Why Liberal Arts...

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Our world today, as all of us know, runs more on ‘information’, than on anything else. Technological innovations have brought us closer more than ever. Contribution of Indians, especially in recent times, in the advancement of technologies, and thereby in the formation of the contemporary world has extensively been celebrated. We have always taken pride in our technocrats who have played a major role in building this information age. Our technological institutes, whether public or private, have been an unceasing source of manpower to feed global information needs.

However, having said that, there seems to be a dearth of technocrats who have been torchbearers or pioneers in their respective fields. Most of them seem to have imprisoned themselves in the role of mere service providers, wherein their primary function seems to be limited to supply inexpensive labour and have been excluded from innovation-oriented tasks. The primary reason for this state of affairs is our contemporary education system.

At the core of it all exists our education system which has primarily been engaged in delivering "specialists", in training "masters", at the cost of limiting one's orientation to particular, narrow domains. As a consequence, we have managed to manufacture academically monolithic individuals who function in their own niches with the supposed claim of expertise or specialisation, owing to which they not only lack the integrated and humanistic approach but they also happened to be myopic in comprehending the socio-economic structure of the world around them.

Per say there is nothing wrong in being specialists; rather the requirement of experts or specialists was the peculiar demand of modernity, which itself had emerged out of industrialisation. Industrialisation required more and more specialised labour force in order to increase the overall production. Consequently, the purpose of the education sector was absolutely identified with producing the labour force requisite for industries to function.

In effect, adoption of a similar model of specialisation in the whole education sector globally and especially in India resulted in the neglect of social sciences and humanities. The stereotypical characterisation of these academic fields led them to not be adequately credited in creation of the specialised labour force. Neglecting social sciences and Humanities obviously came at a price of loss of....attitudes....within the general task force, particularly, student population!!

Under the garb of specialisation, we in India somehow went on to create and foster academic conservatism, wherein our students are unable to think "out of the box" and choose not to venture beyond their comfort zones.. However, today's India calls for personnel exhibiting academic liberalism with a demonstrated eagerness to experiment and engage with the immediate surroundings. There has been a growing need to flourish as a society which is both integrated, diverse and serves as an enriched habitat.

Liberal arts education at Jyoti Dalal School of Liberal Arts, NMIMS intends to train such individuals, individuals who are not only generalists, and academically liberal but perhaps they are in true sense specialists for they redefine the given category to mean jacks of all besides being masters of one, and if possible more than one. We believe that the liberal arts education here holds a great promise to develop a mindset which seeks harmony in different knowledge fields without diluting their substance. It is an education which prepares students with the intellectual abilities and societal capacities to contribute to and be successful in a globally engaged milieu.

This article is written by Dr. Chaitanya Joshi, Assistant Professor (Philosophy), NMIMS Jyoti Dalal School of Liberal Arts, Mumbai

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