We find the roots for the Liberal Arts in ancient India. Most of the knowledge seekers of that time used to get attracted to universities like ‘Nalanda’ & ‘Takshashila’. These universities were known for the plethora of courses they used to offer and flexibility to choose the subjects and specializations. The students were trained in Vedas and around Eighteen Arts, which included skills such as Archery, Hunting, Law, Medicine, Military Science, Fine Arts, Mathematics, Astronomy, Political Science, etc.
The formation of UGC, a statutory body, within a decade post-independence was a crucial part, which ensured the quality and standardisation of Higher Education in India. It was something that Hon. Ex-Prime Minister, Shri. Atal Behari Vajpayee during his speech on the initiation of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Golden Jubilee Year on 28 December 2002 spoke of the need to take a fresh look at the UGC Act, 1956 in the light of the new challenges for the education sector emerging in the twenty-first century.
It is the National Education Policy 2020, which has offered a new age education platform which promotes education with Interdisciplinary Approach. It has combined all the different streams of knowledge and suggested a range of exposure. It all brings us back to the education in Liberal Arts. This would provide one of the best platforms for the holistic development of the students and making them socially responsible, and spiritually elevated and future ready.
The Liberal Arts education makes students capable of choosing their preferred programs and deciding the direction of their career. It eliminates the hierarchy between Arts & Science by removing the distinction between vocational and academic programs. It provides a multidisciplinary and Holistic approach across all education streams to maintain the integrity of the knowledge students acquire. Conceptual understanding is promoted to avoid learning-for-exams. It helps to instill Creativity and Critical Thinking to improve logical decision-making and innovation. It emphasizes Ethics to teach Human & Constitutional values. It promotes multilingualism and the power of language in teaching and learning. It teaches life skills to students, including communication, cooperation, teamwork, and resilience. Continuous assessment is promoted for better learning. More emphasis is given on research to improve the sense of scientific inquiry and academic skills.
The Liberal Arts provides a holistic and multidisciplinary undergraduate education that would help develop all capacities of human beings – intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional, ethical, and moral – in an integrated manner; soft skills, such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, creative thinking, communication skills; and rigorous specialisation in a chosen field (s) of learning. It adopts a flexible curricular structure to enable creative combinations of disciplinary areas for study in multidisciplinary contexts.
The duration of BA Liberal Arts degree is 4 years. To have flexibility in the education, Multiple Entry & Exit Options are provided. At the undergraduate level, a student will be earning a certificate post 1 year, a diploma post 2 years, a bachelor’s degree post 3 years, completion of 4th year will provide an Honour’s degree, and if the student completes rigorous research in the major area of the study, bachelor’s degree with research will be provided in the final year.
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The internship is an integral part of the education in Liberal Arts and students are motivated to learn through their experiences. Students will be provided with various internship opportunities to enhance their social, cognitive, domain-specific, and communication skills, and to provide knowledge with experiential learning. It will help students to gain some experience and it will improve their employability.
Few more courses will be offered in areas of Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, Vocational Education, and interdisciplinary studies. The Core Major subject will provide in-depth knowledge of the chosen field and students will be expected to do internships and research in the same field of study. To earn 48 credits, students may choose from a range of subjects. Students can select another Core subject as Minor Specialization. The benefit of the dual specialization is that students will always be a step ahead of their colleagues in terms of knowledge and experience. It will also provide them wider opportunities in their further studies.
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The author is Dr Preeti Joshi, Head, School of Liberal Arts, MIT World Peace University (Formerly MIT Pune).