Value of Sota education goes beyond the arts

The School of the Arts (Sota) is not just an arts school. Rather, it is a place that fosters learning through the arts (Is arts school needed for students to pursue non-arts future?; by Mr Jeffrey Say Seck Leong, May 22).

It came at a time when the authorities began to recognise that children have different talents and thrive under different modes of learning.

My two girls graduated from Sota, but I did not put them through the school for them to become professional musicians or artists, nor did I have expectations for them to benefit from the arts in mainstream careers. The decision was made purely in recognition of their talents and their needs.

They were 12 and 15 when they entered, and I loved the idea that my children would be among a diverse talent pool and working with people who have different points of view.

The world is not homogeneous. Why should our education be reductive?

One of my daughters continues to play the cello for her Sota friends in their recordings whenever there are new compositions and public performances, while studying in law school.

Do we need to be one or the other? Can we not have a generation of young people who have diverse interests?

I have been an arts manager, an arts writer and a film-maker since the 1990s.

Many professionals in my circle do not have advanced training in the arts, but I have seen the most amazing support from them - they are collectors and patrons who buy works of art and financially support artists in projects.

They play an important role in the entire art ecosystem.

The entrepreneurs that we are after as an economy are the self-starters and the visionaries.

Could some of the next crop of these people be those who are steeped in the arts?

I have worked with very promising alumni of Sota in my film and art projects. I have found them to be critical thinkers and articulate communicators. More importantly, they have intuition - that is the value of the arts.

Perhaps, we may need a few generations of Sota graduates to see the fruits of its education more clearly.

In the meantime, we should just watch and see how our children bloom in, as well as out of, Sota.

Patricia Chen Meng Hui (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Value of Sota education goes beyond the arts'. Print Edition | Subscribe