What is Liberal Arts Education?

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What is Liberal Arts Education

During several of my mentoring sessions about liberal arts education, I have heard questions about like:

“So, what is Liberal Arts?”

“Isn’t liberal the opposite of conservative?”

“Is it liberal art?”

“Is it an art college? Or, is it ‘Arts Colleges’ as we have in India?

The answer to all of those is no. Liberal Arts education is not about art! In fact, it is a concept, a view of education as a well-rounded experience for a student’s intellectual.

Let me explain.

Liberal Arts education is the opposite of hyper-specialisation.

In hyper-specialisation, the 3-4 years you spend on college education has a narrow focus on a specific discipline.

For instance, when students join a ‘stream’ right after high school with a focus ONLY on Engineering, Commerce, Biology, etc. The other ‘Optional’ subjects in these streams get little attention, with students focusing narrowly on their discipline.

Hyper-specialisation trains a young mind to view a problem from a focused disciplinary lens — be it STEM, business, social sciences or any other.

Liberal Arts Education is exactly the opposite. It hinges on the belief that specializations early in our careers limit our ability to think from multiple perspectives. This limitation hinders us from becoming efficient problem-solvers. Yet, problem-solving is a key skill that recruiters look for today.

In fact, in a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Emplyers (NACE), over 85% employers listed problem-solving as one of the key attributes they seek.

Top Attributes Employers Seek on Resumes
Source: NACE

Why? Well, simply because in our fast-paced world, technology is evolving rapidly. The future is hard to predict, and current jobs may be replaced as technology offers new solutions to replace human work.

Therefore, tomorrow’s problem-solvers need SMART skills to adapt even when their knowledge becomes ‘outdated’ due to emerging technology!

How Does Liberal Arts Education work ?

A good Liberal Arts program will offer a wide range of subjects encompassing Humanities and Social Sciences while also drawing from Management studies, Life Sciences and Maths. Therefore, the program will allow students to ‘build’ their Major and choose from various courses.

These courses can include Literature, Art History, Economics, International Relations, Policy Studies, Conflict Resolution, Sociology, Anthropology, Film Studies, Media Management, as well as courses in Food Security, Environment Studies, Public Health, Trade Policy, Terrorism, Cybersecurity and Calculus.

Of course, there would be some ‘required’ courses in language, history or math (depending on the Major you choose), but by making a SMART choice, a student can qualify for a DOUBLE MAJOR at the end of that undergrad degree. This enhances employability – hugely!

Advantages for the Student

In this scenario, over the course of the Liberal Arts degree, a student studies different disciplines and understands comparative perspectives. This leads to better Analytical Skills and eventually a sharp mind which can draw from different kinds of knowledge and APPLY it to find solutions to a wide range of problems – whether they are social, economic, or related to business.

You May Like – These Critical Thinking Skills Will Redefine Your Future

Employability after a Liberal Arts Education

Such a broad-based education is valued highly for intern-hiring and entry-level jobs, regardless of whether a company is in tech, manufacturing, marketing or finance.

In fact, in the United States, where such a broad-based education is highly valued, even students of Medicine have to complete a four-year undergrad degree before they can join Med School.

This means that every medical doctor would have a good intellectual foundation. They would have an understanding of world affairs and a global understanding of how economies and societies work in different countries and cultures.

Liberal Arts education also pays attention to how students can be taught to do research and become good writers. Those are important life-long skills!

Thus, a Liberal Arts education allows a student to gain tremendous exposure and develop sharp analytical and problem-solving skills, which are the need of the 21st century.   

Also From Dr. Maina Chawla: What is Career Design?

We will be back next Friday with another amazing blog from Dr. Maina Chawla. Till then, if you have any questions or suggestions, just drop us a comment and we will get back to you.

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