Is a ‘science student’ smarter than an ‘arts student’?

Published: September 11, 2013
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Science and arts/humanities both have their own significances and should be given their due importance to keep a balance in societies.

As soon as we step into the dreaded phase of our education where we must choose which subjects we want to pursue for our higher studies, arts and science are pretty much the basic options to choose from and these practically shape our academic future.

I remember when I passed the eighth grade, I was content because I had been able to achieve the target score required to be able to choose science for my matriculation; I was ecstatic, my interest in science being secondary. It wasn’t just me, all my class fellows worked hard so that they could be promoted to the ‘science’ section of grade nine. The ones who made the merit joined the science group while others were left with the insular option of taking arts.

That was the standard then, but students now make their subject choices according to their future vocations.

The point is that the students of yesteryear would never choose their subjects out of their own personal interests but were part of a race of being tagged as an intelligent student. The ones studying science were always considered exceptionally bright students while others were not. Such a mind-set has prevailed in our society, both in general and for students in particular.

It is not the students’ fault because they develop these attitudes according to what they observe and are told. There are a few exceptions (some private institutes) that groom students into discovering and pursuing their own interests, but majority of our schools fail to do so.

The reasons could be multifarious; maybe the teachers fail to instil in students an understanding of the importance of various subjects or maybe it’s the confusing merit-based system that barricades students from making the right choices.

Another reason is that in our part of the world, people are considered ‘successful’ if only they are doctors and engineers – a stereotype we are known well for. These are the top two ‘respectable’ professions for high achievers.

It is a widely accepted belief that getting an education in science makes one intelligent and enables one to acquire a degree which is not only valued by society but also leads to a highly-paid occupation. No wonder, nowadays people give considerable importance to the degree one holds even while choosing a life partner – as if an academic degree totally guarantees a happy marital life!

The problem is that in pursuit of certain superficial goals, we tend to undermine our personal choices. It starts happening from the very beginning when we take the first step towards choosing an academic path. Initially, it is the social pressure that plays its role and later, it develops into a tunnel vision effectIn this whole perplexity, individuals totally ignore the fact that not all minds are meant to work well in the fields of science.

People do wonders even in the areas of arts and humanities which in itself hold a huge treasure chest of knowledge. Science education opens doors in the fields of medicine, architecture, engineering, healthcare, technology and quantitative analysis, while arts and humanities offer a wide range of career prospects in social and civil service, academia, media, fine arts, tourism, linguistics and other similar areas. Nowadays, it all depends on what field you want to major in and potentially pursue as a career option.

We must rid ourselves of the notion that science is the only domain for intellectuals. Such an outlook is the main reason why students are so unwilling to consider taking arts subjects in the first place. Children need to be encouraged to pursue their education according to their interests; this will ensure that they are happy with the career choice they have made. It can also help lower the “ratta” (rote learning) or cram-culture, since cramming is mostly practised when one is unable to grasp a concept and forcefully stuffs the mind with those alienated theories that are not understandable altogether.

As a society, we should realise that to pursue a career in one’s area of choice is something that eventually leads to success in professional life. Work doesn’t become a burden then, and life becomes more enjoyable. Even businesses today make sure that professional goals of their employees are in line with company’s goals, which means that firms want employees to take pleasure in their work while they fulfil their duties. They realise that promoting such a culture is crucial to boost creativity, leading to productivity and revenues. The same idea works in all professions.

Science and arts/humanities both have their own significances and should be given their due importance to keep a balance in societies. Where the former focuses on developing technical skills, the latter enhances soft skills among individuals. None can take the place of the other and both will continue to contribute positively towards progression of economies. It’s high time we abandon the science-dominated mentality which has been restricting our minds to focus on a larger and more fulfilling perspective.

“At the end of the day, art and science are united by one logic and one impulse—both are attempts to understand what it is to be human and the world around us.”

— Keith Tyson

Kiran Wali

Kiran Wali

A business graduate working in the corporate sector. She tweets @KiranW_ (twitter.com/KiranW_)

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