There is a distinct split between the science and arts streams in junior college. Arts stream students study mostly humanities subjects such as history and geography, while science stream students take up subjects like biology and physics.
The Education Ministry has tried to bridge the divide by allowing students in one stream to study subjects in the other stream. I applaud such an effort, yet more has to be done to keep the A levels relevant.
Requiring students to choose a stream when they are only 16 or 17 poses difficulties for teenagers who have yet to discover their passions in life.
Many who are unsure stick to the conventional choice of the science stream because science courses in local universities require candidates to offer certain corresponding subjects at the A levels, whereas arts courses have no such requirements.
Some may argue that streaming allows for specialised education that would eventually train professionals who are able to contribute to the economy.
But is this the true goal of education? This might have been the aim some 40 or 50 years ago, but it may not be the case now.
Others argue that streaming allows for concentration of resources so that talent can be better groomed. They cite key programmes like the Science Research Programme and the Humanities Scholarship to back up their arguments.
But have we considered if this is the best way to groom talent? Most of these programmes tend to exclude students from the other stream, and we might lose out on talent who might contribute to our development. For example, the creativity of humanities students could be an asset to the research and development sector.
How then can we improve the current system?
Abolishing streaming would allow more students to fulfil their potential. Students would be able to decide for themselves what subjects they want to pursue, without fear of possible repercussions.
Accompanying programmes such as the Humanities Scholarship can be altered to suit the needs of students who are passionate about the humanities. This will also apply to students interested in the sciences.
Letter from Wang Zhilin, 17, junior college student
This article was first published on May 28, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.