Arts Stream vs. Science Stream

I just read this article from Education in Malaysia. The author questions that

whether someone should choose a certain stream or subjects to study just because it is easier to ‘score’ in those subjects. In the Malaysian context, this usually manifest itself in the good students going predominantly to the Science stream and the poor students going predominantly to the Arts stream.

Reflecting on my own education experience, there is certain truth to the above statement. And this is sadening. If I am able to do it again, I will definitely do it differently. Not to say that I will definitely choose to do Arts, but the focus should be on discovering yourself, uncovering your talent and to search for your niche in this world, instead of matching guranttee A subjects to Examinations.

I think students nowadays are not given the freedom to explore their talents. They are bounded by fear, the fear of not getting straight As, the fear of not meeting parents expectation, fear of rejection. Without this platform of confidence, they are afraid to goto unchartered territories to self exploration, like take tough subjects, or subjects which are subjective like Economics, Literature, Chinese Studies or History. Thankfully, there are some who discover their talents at later stages of their life, like Mr. Lim Wah Guan in the article.

Well, looking forward, what can we do? Of course, a complete revamp of the education system is necessary. BUT, we also need to change our mindset towards education. Education is not just an academic excercise, like a manufacturing plant producing graduates with degrees that the society needs. It should be about discovering ourselves, realizing our talent.

Well here are some comments by the readers which I find interesting:

To many parents, it is all fine and well to pursue your dreams, as long as it can put food on the table and the reality of the matter is that the term “impoverished artiste” is not a misnomer. The sciences are a safer bet for landing a paid job as people with analytical skills are needed everywhere. Granted, we need people with creative skills too, but in far fewer numbers.


As it is, Malaysian students have been drilled to be overly obsessed with academic performance and most do not read for leisure. This means increasingly our graduates know very little more beyond their school textbooks.


2 Responses

  1. A thought-provoking post.

    I am one of the few lucky Malaysians who have given a chance to ‘widen my horizons’ as many say. As time passes, rather than putting all my energy in my work, I find myself pursuing some other interests like psychology, music, cooking, history which might not put food on the table, but enrich my life as a person.

    I was having drinks with a fellow Malaysian in UK the other day and we touched on this subject as well. After I told her about taking up a psychology course, her immediate question was ‘can you find work with a psychology course?’ and ‘does it give you a better pay?’

    I agree that our education system needs to be revamped, I also agree that we need to change our mindsets towards education. Most importantly I think parents in Malaysia needs to understand the importance of cultivating their children’s interests from young rather than focussing on them getting straight As by sending them to tuition after tuition. Creativity brings people a long way and that is something we cannot learn from textbooks.

  2. The fear of not choosing one’s interest have to do with Malaysia/Asia’s economy needs/situation. The platform/environment is not established or matured enough for people to develop. On the positive side, it infers that Malaysia is full of potential for development!

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