THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 JUNE 2019 (Education in the liberal arts and humanities are important in themselves (India Express))

Education in the liberal arts and humanities are important in themselves (India Express)

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Not Much
Mains level: Education reforms


  • In these “pragmatic” times, it is not easy to plead for liberal education.
  • The new generation who have just cleared the board examinations and are willing to enter the domain of higher learning, to realise that education is not merely “skill learning” or a means to inculcate the market-driven technocratic rationality.
  • Education is also about deep awareness of culture and politics, art and history, and literature and philosophy.
  • In fact, a society that discourages its young minds to reflect on the interplay of the “self” and the “world”, and restricts their horizon in the name of job-oriented technical education, begins to decay.
  • Such a society eventually prepares the ground for a potentially one-dimensional/consumerist culture that negates critical thinking and emancipatory quest.

Producing hierarchy in knowledge traditions

  • The school education continues to reproduce this hierarchy in knowledge traditions. Whereas science or commerce is projected as “high status” knowledge, not much cognitive prestige is attached to humanities and liberal arts.
  • In a way, this is like demotivating young minds and discouraging them from taking an active interest in history, literature, philosophy and political studies.
  • Possibly, the standardised “ambition” that schools and anxiety-ridden parents cultivate among the teenagers makes it difficult for them to accept that it is possible to imagine yet another world beyond the “secure” career options in medical science, engineering and commerce.
  • Certainly, it is not the sign of a healthy society if what is popularly known as PCM (physics-chemistry-mathematics), or IIT JEE, becomes the national obsession, and all youngsters flock to a town like Kota in Rajasthan, known for the notorious chain of coaching centres selling the dreams of “success”, and simultaneously causing mental agony, psychic disorder and chronic fear of failure.

The state of liberal education

  • With demotivated students, teachers who do not have any passion, empty classrooms, routine examinations and the widespread circulation of “notes” and “guide books”, everything loses its meaning.
  • History is a set of facts to be memorised, sociology is just common sense or a bit of jargon for describing the dynamics of family/marriage/caste/kinship, literature is time pass and political science is television news.
  • Even though the state of science education is not very good, the trivialisation of liberal arts is truly shocking.


  • In the absence of adequate liberal education, we have begun to produce technically-skilled but culturally-impoverished professionals.
  • Techniques have triumphed and wisdom has disappeared. We seem to be producing well-fed, well-paid and well-clothed slaves.
  • Therefore, no hesitation in becoming somewhat “impractical”, and inviting fresh/young minds somehow perplexed and thrilled by their “successes” in board examinations to the domain of liberal education.

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    General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to Mughal period 'muqaddams' were:
(a) Judicial officer at province
(b) Head of artisan community
(c) Worker in Mughal karkhanas
(d) Village level officer

Answer: D
Mains Questions:

Q.1) Discuss the importance of the liberal arts and humanities education in India.