Members decide: a question of educational priorities
1 February 2013
Arts subjects would have been the major casualty of government plans to replace GCSEs with the English baccalaureate. Would that have been good for medicine and society as a whole? Read selected views from our latest survey
Are sciences more important than arts subjects at GCSE level?
Don’t know: ‘For medicine, it doesn’t really matter what subjects have been studied at school. All that needs to be demonstrated is that you can successfully apply yourself to academic work.’
King’s College London final year Alexander Beadel
Yes: ‘The arts are used by most as a form of relaxation, and are less important to assess at a “low” level than sciences.’
Manchester second year Jonathan Chernick
No: ‘Channelling funds to only some subject areas highlights the lack of respect the government has towards certain professions and towards students, who exhibit appreciable artistic talents.’
St George’s University of London second year Saraniga Gugathas
No: ‘Drama is amazing. Being a doctor involves a lot of acting — all those times when a doctor wants to cry but holds back, [or when] they have a terrible day but have to put a face on.’
Manchester final year Zahira Karim
Yes: ‘More resources need to be put into teaching the sciences than the arts because we have a chronic lack of graduates in fields such as engineering and computer science. Medical students would benefit from having the broad range of skills offered by studying an arts subject as [a complement] to their scientific qualifications, but science will always be the backbone of medicine.’
Sheffield fourth year William Sapwell
Yes: ‘The merits of the sciences over the arts is a more contentious issue. I assert that the former equip one to succeed in the modern world, while the arts should draw people to them rather than be formally taught.
‘A system that permits students to focus on their favourite subjects but permits those with wide-ranging interests to pursue them all is the ideal.’
King’s College London fourth year Ben Williamson
No: ‘My knowledge in literature and philosophy, as well as my interests in music, teach me to see the importance of being a doctor in society. They cultivated my empathy, and taught me to see the importance of being caring as a doctor.
‘My fundamental reason for wanting to become a doctor is because arts subjects have motivated me to see that studying medicine is not just about learning the sciences; you need a genuine interest in the subject.’
Sheffield first year King Yeung
Yes: ‘Core subjects such as maths, English and science are of greater importance than arts subjects. It is engineering, teaching, health services, banking and research upon which a strong economy sits, not art and music.’
Manchester fourth year Mustafa Yusuf
Will the E-bacc mean medical students have a less rounded secondary school education?
Yes: ‘I think students who also do humanities at GCSE level are more rounded people. Children as young as 14 should not be prohibited from doing arts subjects, because it is too early for them to decide whether they are interested in those subjects.'
Brighton and Sussex fourth year Felice Cartz
Yes: ‘Many students at my medical school are very arty, and this is (rightly) encouraged. As Vladimir Nabokov said: “There can be no science without fancy, and no art without facts.” In education, the rounder the better.’
Brighton and Sussex final year Miles Gandolfi
Yes: ‘It is important that medical students have interests outside medicine to ensure a diverse community.’
Norwich second year Dominique Lentchou
Yes: ‘If the government wants to make GCSEs harder, they should do just that without narrowing people’s choices. Not everyone enjoys science and maths, and I don’t think they should be disadvantaged because of this.’
Peninsula first year Linda Loterh
Yes: ‘Creativity is one of the most treasured attributes any career or university course looks for. I loved the sciences in school, but studying mechanisms of action and vascular systems in plants did not give me the ability to think in a way employers or universities desire. Coursework in art and music played a large part in my development as a person.’
University College London second year Luke McEvoy
Yes: ‘The emphasis should be on a well-rounded education. Science and the arts are both important and provide essential skills for life.’
Nottingham final year Chloe Pettit
No: ‘There are students in my course who have not done biology, maths or physics A-level, and it has made little difference.’
Newcastle fourth year Katherine Rostami
No: ‘More value should be given to subjects that are of an intrinsically academic nature.’
Oxford third year Zain Syed
Would you prefer a broader-based system, allowing you to study more subjects for longer?
Yes: ‘I studied history at A-level, and I have found the skills I learned in analysing historical texts extremely useful in analysing medical papers.’
Peninsula final year Holly Baker
Yes: ‘The E-bacc may broaden sixth form students’ palettes, but doesn’t go far enough. I did the International Baccalaureate, and studying six subjects — including humanities — gave me a broad, well-rounded base on which to start medicine.’
Imperial College London fifth year Rhys Davies
Yes: ‘Most medical students study only sciences, but many [arts subjects] enable the development of very important skills. One is the ability to write in a logical and coherent way, as well as proficiency at presenting. In addition … limiting subjects at such an early stage closes doors.’
Sheffield fourth year Anna Watkinson-Powell