Why Studying Humanities Is Important


Humanities. We’ve all heard the word and more or less know what academic subjects fall under this umbrella term, but do we truly know what humanities means? Or, more specifically, why studying humanities is important.  


Broadly speaking, humanities is the study of human values and cultures, languages, literature and the arts. Delving deeper into this, studying humanities can mean a whole breadth of exciting subjects: 

  • History  
  • Philosophy  
  • Ethics 
  • Languages 
  • Literature 
  • Arts  
  • Religious Studies  

As someone with a degree in History, I’m no stranger to the common misconceptions that people have about studying humanities. The endless questions regarding your degree choice, mostly coming  from  my own self-doubt, rather than those around me. “In a world obsessed with technology, why not study  IT? Wouldn’t law be a safer option? All my peers are studying vocational degrees. Should I not study medicine,  nursing or engineering?” But  in  reality,  none  of  those  subjects  interested  me  and  none  offered me the diverse skills that I was seeking.   


After  a  while,  I  stood  proud  with  my  decision  to  continue  on  a  humanities  path  and  enjoyed  challenging  others  whenever  they  questioned  the  ‘usefulness’  of  a  humanities  education.  This  is  something  which  I  particularly  had  to argue about when  I  first  came  to  Singapore.  Coming  from  the  UK,  there’s a pretty even split between those who pursue an education in humanities, versus those who go down the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) route. However, when I first came to Singapore to study at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) as part of an exchange  programme,  I was  faced with a  very different picture.  


Sitting in my History seminars, almost a quarter of the room was filled with other exchange students. Whenever I met my friends for lunch, I would watch  the  crowds  of  students go by, boasting their engineering or business t-shirts. I felt like the odd one out. It quickly became clear to me that a History degree didn’t have the same respect in Singapore as it did in the UK. I won’t delve too deeply into where I think this stems from, but I think an important takeaway I took from my time studying at NTU, is that more people need to understand what it means to study humanities.  


So, what are the benefits of an education in the humanities?  


1.  Humanities teaches us to think critically and logically with complex information. 

2. Students build skills in writing and critical reading.  

3. We’re encouraged to think creatively and ask questions about the world and people around us.  

4. It helps us understand other histories, cultures and languages.  

5. Humanities embraces social justice and equality.  

6. Students are encouraged to have a moral, spiritual and intellectual understanding of the world. 

7. We’re forced to broaden our perspective and look beyond the obvious.  

8. Most importantly, humanities empowers students to embrace their individuality, explore the unknown and ultimately create a less mundane world.  


The final benefit of studying humanities is the most significant. Imagine a world where we were only  interested, and  educated, in science, technology, engineering and  maths.  Where are the creatives? Where are the artists, chefs, musicians? There would be no room for big thinkers and imaginative writers. How would we explore and learn from our past? Quite frankly, we need humanities to create a vibrant world, empathetic thinkers and individuality.  


So, how do we inspire children to embrace the joy and intrigue of humanities? No matter how old your  child is, encourage  them  to ask  questions. Asking questions is at  the  core  of  humanities. In order to broaden our understanding of the world and others around us, we all need to be asking questions. No  matter  our  age.  Then, allow  them to form their own opinions. Again, whether your child is four or fourteen, everyone should have the space to grow and explore their individuality, and a lot of this  comes from having our own opinions. 


Asking questions and forming opinions allows us to think big and understand the world  around us. Through this, humanities gives children the space to embrace individuality,  think critically and creatively, and learn empathy. No one can argue that these are not  important skills to hold. So, encourage your child to embrace the beauty of humanities  and challenge those common misconceptions. 

Abi Smith

Abi is an experienced English teacher from the UK, specialising in lower and upper Primary. She holds a history degree from the University of Leeds and has over 5 years of teaching experience. Abi formerly worked at I Can Read for 2 years before joining the Boutique Education team. She has an adaptable and engaging teaching style with a kind and approachable personality.

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