By Sumanth Palepu
By using a multifaceted approach, experts in the field of liberal arts can help the domain align itself with the changing priorities of students and society at large.
Despite offering lifelong utility to students, the appeal and popularity of liberal arts are going through a tumultuous phase. The general perception of the domain among the masses is dwindling and the growing craze of technical courses is taking a toll on enrollment in liberal arts courses. Clearly, liberal arts need a comprehensive makeover and that too on an urgent basis. Experts opine that while the focus on language, sociology, and cultural achievements is helpful, the complete absence of technical, managerial, and organisational training is harming the adoption prospects of liberal arts. Further, changes in liberal arts should encourage cross-cultural approaches, ethical reasoning, and innovation-based solutions for offering holistic benefits to society. So what exactly needs to change in liberal arts and what specific steps can make the discipline in sync with the changing aspirations of students and society, here are the details:
1) Interdisciplinary Approach: One of the important steps that can significantly enhance the real-life applications of liberal arts is to make it more connected and integrated with other study disciplines. This can be done by creating a cluster of courses that specifically addresses the issues related to innovation, business environment, global economy, and cultural sensitivities among others. Further, the existing focus of the domain on attitude, cognitive, and ethical skills can be integrated with perspectives on industry verticals, entrepreneurship skills, and investment opportunities to make the domain more evolved and vibrant in the future.
2) Pedagogical Improvements: Along with the course curriculum, the changes in the pedagogical frameworks will also help make liberal arts more focused and empowering for aspirants. Take, for instance, the aspect of immersive learning that has become quite popular in academic circles nowadays. Immersive learning is very effective in capturing the imagination of aspirants and by making them actively participate, the technique can become instrumental in boosting the learning efficiency of students. In addition, the use of project-based activities, case-study approach, and role-play methods can also elevate the appeal of liberal arts among a wider set of audiences across the education and training disciplines.
3) Focus on Career Enhancements: There is a compelling need to renew the focus of liberal arts education on the career enhancements of the students. By launching courses that help to narrow the gulf between liberal and professional domains, the preparedness of the students to face real-world situations can be strengthened. More importantly, this culmination will help students identify opportunities that are aligned with their interests and offer them a sense of purpose while working in their chosen area with diligence, tenacity, and focus.
4) Applied Learning: Arguably the most important change that can help liberal arts to join forces with other contemporary aspects of education is to use the approach of applied learning. Applied learning is an important crucible through which the integration between personal development and professional excellence of students can be achieved in the most efficient manner. With the help of real-world projects, co-op opportunities, and hands-on exercises, students of liberal arts can learn to manage their professional interests within the overarching theme of humanistic values and cultural inclusion propagated by the Liberal Arts.
5) Technology Integration: A very important aspect that can help liberal arts to keep up the pace with contemporary changes is to achieve a higher level of technology integration in the discipline. The use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and Data Analytics should become a part of course curriculums and students must be given exposure to the applications of these technologies in real-world scenarios. As the integration of new-age technologies is growing in every sphere of life, liberal arts should also embrace these inventions to deliver holistic and encompassing growth across the globe.
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The only constant thing in today’s fast-changing environment is change and like other domains, the proposition is true for liberal arts education as well. The time has come to reorient the entire philosophy behind the liberal arts and by allowing its integration with cross-functional and interdisciplinary domains, the value of the discipline can be enhanced significantly. In sum, the time is opportune to bring a comprehensive change in the underpinning of the liberal arts so that it continues to find favour with prospective learners in the years to come.
The author is sr. director, GUS Global Services India Pvt. Ltd. Views expressed are personal.