Education that values STEM and humanities alike is education that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Ask any secondary school teacher what the most important subject is at school, and chances are that they will name their own subject. Ask a primary school teacher and the answer will be very different. Ask parents and people outside of the education sector and the chances are that mathematics will be prioritized, closely followed by science. The question is why do so many people, the majority in fact, believe this to be so? What is it about our education system that makes us think like this and above all accept it?
Advancements start with a great deal of imagination, creativity, and more importantly a sense of belief that the impossible just might be possible
What about history? Surely this has to be one of the most important subjects? Francis Bacon once said, “Histories make one wise,” and how can we evolve if we do not learn from the past? What about physical education? Aren’t health and fitness paramount? What about the arts, a subject so often dismissed? Two years of pandemic-enforced lockdowns has proved how vital art and creativity are to our mental health. Then there is English… In a British International School, such as Byron College, fluency in English is essential to unlocking learning in all other subject areas. I would also mention philosophy, a subject that is often overlooked, but which allows children to think and express themselves differently. I am proud that Philosophy for Children is part of the curriculum. As one of our Primary students thoughtfully put it, “Philosophy provides answers that science can’t.”
The purpose of school aged education is to prepare our learners for the challenges of life and to give them the maximum range of opportunities, so that as their skills and talents develop, they are equipped with the knowledge to reach their potential. If we are to nurture the future artists, designers, writers, linguists, and diplomats, we must think carefully before belittling the importance of any subject.
We must never forget that creativity is important. Funding cuts in education are always targeted at subjects deemed “surplus to requirement.” It may take a great deal of technical ability to make advancements in the world, but these advancements start with a great deal of imagination, creativity, and more importantly a sense of belief that the impossible just might be possible. Knowledge and creativity share a symbiotic relationship. All subjects in school are important, and we must ensure not to discriminate one over another as this leads our children to think this way. Far too often, parents insist that their children take subjects like mathematics or physics even when the children’s skillsets and interests lie elsewhere. There is no set formula; what is best for one person may not be best for the next.
It is therefore important as educators to not suppress our children’s creativity and joy of discovery. Those preparing students for a future in engineering, for example, must remember the element of design. When the cure for cancer is one day found, this will be through a combination of scientific knowledge and creative innovation. In all learning, synthesis is a key skill. The Canadian poet Robert Zend famously said “People have one thing in common; they are all different.” As educators and parents, we have a duty to embrace these differences and enable each and every child to develop their individuality and find their place in the world. What we do matters, and so does every child, especially at Byron College.