SINGAPORE: The number of students taking literature —— both full, and as a combined subject —— at the O—level each year has remained largely stable. They number between 6,000 and 7,000, said Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah.
She accepted however, that this number was a drop compared to 20 years ago —— largely attributable to the perception that it is a tough subject to score well in.
She highlighted that key to having a strong literature programme is students with a strong interest in the subject, passionate teachers, and supportive principals, adding that the Education Ministry is fully in support of schools offering literature at the upper secondary level.
Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh said: "Of all the disciplines on the curriculum, literature gives us a means to think about not only what is, or was, in the world around us, but what could be. Stories, be they in the form of plays, poems and novels allow us to step outside ourselves and connect with a world much bigger than our own.
"It therefore opens many avenues to teach ethics and values and helps us understand aspects of sociology, philosophy and history. In a simpler past, you could argue that such cognitive skills might be less valued. In today’s complex and volatile world, these capabilities become much more essential."
In response, Ms Indranee said: "But this issue is not about literature alone. The broader issue is about encouraging students to take up humanities subjects. We have been traditionally strong in maths and sciences. Less so in the humanities. This is not desirable in the long run.
"So it’s important we have students who have the interest to do well in both the sciences and the humanities. Singapore needs both in the 21st century, and MOE will encourage the schools and IHLs (Institutions of Higher Learning) to promote and support the humanities subjects, along with sciences."
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