“Liberal Arts education can easily claim to be the oldest education stream in history,” elaborates Prof. Nicholas Dirk, American academic and the former Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley who has been recently appointed as the Honorary Pro-Chancellor of SRM University, Amaravati.
The importance of Liberal Arts becomes even greater for a country like India. Besides being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it is also home to one of the most dynamic societies. Liberal Arts courses designed at designed at School of Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences (SLABS) of SRM Amaravati will help the country by bringing a dose of creativity and innovation across many disciplines to carry on its success in analytical fields such as Information Technology and Engineering.
It is widely agreed that Liberal Arts education at the core refers to matters not relating to the professional, vocational, or technical curriculum. In that case, one would be tempted to ask ‘What is the importance of Liberal Arts for a person interested in pursuing a conventional career track?’ The answer to that is ‘a lot’. Irrespective of the field, all education streams have a common thread– learning problem-solving skills.
How do subjects like literature, art, history, music, philosophy – come into the problem-solving situation? The answer is in the following ways:
- Importance of ethics: The 2008 financial crisis, banking scams, NPAs, corporate frauds, stock market scandals are a reflection of the growth of greed, ambition and the decline of values and morality. Some of the blame can clearly be ascribed to the focus of professional education on cold analytical skills, which makes the student less sensitive and open to others’ perspectives. Liberal Arts by definition involve instruction that amalgamates diverse perspectives and moreover also helps students to learn from fields like history and philosophy about human nature and human follies. This can potentially help them to think more ethically about today’s issues.
- New age problems: Markets, businesses, teams - no one operates in silos anymore. Managing diverse stakeholders, effective collaboration, and genuine out of the box thinking skills are not just good to have but essential prerequisites for success in the modern world. Liberal Arts courses try to provide alternative perspectives, which help to train students in thinking about multiple possibilities. The Liberal Arts courses provide a foundation for education that has benefited even Nobel laureates in Science and Economics, and prize winners in the arts and humanities.
- Dealing with change: Liberal Arts entails taking both a broad cross-section of courses. In many cases, the curriculum includes courses and perspectives that benefit students in any area of specialization. Liberal Arts, therefore, assures that students not only achieve mastery of a particular field but have a sophisticated and wide exposure to subjects with the additional value of “learning how to learn” across a wide range of fields. At a time of massive change in our society, economy, and technology, this type of education and training can provide a vital edge to professionals.