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
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
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
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
In a way, this is like demotivating young minds and discouraging them
from taking an active interest in history, literature, philosophy and
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.