www.dailypioneer.com | August 23, 2017
In the 21st Century, it is important that the Indian education system adapt itself to the fast changes taking place. A Liberal Arts degree is a way forward, says Dr Devi Singh
The revolution in education in India has been in the making for many years now with the expansion of the sector, particularly in the higher education segment. A large number of new institutes and universities have been established. Many of them in the private sector, to fill the gap that obtained in the content, scope, and reach of quality education in India. Most of these private universities have vigorously endeavoured to set contemporary international educational benchmarks in terms of parametres like world-class faculty, rigorous course curriculum, well-structured syllabi and a very decent teacher-student ratio — all essential hallmarks of quality word-class education.
The greatest revolution in the contemporary Indian context is the pioneering focus being given to liberal arts education. Since its establishment, the focus of the universities have been to provide students in India a curriculum that not only caters to conventional courses but also provides experiences like perspective building, communication competencies, problem solving, creativity and innovation, and teamwork and ethics. One need not over emphasize the essence of such an education in India with huge diversities in social, cultural and geographical arenas. Interestingly, the diversity in the scheme and character or education that goes into a liberal arts curriculum not only promotes the multidimensional skill sets of the graduates but also the understanding, appreciation and respect for the unity in diversity story that is India.
With the Government’s focus on Skill India, it is but natural that the most suitable curriculum for development of skills is the liberal arts degree.
A rigorous liberal arts programme makes students deal with disparate sources and avenues of information, analyse them, develop opinions and then defend those opinions and views in the most appropriate, critical and time bound format.
Unlike the sciences, a liberal art education in far closer to negotiating the realities of life that doesn't always present us the two options of right and wrong. Most of the workable information, ideas and opinions lie between these two ends. The interdisciplinarity, variety and range of courses with emphasis on critical thinking and analysis prepare students to accept and negotiate differing opinions, view points and approaches.
The multi-disciplinary content makes students draw appropriately and in required measure from multiple academic disciplines and sources to redefine and re-assess social and economic problems outside normal boundaries and reach solutions based on accommodative and collaborative understanding of complex problems.
In today’s fast moving but very fluid and uncertain economy, it's not the hard skills that the work force lacks but the soft skills that make young graduates more ready and prepared to enter the job market. The contemporary economy, governance and corporate workforce requirements demand skills that are dynamic, flexible and transferable. It is therefore necessary that, instead of dividing knowledge and skills into sciences and humanities, we must bring them together through development of such faculties as critical thinking, writing proficiency, public speaking and problem solving- the signature domains of a liberal arts education.
The time has come for educationists, the intelligentsia and the larger public to realise that a true and modern education cannot be complete without the liberal arts.
Our economy has transformed itself from the 20th Century mixed model to a fast developing market one. It therefore makes sense that approaches to education should adapt as well to the ever growing needs of one of the fastest growing major economies of the world. We need to make guarded but focused interventions in the form of liberal arts in our education system so that not only does it keeps pace with demands of the growing economy but also its multifarious, novel and strategic requirements. A liberal arts education not only adds a lot of relevance to the degree but also brings in the much-needed contemporary and 21st Century essence.
The writer is Vice-chancellor, FLAME University