Forum: Soft subjects help students relax, stimulate creativity

Students gathering at a secondary school in Singapore.
Students gathering at a secondary school in Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

Mr Wong Horng Ginn's letter on creativity and discussions on young Singaporeans' fear of failure reflect an aspect of our education system that has been overlooked (Creativity cannot be engineered or incentivised, Jan 4; 15-year-olds in S'pore have a greater fear of failure than those abroad, Dec 4, 2019).

Many softer subjects such as the arts, music, dance and sports have taken a back seat. Few parents will care about the grades for these subjects.

Some schools have also been known to use physical education periods to conduct supplementary classes.

Neglecting these can be detrimental to students as well as society. These soft subjects help the individual to relax and destress. They also develop the mindset, attitude, teamwork, leadership, emotional quotient and resilience of the child.

Often, they will also spur the student to think out of the box to solve problems. Besides, songwriting, drawing, designing clothes and choreographing a new dance will stimulate a child's imagination to create and innovate.

At institutions of higher learning, students are required to innovate and create in their course work.

From my experience, many find the tasks difficult. Their problem-solving skills are also lacking. The tutors and lecturers are often the ones suggesting projects for them.

We find out that most times, the students are not encouraged to reflect on issues in life from a young age. Many of my medical students do not read the news at all. Because of that, they are unable to appreciate the problems faced by the public and patients.

Their lives are overtaken by the amount of work in school and at tuition.

Coupled with the affluence of our society, they are well cushioned from many stresses and difficulties in life. It is little surprise that they lack a sense of reality, ability to create and innovate, and the hunger to achieve.

The solution is more than just our school system. It lies in our society. Everyone from teachers to parents, students themselves to employers must all do their part.

My parting words in my lectures to my medical students are always: "Reflect, be real and have a life."

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2020, with the headline 'Soft subjects help students relax, stimulate creativity'. Print Edition | Subscribe