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What Is Liberal Arts Education?

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By Ananya Raha
10 Mar'22  4 min read
What Is Liberal Arts Education?
Synopsis

Liberal arts education, although it may sound like a new term to many, has existed in India for the longest of times. For students who have a diverse range of interests and likings, pursuing a liberal arts degree after 10+2 might just be an extremely gratifying academic experience. However, there is quite a possibility that the term ‘liberal arts’ leads to many questions popping up about what is liberal arts education, exactly why is it called ‘liberal arts’, what one studies in a liberal arts course, and why the academic world is gradually increasing its emphasis on liberal education. This article will answer all such questions for you as well as enlist the benefits of liberal arts education. Read on to know more!

Read more
What Is Liberal Arts Education?
Synopsis

Liberal arts education, although it may sound like a new term to many, has existed in India for the longest of times. For students who have a diverse range of interests and likings, pursuing a liberal arts degree after 10+2 might just be an extremely gratifying academic experience. However, there is quite a possibility that the term ‘liberal arts’ leads to many questions popping up about what is liberal arts education, exactly why is it called ‘liberal arts’, what one studies in a liberal arts course, and why the academic world is gradually increasing its emphasis on liberal education. This article will answer all such questions for you as well as enlist the benefits of liberal arts education. Read on to know more!

Read more

The term ‘liberal’ makes us wonder what is so liberating about this ‘new’ form of education, doesn’t it? Let me delve deeper into the concept of liberal arts education by busting a myth at the very outset.

Liberal ‘arts’ education doesn't solely include subjects like humanities, or arts of different kinds such as fine arts or performing arts, and even more specifically, it is certainly not about Since I couldn’t get through medicine or engineering, I will opt for arts”. Well, then the question remains the same - What is liberal arts education and why is it called ‘liberal arts’? My answer to that would be, it is a form of education that facilitates the drive to explore and look beyond barriers. Let us understand this in more detail.

Also Read | How Much Does A Liberal Arts Course At A Private University Cost?

The Origin Of Liberal Arts Education In India

For taking a closer look at the very origin of liberal arts in India, we need to go back to history. Ancient Indian universities like the Nalanda and Takshashila imparted liberal education by teaching the virtues of the Vedas, concepts of medicine and law, skill-based sports like archery, and warcraft. In fact, it is interesting to observe that we were introduced to the fixed curriculum model of teaching and learning, and the concept of pursuing professional degrees, only by the British education system. Slowly and steadily, the concept of ‘no bound curriculum’ represented by liberal arts education withered away, and the focus shifted to gaining technical degrees with a focus on early specialisation and rote learning.

Liberal Arts Education: The Need Of The Hour

Whether or not we may have realised it, the pandemic situation has brought upon us a lesson that hints towards opting for more liberal ways of thinking. It has taught us that in order to find a sustainable solution for human problems of this massive stature, the ideal way is to develop a ‘multi-disciplinary’ approach towards the problem. In my opinion, well structured liberal arts education is the need of the hour in our education system. Many educationists and scholars have pointed out that the era of globalisation calls for a fresh outlook towards careers, and developing a diverse skill set.

The benefits of liberal arts education are aplenty. Liberal arts education trains students on varied skill sets, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, analytical and problem solving skills, along with developing a profound sense of imagination. The New Education Policy (NEP) emphasises tremendously the need of adopting a liberal approach towards higher education in India, with Section 11 focusing on “moving towards a more multidisciplinary undergraduate education”. This definitely indicates a paradigm shift and makes the case for liberal education even stronger as the need of the hour.

What Do You Study In A Liberal Arts Course?

All of the liberal arts colleges in India offer an opportunity to integrate various academic interests of the student into one degree. The subjects offered could range from economics, psychology, literary and cultural studies, international studies, environmental studies, journalism, public policy, sociology, to applied mathematics, computer science, data science and economics, computer science and design. Those who are interested to pursue business-related courses could easily take up a specialisation in finance, business analytics, marketing, human resource management, entrepreneurship, operations, design management etc. For the creative folks, there are options galore too. They may choose to specialise in advertising and branding, digital marketing and communications, film and television management, or communication studies.

We should know that liberal arts colleges do not provide professional degrees or courses such as engineering, medicine, law, etc. This takes us back to the core philosophy of liberal arts, which aims at helping the students develop multiple skillsets, rather than one specific specialisation. A 2017 Dell Technologies report predicted that 85% of the jobs of 2030 have not been invented yet. Keeping this in mind, having an ability to solve problems by developing creative solutions, using our understanding of different disciplines, and having a range of diverse skill sets, seems like the way ahead.

Perhaps, these are also the qualities that employers have begun looking for in their prospective employees, and will look for these more extensively in the times to come. India is currently home to some great liberal arts universities which are working towards revolutionising the way we have perceived education for a very long time, by facilitating a new age pedagogy that focuses on a multidisciplinary approach, world-class faculty, state of the art campus with international collaborations with institutions of high repute.

Thus, liberal arts in India promises a great future for students who are looking at pursuing new age careers, and are ready to take on the challenges that the 21st-century job market has to offer. We need to remember that flexibility is the key here. The benefits of liberal arts education are innumerable and the more we widen our horizons, the better equipped we will be for the future. A liberal arts education university of repute can certainly expose a young mind to a world of opportunities, along with facilitating the quest for lifelong learning.

Ananya Raha is a professionally trained career and college guidance counsellor by UCLA Extension and an International Certified Career Coach by Career Development Alliance (USA). She is currently working with FLAME University, Pune as a Career and College Guidance Counsellor, and is one of the founding members of the Career Counselling Cell at the university.

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