What is Liberal education? Is it the same as interdisciplinary education?
If ‘discipline’ is a branch of knowledge and refers to the learning and applying intentional standards to achieve meaningful objectives, ‘interdisciplinarity’ simply means relating to more than one discipline. It involves combining two or more academic, scientific, or artistic disciplines. Interdisciplinarity is at the core of ‘liberal education’.
‘Liberal education’ integrates learning across the curriculum and combines academic and experiential learning. It is however, more than a combination of two or more disciplines. Being global in scope, liberal education aims to develop specific learning outcomes that are essential not just for work, but for citizenship, and life itself. While providing broad exposure to a range of disciplines, it also permits in-depth study in at least one academic area.
The adoption of the liberal education model at Sai University (SaiU) is prompted by the firm belief that individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a strong sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement are needed now more than ever, when fast-paced and unforeseen changes are sweeping the world. Fundamental to the pedagogical model in SaiU is the belief that students must be challenged with important issues surrounding them in order to grow into open-minded, questioning and reflective individuals who are not swayed easily by dogmas and ideologies, that is.
It is such thoughtful individuals that the tech giants and global powerhouses are looking for. The ability to question the status quo, to work autonomously, to convey ideas clearly and to be sensitive to issues relating to equitability are attributes that are as valued in the workplaces of today as domain knowledge. Needless to say, a candidate with a liberal education stands heads and shoulders above those whose education has been confined to one discipline.
The flexibility that a liberal education model allows to specialize in more than one academic area of study (by qualifying in a major and minor) expands the areas of expertise. Afterall, there is seldom an issue that can be contained to one discipline. Let us just take the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. Is it just a health issue? Is it not an issue that needs to be approached from the perspective of mental health? Is it not an economic issue? Is it also not something engaging policy-makers? For a candidate with liberal education there are simply more pickings at the job market.
It is interesting that students of today are preparing for jobs that do not exist yet. The technological revolution has, and is rendering many jobs redundant while creating new areas of work. Liberal education prepares students for this complex labor market. Critical thinking and analytical skills on which the liberal education model is founded equips the individual with the ability to quickly adapt to changing scenarios.
Above all, a liberal education helps the individual confidently navigate internal and external conflicts in life. By enabling our students to be thoughtful and reflective, and considerate of other beliefs and cultures, we at SaiU hope to make a better future for all.