Liberal Arts in Asia

A recent article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the recent institution of liberal arts programs in some of the top universities in China and East Asia. The article is detailed and primarily focuses on China, covering issues ranging from how to marry the study of Eastern and Western cultures, the wide variety of approaches these universities have taken to teaching the liberal arts, the difficulties some schools have had in adopting these new programs, the pitfalls of China’s streamlined and more rigid educational system, and the importation of international talent to teach these courses. These reforms are supported broadly in China by government officials, business leaders and educators, and, the reasoning behind them, article claims, is economic: “The countries’ current educational systems have produced stellar test takers but few innovators and inventors.” Recent graduates from Chinese universities are collaborating and competing with recent graduates around the globe, and

they’re not faring well, dinged for inflexible thinking, inability to work in teams, and lack of creativity. A survey of Hong Kong employers rated local graduates far inferior to those educated abroad. In mainland China, more than one in 10 graduates have yet to find a job a year later, even in a booming economy. Casting their eyes West, reformers have latched onto American-style liberal, or general, education as a way to foster more nimble and adaptable thinkers.

Thus, at a time when students from these regions routinely outperform U.S. students on international exams, universities in these countries are nevertheless beginning to adopt one of the hallmarks (at least historically) of the American approach to education, the liberal arts school. Read more at The Chronicle.

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