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Liberal Arts is not a flexible course in the visual arts, as many people assume when they first hear the term.
What is a liberal arts programme?
Liberal arts is simply a particular approach towards learning, much like the International Baccalaureate, that encourages students to study a wide range of subjects to develop into well-rounded individuals with transferable skills.
Although most liberal arts programmes today are found in North America, more new programmes are being offered every year in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and elsewhere. In fact the roots of this curriculum date back to ancient Europe and medieval universities.
What is the history of liberal arts?
According to the Liberal Arts College Review, Greeks and Romans considered a liberal arts education necessary in order for a human being to be free. Vocational and technical studies, which were more focused and less thought-provoking, were thought best to fit non-free members of society. By contrast, the study of medieval liberal arts emphasised civic duty and the development of one’s self through grammar, rhetoric and logic in order to achieve one’s full potential.
Modern liberal arts curriculums offer many more updated choices but the core aim remains true to its roots: to develop well-rounded individuals with knowledge ranging from science and literature to maths and global development and other innovative combinations.
Why do liberal arts matter?
Consider working to shape someone into an interesting conversationalist; if their studies focus exclusively on economics, for example, and their knowledge is limited to this single area, no matter how great an economist, people may find them uninteresting and ill-informed.
Many students in today’s fast-growing, advanced world are preparing for future careers and new jobs that do not yet exist. This is not an easy expectation. However, if young people are equipped to research, problem solve, analyse and are effective at communicating and presenting their ideas and discoveries, they will be prepared for almost any job. The idea that students must study something practical and marketable is somewhat dated.
Education today should produce independent, thoughtful thinkers, problem solvers and communicators who are compassionate, curious and creative, lifelong learners destined to become valuable leaders within their communities all around the world.
Liberal arts focuses on skills vital to a lifetime of success and prosperity rather than over-emphasising individual technical capabilities or the importance of a single subject, which is served through a masters degree.
How can liberal arts help me?
As for employability, many businesses seek graduates from liberal arts programs and most professionals would agree that the best benefits of a liberal arts degree are as follows:
- Learning to communicate effectively orally and written
- Improving critical thinking and problem-solving skills
- Gaining invaluable interpersonal skills and well-rounded knowledge
- Mastering organisation and time-management skills
Not all students are drawn toward a liberal arts curriculum, nor is it the best approach towards learning for everyone, however for those who are engaged in their own learning, have interdisciplinary interests and are open to a range of future careers and opportunities it is a wonderful option!
The College and Careers Department at Aiglon works closely with all students to be sure they thoroughly understand their higher education options, and through one-on-one meetings, we assist students in understanding whether or not liberal arts is the right choice for them.
About Edith Miletto
Edi grew up in North Carolina in the United States attending university there before moving to Switzerland in 2003. At Aiglon since 2012, she works in the College & Careers Department guiding students as they apply to universities. She is a member of the International Association for College Admission Counselling (ACAC) as well as CIS and SGIS. She regularly visits college campuses around the world for information sessions and counselling networking events.