WHILE I can understand Dr Anne Chong Su Yan's desire to equip students with skills necessary for the future economy, I disagree that what she describes as "frills" are necessarily unworthy of instruction ("Stick to 'no-frills' university education"; Aug 28).
First, she claims that junior college (JC) students will already know their desired career paths as a result of their broad-based pre-university education.
This is often not the case, as subjects taught in JCs do not always correspond to courses taught in the universities, which means the JC experience does not translate into a person knowing what he ought to specialise in for the future.
We should not deny those who need more time to realise their ambitions the option of doing so, but should allow them to use their university education to find their own ways of contributing to society.
Second, the premise of Dr Chong's argument against interdisciplinary education is that the job market is static and that skills can be applied only in particular fields.
Nothing could be further from the truth - the job market is more dynamic than ever before. Jobs are ever-changing and new fields calling for different competencies are becoming more common.
Such adaptability and versatility are better encouraged by interdisciplinary learning than mono-disciplinary learning.
Finally, Dr Chong also argues that "esoteric" courses serve primarily as "self-edification" and are not worth taxpayers' dollars. I assume she is referring to subjects such as literature and philosophy.
These subjects allow students to pick up important skills. For instance, philosophy helps to develop critical thinking and argumentative skills, which are likely to be useful in a knowledge-based economy.
It also has less tangible but equally important benefits: The fact that philosophical discourse can never reach a final conclusion helps students to understand that there is more than one way of seeing the world, thereby helping them become more accepting of opposing viewpoints.
This is becoming increasingly important to Singaporeans at a time when civil society is evolving and alternative views are becoming more prominent.
While this knowledge can also be gained from books, this would mean denying interested students the opportunity of pursuing their learning further, preventing them from crafting a career in these areas.
Education involves more than utilitarianism and practicality. It is also about giving students the opportunity to craft their future and be ready for the ever-changing world.