In the modern education system, where maths and English education have an increasingly larger precedence, the relevancy of other subjects are being thrust into the spotlight. Maths and English alone cannot form a broad and balanced curriculum, so where does that leave the humanities?
What Are the Humanities?
Humanities is a term used to describe a vast number of academic disciplines, that range from politics to philosophy. However, in most primary and secondary schools in England, humanities covers history, geography, and often religious education.
Each of the humanities subjects focuses on a different area of human culture and human expression. Geography teaches students about the earth’s physical character and the different cultures around the world; religious education teaches students about faiths, values, and cultures; and history teaches students about how the world has changed and the impact of change.
In the current National Curriculum, students study humanities in key stage 1 through to key stage 3, with schools required to provide options for humanities study (geography and history) in key stage 4. Schools also provide optional religious education in all key stage levels. In the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), history or geography form one of the core subjects.
The Relevancy of Humanities in Today’s World
As a group of subjects, humanities has a lot of relevancy to today’s world; perhaps even more so than ever before with technology making international connection easier. The importance of humanities is considerable and very varied; they teach empathy, equality, and perspective.
Through the humanities, students learn how to weigh evidence and make informed decisions based on the world around them. The humanities foster creavity and help students to consider how a question can have multiple answers.
In today’s world, where technology is all around us, the humanities take on a new relevancy. Knowledge and understanding of humanities is critical for designing new technology that’s capable of providing human-centric solutions. It also helps people to ask the questions needed to progress, based on the current climate of the world and historic choices and their results.
Humanities vs Other Subjects: Are the Humanities Secure?
According to a recent YouGov poll, English and maths are still seen as the top-priority subjects in terms of importance, along with science and computing. However, history and geography also rank fairly highly on the chart, coming 6th and 7th respectively, out of 18.
Public opinion is in support of some humanities subjects, and recent education models, like the EBacc where students take either geography or history at GCSE, support the opinion. Between 2016 and 2017, non-EBacc subjects declined, whilst history and geography remained fairly steady.
All subjects bring something different to the table in a broad and balanced curriculum, so weighing the importance of each subject over others can be very difficult. Evidence points towards the humanities being more relevant and popular in today’s schools over some other subjects, but still far behind maths and English.