A new research conducted by a Yale-NUS College assistant professor of psychology and other researchers at Stanford University, has found that students who identify their passions and interests too early in life could be limiting their education and hindering their own potential. The research noted that students who zero in on a narrow range of interests would find it difficult tackling problems that arise in other disciplines.
In local junior colleges, when students have to choose between arts or science specialisations, it may have implications on their perception of their intellect and interests. Dr O’Keefe, one of the primary researchers in the study said that this will give students the message that “their interests only lie in one place, or should lie in one place, and it’s not a cultural value to branch out”.
Mr Heng Yew Seng, director of the Curriculum Policy Office in the Ministry of Education, said that the curriculum here provides a broad-based education with subjects in different areas, rather than streaming students into specialisations such as arts or science. Students also explore how different disciplines interconnect and relate to the real world. He said that the research conducted by Dr O’Keefe and his colleagues “will form a wider body of work that helps enrich our understanding of curriculum design and implementation”.
However, another point to take note of is how a student’s passion may be overshadowed by concerns of finding a job and making a living. In Singapore, the sciences may get more attention than the arts and humanities, especially with a renewed emphasis on IT skills and capabilities like coding. Sociologist Vincent Chua said that “pragmatic choices dictated by marketability can often supersede passion considerations”.
The typical A-Level student has not reached maturity at 17 or 18 year of age; it does seem unfair that they have to decide their specialisations when taking the O-Levels. How will these young students effectively know what their passion is? Or how will they know the right way to balance pragmatism with passion? Perhaps it is time to relook into the education path and the curriculum. In the meantime, we can only instil in students the passion of learning and help them inculcate the soft skills they need to remain competitive in today’s digital workforce.
If you want to find out more about the Panel’s discussions and recommendations, click the following link: