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Questioning the purpose of SOTA


Have we all got it wrong about SOTA's education?

Let's face it; in an academic and paper qualifications-driven society, the arts in Singapore have been placed in the peripherals for a long time. 

But the dynamic sector has never ceased its fight for recognition and support. Perhaps one of the most valorous attempts to increase the vibrancy of this budding scene, was setting up the School of the Arts (SOTA) in 2008. 

However, Singapore's first pre-tertiary arts school appears to have trouble delivering and it's becoming evident to many that there are critical issues to resolve.

The question thus remains – is SOTA an experiment that is failing or is its mission still on track? 

What's going on?

Recent news about SOTA producing an increasing number of graduates pursuing non-arts related fields had many questioning the system and even purpose of the school. 

Of potential and passion

Many believed that SOTA is an institution for students to develop their potential and become professionally trained in the arts.

Wee Shi Yi Crystle, a pioneer batch SOTA graduate, responds to these netizens' comments by explaining that the purpose of SOTA was more than just producing artistes; it included an education into a greater appreciation of the arts. 

The 23-year-old, who went on to study Environmental Studies (Biology) in NUS further said: "If we can’t have an artistically aware population and artistes only stayed within their own realms and circles, it will be like being in an echo chamber."

Of pragmatism and profession

Then even before the chatter from the first news ceased, another report surfaced days later. Students expressed their dissatisfaction towards the school's management through an arts installation, shedding light on the double-digit turn-over rate of teachers.


One of the reasons appeared to be the shift of curriculum focus. According to an anonymous letter submitted to The Online Citizen, the student said: "This particular artwork was particularly aggravating because teachers leaving the school due to their dissatisfaction with the new management is a recent-ish phenomenon in our school."

"Over the years, it did feel like the school was placing more emphasis on academics instead of the arts," said Crystle, underscoring the impracticality of pursuing the arts full-time locally. 

Fellow SOTA graduate, Danielle Lynn Goh, echoed Crystle's thoughts. The 23-year-old former student, who discontinued her pursuit for classical music professionally upon graduation said: "Music will always be something that I'm passionate about, but it's not something I envision myself doing as a full-time career. I really enjoyed literature, history and creative writing in SOTA, so I entered NUS to further my education in the humanities."

Not pursuing what they entered SOTA for, both Crystle and Danielle reveal pragmatism in their choice of tertiary studies. 

But passion for the arts live on in them. Danielle is set on busking later this year and Crystle still enjoys and frequently watches theatre productions. 

"Basically, there should not be a restrictive definition for what you can get out of an arts education," Danielle sums up. 

What's your take?

1. Is a school like SOTA necessary in Singapore? Why or why not?

Tell us what you think by leaving a comment on our article or social media platforms! Submit the best response by June 8 and win a $10 Coffee Bean voucher!

Tags: News Opinions