Literature's benefits go beyond dollars and cents

I do not believe there is a need to express undue concern over the falling number of students taking literature ("Fewer Lit students a worrying trend"; Monday).

The fact that about 5,500 students sat the O-level literature examination last year shows that there is still sufficient interest in the subject.

It is true that it is not easy to do well in literature, compared with, say, mathematics.

However, it is more important that students take the subject because of their interest, rather than just to do well.

Literature is subjective and its lure is in the beauty of the language. It appeals to the heart and our emotions, and deals with the human predicament, which has no obvious right or wrong answer.

Though there is no obvious practical use of literature, it has made me appreciate the richness and nuances of the English language and helped me to think and express myself creatively in symbols and metaphors.

It complements the sciences and helps us to be more well-rounded, holistic and fully-functioning human beings.

It also helps me to communicate effectively, whether in writing or in speech.

Literature should be promoted and enjoyed by all. Perhaps the Ministry of Education could entrench it as a non-examinable subject.

Teachers can also better explain why the study of literature enriches us in ways beyond dollars and cents. If students understand this, the numbers will take care of itself.

Zee Kok Eng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Literature's benefits go beyond dollars and cents'. Print Edition | Subscribe