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 helps in preparing students 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.
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 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 learnt from textbooks."
Critical thinking is an integral part of a liberal arts education. It 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.
This system usually includes a general 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 is a part of a much greater whole and this system bridges the existing divides by contributing a curriculum that creates coherence and veracity in one’s intellectual experience.
Liberal arts put great emphasis on inter-disciplinary perspectives and help students to understand that life is not divided into majors, though universities offer degrees in a chosen field. Notably, what employers have been realising increasingly 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 dawning on people that a liberal arts education prepares students for real life challenges in a way that vocational schools often can’t promise to deliver.
Employers nowadays look for qualities like desirable transferable skills, including written and verbal communication skills; the ability to solve complex problems and to adapt well in a changing workplace. And all of these are the hallmark of liberal arts education.
Thus, this system prepares students to assume positions of leadership, while being flexible in the job market.
Top universities, around the world, like Stanford and Harvard are already following this system. MIT, which is otherwise an engineering institute, also has this system in place.
Presidency College, Kolkata, now known as Presidency University, was one of the foremost institutions to introduce 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.
Other universities following this system in India include Shiv Nadar University and Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts.