Liberal education provides flexibility to change careers

We are living in a digital age. Literacy has now acquired a totally new meaning. The next generation of students are required to possess technological, data and human capabilities as they must work with both people and machines.

Importance of skilling courses

In a period characterised by rapid changes, experts predict that most of the technology that we currently know might become obsolete in the next seven to ten years or so. Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and other digital technologies are likely to transform the future of work in a big way. Under these circumstances, there is no alternative but to skill, reskill and upskill. Students need to build their skill sets and be future ready. Entrepreneurship, innovation, flexibility and adaptation will be key.

According to one study, only 25 per cent of our management graduates, 20 per cent of engineering graduates and overall, 10 per cent of students graduating from the higher educational institutions are employable. While one may contest these figures, it is important to note that our curricula has not kept pace with the changing demands of the industry. Though industry-academia partnership has been spoken for long, both sides are still figuring out ways and means of a better engagement with each other. The university curricula need to be made more job relevant.

Keeping in view the rapid technological and other changes, one is expected to change several careers during one’s lifetime and not just stick to one career, as has been the practice so far. It is here that skilling and liberal education play an important role as they prepare a student for life.

How liberal education can help?

As a part of the foundation course in liberal education, students engage with a variety of disciplines such as history, literature, philosophy, sociology, political science, natural sciences, just to mention a few subjects. As a result, liberal education programmes are highly demanding as compared to conventional degree programmes. Students of liberal education are expected to explore wider areas of social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities along with their major focus. In addition, they are also required to participate in a range of extracurricular activities to develop a holistic sense of the world and appreciate the wisdom and beauty of artistic forms.

The emphasis on formation of character and developing skills that are necessary for broader human flourishing differentiates liberal education from training in crafts, fine arts, and vocational, theoretical, and technical education. The emphasis on transferable skills, holistic understanding of the human condition, training in practical judgement, formation of new habits of being in the world, ethical orientation, skillful coping in the face of uncertainty, respect for difference, creative expression, cultivation of wonder, and life-long learning are distinguishing features of contemporary practices of liberal arts and sciences education.

Thus, liberal education trains students to be better skilled, independent and responsible. For this reason, students educated in liberal arts are preferred by the private firms, public sector, and other institutions. In USA, many of the top CEOs have a liberal arts background. Liberal education enables them to cope with challenges of fast changing technological, economic, environmental and political contexts.

How liberal education enables students to fit in every profession?

Liberal education provides a strong theoretical foundation. The critical thinking, logic, skills gained during experiential learning can prepare one for a career shift, should circumstances so demand. By virtue of getting exposed to a variety of disciplines as a part of the foundation courses, one can reinvent oneself by embracing a new career. Covid-19 pandemic was a big disruptor. We have seen during the past two-and-a-half years, how some jobs were lost, and new jobs were created in their place. Our recent experience has demonstrated that agility, innovation and flexibility win in the end. When a student knows the art of `how to learn’, he or she is better prepared for life and its challenges.

shabhar : THE TIMES OF INDIA, YSR murthy