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Published : Friday, 30 December, 2016 3:15 PM
A liberal education provides the tools to think clearly and effectively. Thinking clearly and more importantly, critically, constitutes the bedrock of liberal education. It strives to build an individualistic framework for students to ask the right questions and think deeply for effectively addressing issues and problems. It aims to expose and train students in the various modes of thinking applied to problems and issues of human affairs. By doing so, intellectual growth is achieved by application of these skills to examine, analyse and synthesize information from multiple sources. Through personalized attention and sustained engagement with faculty inside and outside of the classroom, the sense of curiosity is sought to be heightened and the habits of life-long learning are encouraged and fostered.
Thinking clearly and effectively cannot be divorced from effective communication, an important “soft” skill for success in life. By constantly demanding students to articulate their thoughts through writing and speaking, effective communication skills are sought to be developed. Most courses across disciplines demand writing, speaking and debate through papers, presentations and discussion. By constant practice of these skills and raising the bar as one progresses through the program, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively are honed.
By emphasizing primarily on developing the habits of learning, thinking and communication, liberal education seeks to circumvent the danger of the irrelevancy of today’s disciplines to address the problems of the future.
The philosophy of liberal education is rooted in the unity of all knowledge. It operates in a multi-disciplinary framework and provides an exposure to human knowledge through courses in the respective disciplines. It encompasses a wide gamut of areas through courses in the Physical and Natural Sciences, the Fine and Performing Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and their derivatives such as Business and Law to name two, with emphasis on the thoughts and processes used in these disciplines. For instance, through courses within the Physical & Natural Sciences, students become familiar with linear, rational & experiment-based thinking with an enhanced understanding of the scientific method and advances made in the understanding of the universe and the science behind modern technological progress. Courses in the Fine & Performing Arts enable students to develop their aesthetic sensibilities & understand the intricacies of different forms of artistic expression. Through, courses in the Social Sciences and Humanities, students develop an understanding of events that have shaped the past, and the forces that are shaping the present. In addition to the broad exposure to the various disciplines, students learn how to apply the learnings of one discipline to another for better understanding through the common linkages that occur between various disciplines.
Liberal education not only provides a broad knowledge of various disciplines but also provides an excellent base with relevant skills to delve deeper into areas of one’s interest. By declaring a major and minor field of interest, it provides a wide choice of disciplines to specialize in. By choosing such a combination of interests, students are able to look for interconnections between disciplines and a deeper understanding of the issues and attainment of skills so that they are able to function effectively in the jobs of today and attain skills that are relevant to the professions of tomorrow.
Liberal education does not restrict itself only to intellectual advancement. It aims to increase awareness and understanding of the similarities and differences between people within a society and between societies through curricular and ancillary courses. By doing so, barriers to inter-personal engagement and cooperation is sought to be broken for success of the self and the society in an increasingly globalized and inter-connected world.
Civic engagement through discharge of duties of citizenship is critical to the success of society and fulfillment of the potential of the individual. Liberal education aims to nurture sensitive, informed, ethical, and responsible individuals who use their knowledge to bring about a positive and sustainable change in their own society and the world at large.
Practical skills for navigating daily life coupled with initiative and risk-taking ability, self-motivation, integrity, dignity and life-balance are essential to lead a successful life. A liberal education program aims to develop awareness of the self by providing skills to lead a life of fulfillment and direction, enhance communication and interpersonal skills, instill the ability to solve problems and resolve conflicts, explore opportunities, design and execute career plans, and provides avenues for the practice of leadership skills.
Author of this article is Prof. Santosh Kudtarkar, Associate Dean – FLAME School of Liberal Education
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