Exposure, choice, and guidance
The “liberal arts” is a method for specialising in any branches of knowledge from sciences to art and design. The liberal arts mode has three core components:
- Broad exposure to foundational areas of knowledge
- Choice of specialisation on the basis of this broad exposure
- Close faculty guidance
Broadening horizons is an end in itself, but it also enables better choices because these choices emerge from a student’s own commitments and interests. Choice gives the student ownership of his/her course, and exposure enables better choices.
These are tough choices so students will have faculty advisers helping them at every step. Liberal arts courses are intentionally kept small precisely to deepen this critical relationship.
Data (table 6) on the UG education of Phd recipients in the US tells us that the liberal arts mode works. Specialising through the liberal arts mode creates better scientists, better engineers, better social scientists, and better designers because of this combination of exposure, choice, and guidance.
Further data (figure 4) show that in the US, those who take a UG degree in Engineering have a 85% likelihood of having a career in a related field. Data for IIT Bombay indicate that that likelihood drops to roughly 40%. This strongly suggests that most students do not work in the branch they are assigned. Hence the value of choice-based education where students can find the field that truly drives their interest and further career success and happiness.