A liberal arts education in Singapore and the usefulness of ‘useless’ knowledge


Within the Asian context, many students pursue a tertiary education for the intent of attaining technical or other specialised skills needed for them to qualify for jobs and secure employment. However, due to the broad-based and multidisciplinary nature of a liberal arts education, there is a less defined job path after graduation. It is also because of this approach that many have yet to acknowledge and understand the need for a liberal arts education.

In a liberal arts education setting, students are encouraged to be flexible in their thinking and cultivate the competence to address a problem from several perspectives. Students usually have to complete classes in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences before choosing a major.

In contrast to the stereotypes of a liberal arts education, physical and life sciences, along with mathematics and computer science are included in the curriculum. Students are encouraged to look at the subjects through different angles rather than just as a set of tools used to resolve problems.

For instance, a liberal arts student who majored in computer science, and has an understanding of regional political structures through courses in politics and economics, can potentially offer more value to an IT firm wishing to expand its regional business operations.

A liberal arts education teaches student to develop the ability to learn new things and apply them effectively. Also, students are constantly encouraged to reflect, articulate and get to reasoned consensus through discussion-based learning and early exposure to hands-on research. By doing so, it allows liberal arts colleges to produce graduates who succeed because they have acquired the skills needed to maneuver from narrowly defined jobs to leadership positions due to the ability to adapt in today’s dynamic environment.

These qualities allow liberal arts graduates to be highly sought after. According to the recently released Singapore Graduate Employment Survey, for instance, Yale-NUS class of 2017 graduates achieved an employment rate of over 93 per cent within the first six months of graduation, as compared to overall employment rate of 88.9 per cent, measured by a graduate employment survey which polled over 11,000 fresh graduates from NUS, NTU and SMU.

Other than the employability and success of a liberal arts graduate, undergoing a liberal arts education allow students to better understand what the knowledge used to resolve technical problems are based on.

Last but not least, the fundamental aim of a liberal arts educate is to develop a sense of curiosity and encourage creativity. The end goal of attaining knowledge is to realise one’s unlimited potential and to thinkers like Aristotle and Confucius, it refers to intellectual contemplation and moral virtue.

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/commentary-a-liberal-arts-education-in-singapore-and-the-10155030

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