Many students underestimate the value “minor subjects” in the curriculum. I, for one, am also partly guilty of it when I was still a student.
There are dozens of subjects in every course and it is normal to wonder if some of them will ever be useful.
When I was a student some years ago, I didn’t saw the importance of learning subjects like economics, thermodynamics, strength of materials, and others in the field of electronics engineering. I did not understand its relevance in the real world.
However, I soon came to understand its importance after graduating and passing the board exam to enter the complex world of the workforce. Many of these minor subjects developed valuable skills like critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and teamwork, not by direct application but through the transfer of learning.
I often mention this to my students, that passing the board exam is important, but they should think of it as a minimum requirement.
For instance, when applying for an engineering position in a company, it is expected that everyone applying is a licensed engineer. So basically, the license you own, together with the other applicants’ licenses gets canceled out and is no longer a factor (unless you are a topnotcher).
What remains are your hard skills, which are your technical know-how; and soft skills, particularly written and verbal communication skills.
I cannot generalize what I want to share. What I have written are mostly personal experiences and observations of other professionals.
Here are five important lessons anyone can learn from their “minor” subjects:
1. Improve Your Communication Skills
For engineering graduates and students, a common stereotype is our poor English communication skills – whether written or verbal.
After passing the board exam, I thought job offers will be lining up for me – I was never more wrong.
It took dozens of resumes and cover letters, hours of walk-in applications, and multiple levels of interview, that I realize the importance of written and verbal communication skills, in our ever-connected global economy.
I had to practice answering common interview questions and tailor-fit my resumes (even though I still have no working experience except my OJT) for the companies I applied for.
The reporting, recitations, and declamations in English subjects unknowingly built my confidence when speaking, which helped me land a job in a multinational company.
Communication skills also played a role as I speak with my foreign counterparts; which became easier as I gained familiarity with the company processes.
I also realized that they are not particular to my grammar. What’s important is to be able to construct sentences with clarity and say them aloud.
2. Maintain Fitness Because It’s All Downhill After Graduation
Who would forget the four tranches of Physical Education subjects? It is important to learn the value of keeping the body healthy and fit since it plays a large part in our overall well being.
Playing sports also builds camaraderie and teamwork among classmates which is helpful in the workplace.
3. Collaboration is the Key
Group works and projects are common course requirements in many subjects, both major and minor. They also come in different shapes and sizes. From paper works to experiments and lab works, to video-presentations and role-playing, to movie making and other projects. These activities can be both fun and stressful – just like the workplace.
So, it is important to learn the skills of collaboration and teamwork early on. Because once you are on the job, your workmates will come from all kinds of backgrounds, and different cultures and even languages. Dealing with difficult people can also be simulated in those group activities.
Aside from collaboration, one must also learn the delicate act of confrontation. And learning how to talk with others to settle misunderstandings, is a particularly important life skill applicable anywhere.
4. Learning About the Rule of Law is Beneficial
“The ignorance of the law excuses no one,” says my political science teacher in my second year. That subject quickly became one of my favorites, because of its practicality and applicability in our society.
But since it was only an introductory course and the 2010 presidential election was approaching, we discussed mostly the 1987 Constitution and election politics.
Learning about the fundamental law of the land is also proven crucial during these times because it is a hot and sensitive conversation topic.
It is also beneficial to learn the most common civil laws governing our everyday life.
5. You Can See Economics Everywhere
There is no such thing as a free lunch and The Law of Supply and Demand are two economic principles I learned from one of my social science subjects.
The first indicates that although you receive something for free does not mean no one paid for it. Therefore, it is impossible to get something out of nothing. (I often think about the gift of salvation paid for by Jesus Christ).
The second is also an important principle. Think about how the prices of alcohol and face masks skyrocketed during the beginning of the pandemic up to now. The supply and the demand dictate the movement of price from our markets.
Also, if only budgeting, personal finance, and investing were taught earlier in senior high school and college, more Filipinos will be more financially literate.
Bonus: Learn to Ask Questions
“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.” -Confucius
A lot of misunderstandings could be avoided if only questions were asked. It may be in our culture that people, especially students, are afraid to raise their hands.
My teachers used to say that there are only two reasons why no one is asking questions, it is either everybody understood the lesson, or nobody did.
As a teacher, I encourage my students to ask questions. Because I know the confidence they’ll gain through practice, will be useful in the future.
Students must understand early on that not everything taught in school will be useful. However, it is also important for them to know how to translate classroom ideas into practical applications.
With all the information bombarding students every day, it is almost impossible to filter out the junk from the valuable.
So, whether we teach a major or a minor subject, it is important to prepare our students. Because it may one day be useful in their professional lives.