Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sec 3 subject combinations

This month, the sec 2 students in Lesley-Anne's school have one main thing on their minds - subject combinations for sec 3.

In my time, this was a much easier affair, largely because it was a lot more autocratic. In my school, the top 40 kids would be streamed into triple science, the next 40 sub-science, the next 40 pure arts and the next 40 commerce. Within these classes, the subjects were pretty much fixed. Eg. in the commerce stream, you would take Accounting and Geography.

We didn't really have any say in the matter. I was streamed into triple science but being very clear about my inclination towards the humanities, I requested for a change to the pure arts class. I was treated as a strange animal since I was essentially asking for a "downgrade" (I'm still miffed that even today, the arts is still consistently considered a second rate choice to the sciences). However, the principal herself was arts-inclined and so was sympathetic to my case. On hindsight, it was a good decision as I have no head for the sciences and probably would have performed disastrously.

One thing I thought was odd was that Art was a subject in my class. This always struck me as particularly cruel since there were students who obviously couldn't paint a tree trunk to save their lives, but were forced take it as an O level subject simply because they were allocated that class. For me personally, I loved it. One fewer subject to mug for!

The choice of subject combination today is a lot more democratic. Well, sort of. In Lesley-Anne's school, most subjects are compulsory:

Language arts
Maths 1 & 2
One other science (Physics or Biology)
Social Studies

What the kids have to choose is whether they will take an additional science subject (which would make it the triple science stream) or a humanities subject (History, Geography or Literature), making it the humanities stream. Those going to the humanities stream would also need to decide whether Physics or Biology is their second science subject.

Lesley-Anne is most definitely humanities-bound. The question is which humanities and science subjects she will choose. Right now, it's most likely Lit and Biology though things can change, of course.

One of the issues she (and I'm sure many students) grapple with is, whether to take the subject that's easier to score or the one you're more interested in. I have been advising her to follow the latter. What's easy to score usually depends on the individual. For eg, Lesley-Anne's seniors tend to find Physics easier than Biology. But this could also be due to the fact that they're generally strong in Maths, something Lesley-Anne isn't.

She's also unsure whether to take up Lit as she hasn't been doing that well in prose analysis. However, I feel that if you have a keen interest in something, you will tend to be more motivated in it, hence increasing your chances of doing well in it. At the very least, you'll enjoy the learning process. Whereas if you take a subject purely for the sake of scoring, if this backfires, man, you're screwed.

Many students choose subject combinations for pragmatic reasons, eg either the one they think will give them the most options later on at tertiary level or the one that will open up the best careers. This is only my opinion and you are free to disagree with me, but I feel this is a very dated approach. Unless these choices also happen to be the ones you enjoy the most, I don't agree with this reasoning.

The world is a very different place today. Professional degrees are not always the most sought after anymore. In fact, people are carving up new (and lucrative) career paths all the time. The most successful people I know do not necessarily go to the best schools or have the best starts - they're the ones who have pursued their passions in a creative way and founded careers that are aligned with their interests.

And even if you're earning good money, many folks are realising that this is not enough to give them fulfilment in life. Personally, I know a lawyer who became a civil servant, engineers who became insurance agent or sales reps and a business graduate who became a teacher.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that at 15, we probably don't know all the possibilities out there, let alone what we want to do as a career. So unless you're very sure about your life's calling, the safest bet actually is to do what you enjoy. Remember the adage, if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.


Anonymous said...

Mon, more words of wisdom from you, can't agree more...


monlim said...

Thanks, QX!

Karmeleon said...

I was looking at the subject combination you wrote above. Looks alot like that offered when my daughter was in Sec 3 two yrs ago (she was in mainstream).

How does adding one more science subject to the combination above make Triple Science? It seems like 2 sciences to me? Chemistry and one other - either Physics or Bio? My son (the one same age as L-A) plans to take Phys/Bio/Chem. He's definitely not humanities-orientated. ;D

monlim said...

Karmeleon: Chem + 1 other science is compulsory. Then you choose whether to add the last science subject (making it triple science) or a humanities subject.

Yeah, most boys I know are skewed towards the sciences. I know Andre is!

Karmeleon said...

Oh, ok - so chem + bio/phy is compulsory, then they can add either another science or another humanities, is it?

My no.1 did chem/bio for O-levels. She did well for all her sciences but miserably for her humanities subjects. She's still doing Chem/Bio, but really not easy in JC.

monlim said...

Karmeleon: Yes, that's right. I agree, Chem/Bio is tough at A levels. I always felt though that the range of subjects available at A levels is miserably limited. Not much choice whether you take humans or science!

Anonymous said...

Hi is there any minimum Year 2 grade L-A has to fulfill to take triple Science? Or is it free for all choice ie independent of Year 2 results, purely based on personal choice?


monlim said...

SL: I think there's a minimum requirement of a B3 average for the sec 2 year end exams and perhaps a B3 minimum for science (not too sure, I didn't pay attention since L-A isn't taking triple science!) but nothing too tough. If you meet the criteria, you will get triple science if you opt for it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks and sorry I meant it as a general question for Triple Science. Yes I heard about this minimum criteria for certain IP schools for Yr 3 triple Science and I do not understand the rationale. Other IP schools do not have such criteria. Interesting that practices differ so much. All the best to L-A's selection! Hope she will enjoy her selected subjects :)


monlim said...

SL: According to the school, the triple science curriculum is quite rigorous so they want to be sure the students can cope.

Thanks for the wishes!

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