Comeback for liberal arts

Last Updated 20 March 2013, 19:22 IST

Liberal arts education is the answer for students who wish to develop a better understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of life today, writes Aditya Berlia.

Having transformed from being an ‘option for the fortunate’ to ‘a necessity for all students’, Liberal Arts Education presents itself as an approach to learning that aids in preparing individuals to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. 

With subjects ranging from science to performing arts, Liberal Arts Education aims to deliver education in a holistic way, helping students to develop an attitude enriched with open mindedness and freshness of thought.

A democratic society needs citizens who can think for themselves and of society, which makes liberal arts education extremely valuable in India. 

A liberal arts education is the answer for students who wish to develop a better understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of life today.

As Albert Einstein said, "The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks." Critical thinking is an integral part of a liberal arts education. 

A liberal arts education encourages students and teachers to ponder over difficult questions pertaining to an open-minded scrutiny of the deepest thoughts about our life and the world we live in. 

Building the foundations of a future career, a Liberal Arts Education complements specific career goals and vocations by providing students the adequate skills and knowledge that offer access to many careers.

A lot has changed in the courses and requirements comprising a liberal education over the years. However, the broad goals of liberal education have been constant even till date. 

In the prevalent times, a liberal education usually includes a general education curriculum that delivers broad learning in multiple disciplines in conjunction with more in-depth study in a major. 

The question to be answered here is that why should an educational experience be anything less than a unified whole? Every field of study offers to be a part of a much greater whole and a Liberal Arts Education bridges existing divides by contributing a curriculum that creates coherence and veracity in one’s intellectual experience. 

Liberal Arts puts great emphasis on inter-disciplinary perspectives and helps us understand the fact that life is not divided into majors, though universities offer degrees in a chosen field.  

Notably, what employers have been increasingly realising is that it is the graduates with the right skills rather than the right majors who have an edge in the competitive marketplace nowadays. 

Also, it is largely dawning among people that a Liberal Arts Education prepares students for real life challenges in a way that vocational schools often cannot promise to deliver. 

In today’s economy, employers are on a lookout for qualities like desirable skills including written and verbal communication skills, the ability to solve complex problems and adapt well in a changing workplace, which are the hallmark of a Liberal Arts Education. 

Thus, it can be understood that a Liberal Arts Education prepares students to assume positions of leadership, while being flexible in the market place. 

Presidency College, Kolkata, now known as Presidency University, is one of the foremost institutions that introduced liberal education to Indians. 

The International Foundation for Research and Education (IFRE), founded by a group of prominent businessmen is already in the process of setting up a University dedicated to liberal education.

Taking the concept of liberal arts even further, the new Ashoka University will not only have liberal education but will work on the idea of cross-fertilisation.

Top universities, around the world, like Stanford and Harvard are already following this system, along with MIT which is otherwise an engineering institute. 

Many Institutions in India are now providing liberal education in India  focussed on research and technology, providing a dynamic and unique academic system which includes key features like an innovative evaluation system, freedom to choose your degree and number of credits, and a flexible graduation pace among many other welcome things. 

(Published 20 March 2013, 12:29 IST)

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