Schools use some standard curriculum guidelines provided by government
agencies especially the ministry of education to design subjects that
scholars must undertake in various courses. Although there are some
elective subjects in colleges and universities, most of the subjects are
specifically designed and offered on compulsory basis for every course.
In most cases, the content of subjects is selected and specified by
professionals in a given field with the primary objective of enhancing
knowledge, capabilities, and expertise that is needed to enable the
students face challenges prevailing in the modern society. Research has
shown that the amount of time that students dedicate for studies have
been reducing with time as students lack the purpose of the courses
offered (Meacham 1). The findings reported in the article indicated that
the amount of time devoted to school work and studies reduced from 40
hours per week in 1961 to 27 hours by 2003, which was followed by 36 %
of students who never gained any cognitive learning from the subjects
offered in their respective colleges. Therefore, subjects should be
optional for the students because it is freedom, they should be allowed
to choose where they see themselves and students should have some input
on what they are interested in.
Students apply more efforts in subjects of their choice than compulsory
Decision making is an important component of the learning process and
gives an opportunity to students to select subjects they perceive are
important for their future career. Similar to other forms of decision
made in life, decision for subject selection may be impulsive,
deliberative, or subconsciously based on the tradeoff between risks and
return (Zocco 2). Some of the basic factors that students consider in
subject selection include grade potential, probability of enjoying the
class experience, expected performance in the learning environment, and
assistance anticipated during the learning process to help the students
achieve their career goals. Zocco (2) suggested that subject selection,
similar to other decision, is subjected to elements of expected return
and risks associated with each alternative. In addition, for each of the
alternative selected, the students are more willing to live with the
consequences of their own choices compared to compulsory subjects
provided by the standard curriculum.
Based on risk theory, Zocco (2) identified that the two variables
(perceived risk and expected return) that governs the course selection
among students motivates them to work hard to maximize returns and
minimize the risk of failing in the courses they have selected on their
own. However, most students select subjects expecting a positive outcome
(such as high grades) high grades and end-up realizing that there some
risks success in the selected options is uncertain. The initial
determination of the student to succeed helps them in handling the
challenges associated with difficulty of selected subjects by applying
the concept of self blame for the consequences of a conscious decision.
This means that students are more willing to dedicate more time and
resources in pursuance of their goals when selecting the subjects.
Similarly, the regret theory suggests that a decision maker works to
reduce the disutility associated with post-decision perception of a
wrong decision that may have been made with the primary objective of
maximizing utility (Zeelenberg 15). This means that students who may
make the wrong selection are likely to succeed because they will apply
more input to maximize utility of their choices.
Students need freedom to select subjects of their own interest
The freedom to select subjects that each student has an interest in may
result in high scores. This freedom can be ensured by overcoming factors
that have created restrictions in both many schools including colleges
and universities. First, schools need to reduce the effect of ethos and
focus on students’ freedom to select subjects of their interest.
According to Atweh (10) many schools provide a range of subjects to a
diversified population of students, which are differentiated by
emphasizing on their academic focus. This reduces selection base, thus
limiting the students’ freedom. Secondly, there is a need to result
the challenges associated with Op rating that require students to select
a minimum of certain subjects and undertake them within a given number
of semesters. This puts pressure on students for their future progress
in academic ladder is dictated by OP requirements and not their
The act of giving students the freedom to select subjects of their
interest improves their performance and willingness to participate in
the learning process. Research has shown that allowing students the
freedom to choose what, when, and how motivated them and gives them the
morale they need to engage achieve in their studies (Radenski 1). This
means that students should be given more power in deciding on their
study program, thus giving them an opportunity to skip subjects that
they feel are beyond their abilities and bears limited relevance to
their future career goals. For example the Sri Lanka education system
improves students’ performance by giving them the freedom to select
subjects based interest, thus reducing the probability of students
spending much time on subjects they do not need. However, 51 % of the
students prefer assisted freedom, implying that they need to be guided
in their subject selection process (Radenski 1).
Students should be allowed to match their subject selection and future
Students’ knowledge about career opportunities and vocational paths
increase as they advance their academic levels. To this end it becomes
more appropriate to allow students to select subjects that influence
their aspirations and future career opportunities. However, career
theorists’ advocate for the freedom of subject selection at academic
senior levels since students can evaluate their competencies and assess
the employment opportunities available in different industries.
According to Whiteley (1-3) subject selection at year 10 allows the
senior school students to take options that will either form the basis
of the next academic level or have significant impact on their future
career. The senior school students have the capacity to identify
subjects that suit their future career goals.
A longitudinal study conducted among students in seven colleges in
Queensland indicated that students selected subjects that would impact
their future career, they were good at, influence their future courses,
and had an interest in them (Whiteley 1-3). Although the majority of the
students may lack the clear knowledge and idea of their future career
and courses, a guided subject selection may work better than offering
compulsory subjects. This is because students’ willingness to
undertake certain courses can be linked with what they aspire to become
in the future. While studying the factors that results in the high
preference of students’ in science subjects, Nyamba (559) establish a
positive association between subject preference and students’
performance in the subjects they preferred. This observation resulted
from the fact that students prefer subjects that promise them success in
their post school courses and career.
Although the studies cited in the present research advocate for
students’ freedom to select subjects, lack of knowledge among the
students about future career may result in confusion and wrong choices.
This implies that students should be given the freedom, but with
sufficient guidance to enable them to make informed choices. A study has
shown that students acquire the capacity to determine the best subjects
and courses for their future at different academic levels, which
necessitates a close guidance in subject selection at each level (Atweh
2). The findings presented in the article showed that the students value
the guidance provided by parents, senior members of the family, and
Subjects should be optional for the students because it is freedom, they
should be allowed to choose where they see themselves and students
should have some input on what they are interested in. The freedom gives
students an opportunity to specialize and excel in subjects that have an
influence on their post school career and course. Based on different
theoretical perceptions (such as risk theory and regret theory) student
perform better in self-selected subjects that compulsory subjects
because they have the desire to maximize returns, minimize risks, and
optimize the utility of course they have selected with the belief that
they are the best for their future. However, students should be given
sufficient guidance to ensure that they make informed decisions in the
process of subject selection, which occurs at different academic levels.
Atweh, B. Sandra, T. and Parlo, S. School curriculum as culture
commodity in the construction of young people’s post-school
aspirations. Parramatta: University of Western Sydney, 2005. Web.
Meacham, J. What colleges will teach in 2025? Progressive. 26 September.
2013. Web. 28. October 2013.
Nyamba, Y. and Mwajomber, K. Students’ preference for science
subjects: Does this affect their performance? International Journal of
Science and Technology, 2.8 (2012): 556-560.
Radenski, A. Freedom of choice as motivational actor for active
learning. Orange AC: Chapman University, 2009. Print.
Whiteley, S. and porter, J. Student perceptions of subject selection:
Longitudinal perspectives from Queensland schools. Brisbane: Tertiary
Entrance Procedures Authority, 2012. Web.
Zeelenberg, M. and Pieters, R. A theory of regret regulation 1.0.
Journal of Consumer Psychology 17.1 (2007): 3-18. Print.
Zocco, D. Risk theory and students’ course selection. Research in
Higher Education Journal, 3 (2009): 1-29. Web.
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Schools use some standard curriculum guidelines provided by government