage the development of creativity, critical thinking, and self-confidence. On the other hand, science has also led to many inventions that have been useful for us, such as the light bulb and cars.

It doesn’t matter whether a student picks arts or science as long as they are passionate about it. Both areas can help the development of civilisation.

Students should have the right to decide their future, which is why they should be allowed to focus on maths and science, or music and arts – or both, if they want.

Education loses its meaning if students’ core values and freedoms are taken away.

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Iris Lee, 17, Hong Kong International School

Too often, we think along the lines of “I’m more of a maths-science guy” or “Jeez, I guess I’m really not an English person”.

The world does not work this way. We don’t have separate maths-science, humanities, and arts groups. There is no special maths gene or arts gene. However, we (myself included) tend to fall into this short-sighted trap, which limits our growth.

If students had a wider choice in the subjects they learned, most would select ones they feel most comfortable with. This is especially true in a competitive place like Hong Kong, where the love of learning is often overridden by test scores and perfect grades.

Parents may also have “power” over their children’s studies, urging them to take subjects that have the best job prospects or the most social recognition. Those who have had a well-rounded secondary school education almost always end up getting a high salary, though.

I would argue specifically for the importance of arts in education. For example, top music or literary awards are not only a plus for job or university applications, they are capsules of the universal human experience. We need to cultivate heightened sensibility, passion, and empathy in our generation.

In the film Dead Poets Society, English teacher John Keating (played by Robin Williams) says:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

I think that says it all – students should study maths, science, music and the arts because that is the only way they will get full value for their education.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne