“FRENCH and History? Can get a job, meh?” (sic) Yes, aunty, I can get a job.
In fact, I am able to work in a myriad of industries including advertising, journalism, publishing, consultancy and education.
Pursuing a joint-degree in Arts and Humanities is still quite unheard of in Malaysia, unless you have been in international education for most of your life; something that I had the privilege of experiencing.
You could say that I had Fortuna (Roman goddess of fortune and good luck) on my side when I was gifted with parents who are open-minded and attentive to my studies.
The only degrees that are deemed worthy here, are Medicine or Engineering and if you’re not quite good with the sciences, you would be reading Law, Economics or if your parents are liberal enough, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).
More than two years ago, when I was in the midst of my Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) application, I had told my friends – most of whom were applying for Economics and Engineering – that I was applying to study French and History.
You could say that I was the butt of jokes for many months, with many of them asking me if I’d considered my job prospects.
To add salt to the wound, I received many jabs at how these were “easy” and “fluff” subjects. I ignored the jibes as I knew that I was making the right decision.
One year on, the same people who ridiculed me were struggling and hating their ‘socially acceptable’ degrees, while I was having fun doing something I love.
In spite of the difficulties I faced with my modules, the hard work has paid off now that I’m nearing the end of my second year, and I’m able to engage in seminars with those who share my passion.
The course I am taking is not just about French and History – it liberates the mind to explore other fields such as philosophy, cultural studies, politics and economics.
What Malaysians need to understand is that whatever you learn in university will equip you with a set of transferable skills that allow you to work in diverse fields.
Just because I do French and History does not mean that I’m going to become a historian who’s good at French.
We need a reform of our education system so that more Malaysians can experience the freedom of following their heart.
In my early childhood, I was under the national curriculum. I was unable to achieve good grades nor did I enjoy learning. I used to think that I was not smart enough but as I reflect now, I realise that the problem was that I had no avenue to express myself creatively.
It is not only science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that can provide a promising future. Narrow-mindedness has led to the stigma surrounding the Arts and Humanities.
And if we don’t do something now, students will continue to force themselves to study something they may not even enjoy. Arts and Humanities are extremely important because these fields allow us to continuously challenge and improve the world we live in.
Education is the foundation of everything; it encourages innovation, discourse, growth, awareness and development. Arts and Humanities teach us to distinguish between what is right and wrong, as well as to identify the grey areas in between.
Students must have the skills – which go beyond maths and science – to bring awareness to important issues like misogyny, sexual harassment and racism in order to make schools a safer environment.
King’s College London, UK