It is heartening that more secondary schools are expanding their literature repertoire so that both foreign and local texts are being popularised (Literature a subject with real-world relevance: NIE study, Oct 20).
It was not uncommon for parents and teachers alike to be of the view that, unlike mathematics and science, literature was a subject that students could not score top marks in.
It was also perceived that the subject had little practical relevance in the real world as it did not translate into monetary gains. Students were also not attracted to the prescribed texts as they were less diverse.
The importance of studying literature, described as the “language of the soul”, cannot be overemphasised as it is acknowledged to be a mirror and reflection of society.
Over the centuries, it has had a major impact in the development of society by shaping civilisations, changing political systems, thinking patterns, cultures and social norms.
Literature also gives us a perspective on human experiences from the real world and allows us to question some of our predominant beliefs and examine our lives, giving them deeper meaning. They also encourage imagination and creativity, thereby enriching our lives.
Subtract literature from society and the result will be ignorance, illiteracy and stereotyping of other humans and cultures. Government leaders exhort us to be more creative and innovative, but unless they are more proactive in fostering the learning of literature in schools, we cannot look forward to being a society with a “soul”. As celebrated British scholar and novelist C. S. Lewis said, “it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become”.
With Singapore being admired for its technological progress, there is now a greater need to strike a balance and establish it as a cultural oasis.
Greater participation in the literary scene will also give Singapore more clout and enable our literary and arts scene to be more active, locally and overseas, on top of giving it greater cultural diversity and identity.
V. Subramaniam (Dr)