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Liberal Arts Education

The genesis of erudition

10 Oct '23
6 min read


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Liberal Arts Education is a premise for learning without coercion or restraint. It offers a new pedagogical training, an ushering to pursue what the heart aspires. It enables one to get experience out of ideas. Liberal arts education aids in pursuing interdisciplinary knowledge to learn how to connect ideas and develop holistic and inclusive solutions. It originates from a desire of universal understanding. It interrogates your thoughts, biases and assumptions thereby offering an expansive intellectual grounding in all kinds of humanistic inquiry.

It strikes a harmony between intellect and emotions eliminating the conservative parochial approach. 

Interwoven Icon Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

Quite often we find fatal disconnect amongst the specialists of individual subjects and struggle to appreciate the interdependency of disciplines. A liberal arts education approach celebrates the amalgamation of different elements and celebrates the unification of various earthy elements.

To understand the liberal education approach better, let us consider the culinary field as an example. Through study of global cuisines, we understand the connection between culture, society, gastronomy as well as the traditions of respective geographical areas. The understanding of the culinary practices of a particular geographic region sheds light on the economic conditions and takes us on a historic journey too. We can see that it widens the length and depth of learning. A study of the culinary palate combines physics, biology, chemistry and historical journey of ingredients shedding insights on geopolitical aspects of that region. 

Let’s take a look at another example where the liberal education principles would be helpful would be applicable. A new metro rail project that would require reinstating people residing along the proposed area of construction. Engineers and civic bodies would worry only about the massive scale construction. What is needed alongside would be the empathy towards those who stand to lose their homes, providing psychological, monetary support and awareness as to why the construction would be so crucial and inevitable. 

Liberal arts education follows a T-shaped curriculum where a curriculum goes deep into one area but sits on

 top of a very strong foundation that provides flexibility for the entire workforce to keep learning and changing throughout. The horizontal bar represents the subjects needed to become a complete, well rounded elite professional whereas the vertical bar represents the specialty with deep subject specific knowledge.

Why Liberal Arts?

The primary reason to study liberal arts is that it opens avenues for critical thinking. One is equipped with a wide range of transferrable skills as opposed to one specific skill set. It enables one to write cogently and put forward persuasive arguments and communicate effectively to solve issues. 

An education in liberal arts extends beyond the realms of academia and provides a wholesome learning experience. It strengthens social and cultural analysis and presents well rounded individuals, hallmark of effective leadership. The interwoven nature of learning brings about the ultimate realisation of unity of knowledge across fields.  It fosters primary ways of knowing the world and your place in it. 

People have diverse interests. Liberal arts pulls them to extreme ends of learning spectrum. A mathematician can pursue a deep passion for writing. A physicist may nurture keen interest in history. A biologist may take a musical route. It’s a way of actualising one’s potential. It basically emphasizes the fact that there are many ways to view the world but each lens is worthy of consideration.

Liberal arts bring about the realisation that science and humanities cannot survive in isolation in this age. It is required to meaningfully incorporate technology.

Skills acquired from Liberal Arts

1.Leadership skills:

Equipped with wider perspective and wholesome experience in learning, liberal arts adorn leadership skills and dynamic thinking thereby transcending various corners of society and addressing future challenges that we are unable to even imagine today. 

2. Problem solving abilities: 

It helps in tackling problems multi dimensionally and come up with unique perspective. It helps to see things differently.

3.. Communication:

The nature of education forces you to interact with people of different interests and talent and do different things. A large set of intriguing minds form personal connections intellectually stimulating one another. It bolsters communication, interpersonal and analytical skills. It evokes in you a discerning mind and helps you to deconstruct knowledge freeing the mind to think for itself. One finds himself equipped for every job down the road. It empowers you in an age where things are dynamic preparing you to the majority of jobs that have not even been created yet!

It garners observational skills with effective oral and written communicational skills

4. Broader career opportunities:

A liberal art education effectively ignites critical thinking and spirit of inquiry. This mindset along with problem solving abilities makes one undisputedly invaluable resource to have in a work place. 

Flexibility offered in Liberal arts education

Typically, an undergraduate student would have to choose the subject major in the first year or freshman year itself. Liberal arts students have the advantage of dabbling in various subjects, understand their nuances and make informed choice based on their strength and acumen in the subject and declare their major only in the second year of undergraduate studies.

Liberal Arts Education Institutes

Stanford University, USA

University of Oxford, UK

LMU in Munich, Germany

University of Toronto, Canada 

are some of the leading universities in the world. 

Liberal Arts in India

 In a country that boasts of its prowess in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Management, liberal arts education is a developing area and is gaining some traction in recent times. However, there are a few world class universities that provide wholesome opportunities for aspirants. Some of them are listed below:

Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana

KREA university, Sri City,  Andhra Pradesh

Azim Premji University, Bangalore, Karnataka

FLAME University, Pune, Maharashtra

Symbiosis School for liberal arts, Pune, Maharashtra.

Challenges faced by Liberal arts education:

The term ‘arts’ in Liberal arts is a misnomer as it is often mistaken to be a study of humanities and it magnifies the chasm between liberal arts and STEM related disciplines. A pet peeve about liberal arts education is that it focuses on the width of knowledge than the depth and hence may prove to be lacking in a specific area. 

The onus is on the educators and the faculty to throw light on how this education helps the critical thinking, problem solving and analytical thinking that can be of immense value in the technical world and can be monetised optimally.

There have to explore ways to counter and prove how wrong the predictions by Chat GPT and other technologies that spell doom to soft skills and liberal arts education 

Awareness needs to be brought about how this education equips with vital life lessons, enhancing the aesthetics of life.

A rebranding of liberal arts education may be required as education with implementation of job-focused skill development in digital technologies and real-life experience.

The institutes have to equip graduates to advocate the value of their education and infuse technological literacy showcasing the pedagogical strength of liberal education. 





Written by Veda