A University of Virginia press release announces ...
A recent study reports that high school students who study fewer science topics, but study them in greater depth, have an advantage in college science classes over their peers who study more topics and spend less time on each.I have no idea if the results are reliable but it does highlight an issue that needs to be addressed. Is it better to learn a single subject in some depth than several subjects at a more superficial level? One can make a good case for both sides.
This is an important question here at the University of Toronto because we are in the middle of a huge shift away from in-depth studies to more breadth. For example, there were 50 students who enrolled in our enhanced biochemistry program a few years ago but last year that number dropped to 17. There's no indication that we have bottomed out.
Instead of taking an honors biochemistry program with advanced labs, research projects, and 4th year honors courses, our students are opting for a lighter biochemistry program that whey can combine with other programs, like economics, psychology, or physiology. This breadth can only be achieved by taking a higher percentage of lower level introductory courses.
Is this a good idea? Our students seem to think it is, and so far the university is doing everything to encourage them to abandon the rigorous honors programs. (Part of the problem is that all our students graduate with "honors" no matter what program they take and what grades they achieve.)
Is this happening at other universities? Is it better to have a broad general education in science than a specialized one? Personally, I think that specialization in one subject is essential for critical thinking and for understanding scholarship. I don't care which subject a student chooses but they should pick one and take the most advanced undergraduate courses.