5 subjects that empower secondary school students in S'pore

Things you learn in school can be practical.

Felicia Lee| August 25, 01:30 AM

Jaded about waking up before sunrise every weekday? Dread going to school? Always complaining about the heavy workload of the multiple subjects where the benefits of learning them continue to elude you?

Here are five subjects secondary school students learn in school that are more important and practical than they think.


1. English

The perception: English language skills are tough to acquire, due to the extensive use of grammar rules to the vast range of vocabulary needed to showcase a student's linguistic ability.

The English language is a mere tool of communication. Possessing basic grammar and vocabulary would suffice.

The truth: The power of the English language cannot be underestimated. It helps to bridge cultural and racial gaps in our metropolitan city. It enables you to express yourself and put yourself out there.

Having a strong command of a language often allows one to be incisive in thinking, especially when one grows older. Clear thinking helps put forth thoughts and ideas confidently and relay them in an intellectual manner.

Plus, in the service-driven Singapore economy, it is essential to be eloquent and not just merely understood.


2. Chinese

The perception: Chinese characters are complex and cumbersome. The main language of instruction in Singapore is English. Why bother studying Chinese at all?

The truth: Developing fluency in another language is like trading in another currency.

Yes, the main language of instruction is indeed English in Singapore, and it is most likely going to remain that way for the next few decades, at least. But Singapore is a country with a population of 5.4 million and is expected to rise to 6.9 million by 2030.

Compare this figure with that of China's 1.3 billion and counting. The jaw-dropping difference should be more than sufficient to warrant heightened attention to the study of the Chinese language.

Future business partners, clients, suppliers, employees and investors? Yup, they are going to be from China.


3. Biology

The perception: Rote memorisation of biological terms is necessary to ace this subject. Highlight all the key words and regurgitate all of them as soon as the biology exam paper is served. It is just one of the three sciences mandated to be tabulated in the L1R5.

The truth: Rote memorising is not all bad, as long as it aids in understanding the biological concepts.

Learning about biology can alert one to quacks and miracle cures. It also helps one to make more informed choices in life, such as to take precaution against false and dodgy claims, understand the need to get insured and knowing how to take effective preventive measures when it comes to healthier living.

Even day-to-day life choices can be influenced by a knowledge of biology, such as going to the gym or weighing the pros and cons of taking supplements.


4. Geography

The perception: Remember the world map. Know the continents, oceans, mountains and countries at the tip of our fingers. Learning the causes and effects of environmental degradation and natural disasters like volcano eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis is interesting, but not relevant.

The truth: Understanding the geography of each country puts one in a far better position to appreciate how one is not immune to happenings in other parts of the world.

Singapore's unique position stems from its physical location. The backdrop of all knowledge concerning Singapore's strengths as a financial and technological hub should always be predicated on our physical location.


5. Math

The perception: Differentiation and integration are killer topics. There is no cheat sheet for the O-Level. Continually practicing questions in the 10-year series would significantly enhance the ability to spot questions and answer them at O-Level with relative ease.

The truth: It is not only important to be literate in today's society. It is also important to be numerate.

Math is one of the major tools that guides the decision-making process. Buying a car? Getting a loan? Where to invest? What is the probability I will lose my money? What is the probability I will make it back? Can I afford it?

Instead of relying on the constant bombardment of opinions or conclusions by others, math would substantially empower one to analyse raw data and make independent and informed judgments. This is a priceless skill.

All in all, courses offered in school exist for a good reason. It boils down to the individual's ability to see through the fog and begin deciphering the uses and importance of each subject, and unlock the potential value in the intangible asset we dub as "education".


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