Students told: Stick with arts

By Lynley Bilby

Teacher warns that a focus on maths and science is sapping talent from humanities.

Music teacher Andrew Stopps. Photo / Supplied
Music teacher Andrew Stopps. Photo / Supplied

Heads of the country's medical schools are lending support to a high school music teacher who has sounded an alarm over talented students ditching arts to pursue science studies.

Scots College director of music Andrew Stopps has backing from some of the country's top medical and legal minds for secondary students to keep taking humanities subjects at school.

The number of senior students taking subjects such as drama, music and art continues to decline as students chase fiercely competitive careers in medicine, engineering and law, and favour science and maths-laden studies.

Frustrated Wellington music teacher Stopps hoped a direct approach to key university scholars might help stem the tide.

He said music was always put up against a second science subject and he had a hard time convincing parents that music wouldn't harm their kids' chances at university.

To his delight, Stopps has drummed up support from six deans of Auckland and Otago University medical schools and Otago University Law School.

The endorsements have become a talking point among teachers in school music departments throughout the country.

Auckland University Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences Dean Professor John Fraser said some of the most successful and skilled doctors he knew had continued their musical interests.

They all spoke passionately about how arts helped with the constant pressures of practising medicine.

"To be able to tell your interviewers when applying for medical entry that you are a skilled musician does no harm at all.

"It tells us that you have other interests, you are focused and dedicated - lots and lots of practice - and you have a creative side.

"It doesn't guarantee you a place but is the sort of thing we look for in well-rounded medical students," said Fraser.

Dunedin School of Medicine Dean Dr John Adams said music might not have any direct advantage on students but interests and abilities outside the sciences and medicine contributed significantly to balance in a person's life.

"Caring for patients involves humanity and creativity as well as science. It would be a pity for someone with talent in a musical area to lose this in pursuit of admission to medical school. It should be treasured," said Adams.

He said all-round abilities outside medicine - such as sport, music or community leadership - added to someone's CV when scholarships and awards were being considered.

Both Auckland and Dunedin medical schools have established doctors' orchestras and music groups.

- Herald on Sunday

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