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In China, choosing to study sciences or arts is a crucial decision for every high school student in the second year. The sciences and arts branch means students learn either the sciences-related subjects or arts-related subjects in the rest of two years. This education system comes from the soviet-style of the 1950s and has been followed constantly until now; however, during the process, the defects of this education system have been gradually exposed (Cao, Chen, & Wang, 2008). In fact, cancelling the dividing of sciences and arts education was proposed several years ago, which once aroused a fierce controversy. At the 11th session of the National People's Congress this year, education reform is one of the most popular subjects of discussion. The government announces the proposal on cancelling the separation of sciences and arts education in high school and solicits the opinions on its feasibility from the general public. This controversial issue draws people's attention once again.
Actually, as a traditional method, the sciences and arts branch increasingly cannot meet the demand of the age for the talented persons. Canceling the separation of the sciences and arts education is more accord with the character of high school education, the trend of the times and the essence of education.
Firstly, receiving both sciences and arts education in high school will help students build a complete system of knowledge structure and lay the solid foundation of the higher education. According to Zhu (2009), "The senior secondary education, as the final step of the basic education stage, is supposed to provide the non-oriented, non-professional and elementary education for the great majority" (p. 203). These characters lead the curriculum structure of the high school education to the diversity and the comprehensiveness. Furthermore, Long (2009) suggested "there is no clear boundary between sciences and arts subjects considering that both of them play an important role in broadening the knowledge and building the general knowledge foundation before students make the specialized division in university" (p. 149). However, nowadays, students have to choose between the sciences and arts in the second year, even the first year in some senior middle schools. The result of prematurely separating the steam is that the sciences students don't receive the arts education any more and lack the humanities spirit. On the other hand, the arts students have little knowledge of scientific principles and poor ability of logical thinking. In view of their incomplete knowledge structure, some famous universities, like Fudan University and Zhejiang University, require all the first-year students to take the integrated curriculums and choose the major when they are sophomores. Therefore, separating the sciences and arts education is too early in high school, and it damages the form of a complete knowledge system and is bad for students to set the stage for the further education.
In addition, the abolition of dividing sciences and arts education contributes to the comprehensive development of individuals and trains the ability to think creatively adapting to the changing time. In the current context of social development, an increasing number of new industries have integrated with new technology and culture, and the comprehensive talents who have the creative thinking with both scientific and humanistic knowledge base are in the short supply. Actually, this talent gap is related with the current education model. The separation of sciences and arts education and the examination-oriented education have been implemented in high school for several decades. It is common that students merely focus on certain subjects, and receive the knowledge passively and learn whatever the teachers teach, which restrains students from cultivating the creative thinking and practical ability (Wang, 2010). Students are supposed to receive the all-round education and use the comprehensive knowledge to solve different problems and develop the creativity in the new field so as to achieve the quality education. It accords with the trend of the times and contributes to the comprehensive development of individuals and developing students into the creative people.
Lastly, canceling the separation of sciences and arts education in senior middle school is beneficial to motivate the individual potential and achieve the essence of education. According to Howard Gardner's (1983) theory of multiple intelligences, people have eight basic types of intelligence. It stresses that every child is possible to be a talent and every person can find their own strength (as cited in Tao, 2004, p.3). This theory has been widely applied to the education and demonstrates that the purpose of education, essentially, is to discover and develop the individual potential in the people-oriented education principle. Thus, many educational experts involving Vice Minister of Education Zhang Xinsheng suggest to cancel the sciences and arts branch and point out the students' potential will be restrained to a large extent if separating the sciences and arts education too early. And Tao's (2004) study also found the following:
Generally speaking, the senior students don't fully understand the characters of different subjects; therefore they cannot sensibly decide the specialized subject and many students regret their choices when they enter the university. The complete sciences and arts education in high school helps students find their interest and strength clearly and know themselves better. (p. 3)
Once students have an interest in certain subject, it is easy to fully develop the potential and have the long-term development.
Owing to these great significances and the current education system flaws, nowadays, an increasing number of people have realized the importance of education reform and advocated cancelling the division of sciences and arts education in high school. However, according to the data from the Education Ministry, 46 percent of the people surveyed do not support this opinion. The main reason for their opposing positions is the inability of students to spend their energy on the subjects of both sciences and arts. According to Wang (2010), most students worry that cancelling the division of sciences and arts education results in more exercises of various subjects, which would possibly increase their burden and pressure. And some teachers hold that the senior students are unable to concentrate on all the subjects. Therefore, to some degree, the abolition of separating the streams in high school might impact the quality of education.
Actually, Chinese students are famous for their heavy burden around the world even if under the current education system. They have to spend a lot of time doing the numerous exercises everyday and cannot arouse the learning interest. Obviously, the heavy burden of students has existed for long time and doesn't result from canceling the separation of sciences and arts education, whereas, it reveals the defects of the current education system and demonstrates the necessity of education reform to alleviate students' pressures. Additionally, those people misunderstood the meaning of the abolition of separating the stream and held that it might impact education quality because students are forced to focus on every subject. In fact, Chen (2009) stated "cancelling the division of sciences and arts education means the comprehensive development instead of the characterless development" (p. 85). Students don't need to do lots of exercises of every subject, but they are supposed to know the general knowledge of each subject and then discover their interests. Instead of reducing the quality of education, canceling the sciences and arts branch will lead to a series of education reforms so as to improve the quality of education.
Therefore, abolishing the separation of sciences and arts education is a long and complicated process. The implement needs to joint with other education reforms such as the reform of college entrance examination and the teaching method. During this process, the whole society will be confronted with some obstacles and continue to debate its advantages and disadvantages. However, it is certain that cancelling the division of sciences and arts will be the future trend of the development of the education model. The Ministry of Education has showed the positive attitude to take these educational reforms because of the obvious problems of the current education system. In conclusion, although it takes time for people to come up with the feasible programs to overcome the obstacles and gradually adapt to these reforms, yet cancelling the separation of sciences and arts education in high school makes reformation and innovation contributing to the improvement of the quality of education and the development of the individual and the whole nation.