Can You Switch Streams From Arts to Science (and Vice Versa)?
Ever wondered which stream is better? You may have heard and thought that Science stream is better than the Arts. But is there any grain of truth behind this? And is it possible for you to change streams? Let's find out.
Updated 29 Jul 2019
The idea that Science students are smarter and will do better in life compared to their Arts stream counterparts has been bludgeoned into our minds since our early childhood. Consequently, switching streams, especially from Science to Arts, has been viewed as almost a taboo of sorts.
But are Science students really the better half? And what is so forbidden about changing streams?
We explore why being an Arts student isn’t so bad and identify when crossing streams is perfectly fine, when it’s highly discouraged and when it’s almost certainly impossible.
#1. Equality for the win
First of all, let’s get things straight. Neither is better than the other. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard this. Even so, it was perhaps tuned out. As teens, we may have thought that being in the Science stream was the cooler and more preferred option. And thanks to society, there is a misconception that Science stream students automatically have better, brighter futures.
Like many man-made stigmas, however, there is not much truth in this. The Science stream is not necessarily better than Arts. Both are equally challenging and provide excellent career opportunities.
According to the Ministry of Higher Education’s Graduate Tracer Study 2014, the rate of employment for Social Science & Arts graduates is in fact similar to Science and Technical graduates at roughly 75%. This figure shows both streams have an equal footing in order to maintain a balance in society.
#2. Why the hate?
Society’s perception (Malaysia’s, in particular) is based on the way Malaysian schools divide students in Form 4, with straight-A students typically handpicked to enrol in Science classes. Those who didn’t perform as well were mostly chucked into the Arts. There’s even a call by the government for students to pursue the Sciences until SPM.
This contributes to the very positive image of the Science stream. Unfortunately, it also reinforces the status quo and causes Arts students to believe they are lesser, especially in terms of learning and intelligence. Science schools such as MARA Junior Science Colleges (MRSM) have become the elites and the enviable choice.
With this perception set in place, Arts students are demoralised. Teachers in turn would enter classes with similar demotivation causing an unending vicious cycle.
#3. The world is your oyster
Just because it is practised this way doesn’t necessarily mean that one stream of students is necessarily more intelligent than the other.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This well-known quote, which may or may not have been said by Einstein, efficiently conveys that there’s more than one measure of intelligence.
Howard Earl Gardner proposes a theory of multiple intelligences that helps shed light on this issue. The theory increases awareness on different aspects of life that are also signs of intelligence such as linguistic, interpersonal and musical talents. For the wary, let’s not forget Shakespeare was a literary genius and his background was definitely not of the Sciences.
At the end of the day, art and science are united by one logic and one impulse—both are attempts to understand what it is to be human and the world around us.
– Keith Tyson
#4. Considering to cross?
Now that we’ve cleared the air, the million dollar question remains: Can you change streams?
First, you'll need to decide what degree you're intending to pursue. Most universities have minimum grade requirements and required subjects for their courses. If you do not have the subjects or the necessary results in your academic transcript, you will almost certainly be rejected for the course.
For most Science degrees, passes or credits in Science subjects, such as Chemistry, Biology or Physics, are usually inevitable. For degrees in the Arts stream like Mass Communication and Business, there are only grade requirements and rarely any subject prerequisites.
So if you are a Science student, your options are much wider. Provided you fulfil the requirements, both Science and Arts courses are open for you. As such, switching from Science to Arts is certainly possible and is a common occurrence amongst Science students.
#5. Take a leap of faith
Are there any exceptions then for Arts students? What are some of the platforms that that enable you to orientate yourself into a whole new world?
It really depends on the course you’re targeting.
However, it is possible for Arts students to take on certain Science courses such as Engineering, Medical Laboratory Sciences and Nursing.
In order to do so, you can opt to take a Science-related diploma before pursuing your intended Science degree. There are a number of institutions, both public and private, which offer Science diplomas that Arts students can qualify for. Alternatively, you can retake your SPM with the required Science subjects.
Be warned though as the road is definitely and absolutely longer and harsher. It is only advisable if you are determined and passionate about your call to Science. If you are not 100% sure, perhaps it is better to opt for an Arts and Humanities course. From Law and Business to Mass Communication and Design, options are aplenty for Arts students.
What you really want is an essential factor in deciding what course you should take. Remember, whichever route you decide to take, be proud of it, for you have a bright future ahead of you.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken