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Vassar College looks at contributing to Indian education system through liberal arts

Vassar College, among the top liberal arts colleges of the United States, is looking at contributing to India’s education system which is being revamped to keep pace with modern day realities.

As the Union government is gearing up to unveil the New Education Policy, the draft of which has been out, with liberal arts courses in the curriculum, Vassar College has offered to help.

Top authorities of the college recently met leading Indian academics to set the tone to augment investments for introduction of liberal arts courses which are expensive to roll out.

“For the first time there is a statement from India that there will be liberal arts in higher education and we want to contribute,” said Elizabeth H. Bradley, president, Vassar College, U.S. in an interview.

“Being involved collectively will help both of us. We want to be a part of the global dialogue on how we need to educate to be creative and effective,” she added.

“We are a liberal arts college and we aspire to have a global perspective. So collaborating with India will help. We have so many students from India, so many alumni and we thought it would be appropriate to come here and contribute,” she said.

Vassar College, started in 1861 in Poughkeepsie, New York, has no tie ups with any Indian educational institutions so far but is now keen to explore possibilities.

“We are definitely thinking about affiliations, exchange programmes and dialogues that we could do together as India is at an inflexion point about liberal arts. This is time when we could work together on something concrete,” she said.

Now talks have been initiated with some leading educational institutions such as Ashoka University, Flame University, IITs, IIMs, Delhi University and Mumbai University, she added.

Liberal arts is an under graduate programme in which a student studies many topics. While 40% of the course is for the major subject, the rest 60% are in all other areas.

“The goal of liberal arts education is that you are generalist and you know how to learn. So as the world changes you have that many skills, vocabulary and tools to adopt and be able to act at times of need in future,” Ms Bradley said.

In many cases the liberal arts provides the best foundation. It is a wider programme of higher education that includes subjects like natural sciences (astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics), social sciences (anthropology, economics, geography, political science, sociology), creative arts (fine arts, theatre, speech, creative writing) and humanities (English literature, modern languages, history, philosophy).

While liberal arts originated in the U.S. and found a resurgence in continental Europe it is evolving in countries such as Singapore, Ghana and Rwanda.

While Vassar gets over 100 applications from Indian students every year, only less than a dozen students make it. It costs $70,000 a year to study in this college.

The study of liberal arts prepares young adults for the most essential aspects of their careers: networking across geographies and demographics, understanding various points of view and incorporating them in decisions, fast-tracking personal growth.

It doesn’t matter which discipline they study. These are essential skills for this fast-evolving world, preparing them for careers and life in general, Ms. Bradley said.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 7:02:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/vassar-college-looks-at-contributing-to-indian-education-system-through-liberal-arts/article30609373.ece

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