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Offering students a chance to explore and experiment

17 April 2014
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The Times of India

NAGPUR: Indian schools are known for their rote method of learning. Right after coming out of these schools at the age of 16, a student is supposed to choose a subject to study and stick to it through college and perhaps even professional life. In such a scenario, re-introducing liberal arts in the Indian colleges may be just the solution.

Educationists from OP Jindal Global University of New Delhi are on a nation-wide tour to promote this solution and their upcoming School of Humanities. The school will partner with Rollins College, Florida, USA, offering dual degrees, with students studying in both the campuses before attaining the degrees.

"In most countries across the world, graduation makes one employable. It's only in India that one needs a master's degree to prove one's employability. This is hugely because of our education system focusing on gaining professional skills rather than life skills that would be useful in enabling a person to take decisions and face the challenges life throws at them," said Padmanabha Ramanujam who designs courses at the university. He added that it is no wonder than that most world leaders, even politicians and Nobel laureates have degrees in humanities.

Most of the Indian parents, and sometimes even the students themselves, give more importance to getting an education or degree that ensures a job over learning, added another course designer at the university Arjun Puri. "It is important to let the child explore the subjects he can learn and then choose what he likes the best. This is what liberal arts provide. Also, it does not support the typical classroom coaching and rote methods of learning and testing students. Liberal arts students get an experiential learning," he said.

Ramanujam gives the example of a young girl who recently approached him. "She said there were just two things that interested her - music and psychology. She had already decided that she wanted to become a music therapist. A traditional education may not have been able to help her. However, with liberal arts, she had the option to choose subjects of her liking irrespective of whether they are a science or an art," he said.

Puri believes that there are many more such students in the country. "Exposure to the Western lifestyle and education have made the youngsters more aware of the many career options. We now need to provide them options in education to be able to practice such professions," he said.