FLAME in the news | June 16, 2021

What is going to help our students succeed in an uncertain, fast-paced and ever-changing world? The answer predominantly veers towards the ability to think, create, collaborate and adapt. These are indeed classic liberal arts skills that help prepare young men and women for life so that they can face life's diverse challenges to successfully discover ever-deeper levels of purpose, meaning, and happiness. This article by Dr. Dishan Kamdar, Vice Chancellor, FLAME University delves deep into what all liberal arts education has to offer.

Education for life has become the key phrase for liberal education globally in that it does much more than prepare students for a particular profession or a stream of career advancement. The words “education for life” represent and assimilate within them a wide range of definitions that we often use to explain, and make ourselves understand, the inclusivity and comprehensiveness of true education. Contemporary liberal education, therefore, is no longer ‘arts’ only and does encompass STEM and business disciplines.

The increasing focus on inculcation of transferable skills in modern education is, in a way, the inherent hallmark of liberal education primarily because of its focus on experiential learning, inter and multi-disciplinarity. This well-defined integration and convergence on transferable skills goes famously well with the essential characteristics of a liberal education in preparing students to examine ideas from multiple points of views, solving problems, adapting, collaborating and, most importantly, internalising the essential life skills. Enhanced faculty involvement in a largely residential environment and regular interaction at both formal and informal levels go a long way in improving student skills and outcomes in desired areas.

Twenty-first century education demands, more than ever, the ability to develop critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making with the strategic and tactical know-how that brings them to life. We are seen to be creative only when our ideas produce tangible results along with the understanding that there are equally real and tangible consequences when we make mistakes. Creativity, therefore, springs from our critical thinking, multitasking, communication, teamwork and leadership skills. The more engaged students are in learning and personal discovery, the better they fare in imbibing functional, contemporary and value-based leadership skills because no matter what job, career or profession they choose, they make the difference between success and failure. Transferable skills such as the ability to collaborate, view things from multiple perspectives, adapt to changing demands and analyse and interpret data are thus lifelong learning outcomes and skills of a liberal education. And most importantly, when these skills become a part of you, they will bring greater success to everything you do.

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, duly realising and recognising the potential of liberal education in preparing twenty-first century youth, has also envisaged a broad-based multi-disciplinary holistic education at the undergraduate level. This entails the integrated and rigorous exposure to sciences, arts, humanities, mathematics and professional fields having imaginative and flexible curricular structures, creative combinations of study, and integration of vocational education and multiple entry/exit points. This holistic and multidisciplinary education will help develop well-rounded individuals who possess critical 21st century capacities and skills in fields across arts, humanities, languages, sciences, social sciences, and professional, technical, and vocational fields. Additionally, ethics of social engagement; soft skills such as communication, discussion and debate; and rigorous specialization in a chosen field of endeavour provide students the professional mettle and sharpness as well as the spirit and resilience.

Liberal education, therefore, not only just prepares students for their first jobs but also for jobs that are yet to get created in the coming ten to fifteen years. The education and training so provided at the liberal arts institutions gears more towards inculcation of skills and values. These are as important for individual student’s personal development as they are for the larger society that not only values and appreciates students’ academic achievement and engagement but also their mental health, and new challenges and responsibilities in the difficult and trying times that we all face.