New Delhi: The draft national policy on education, submitted to the government on May 31, has suggested far-reaching reforms in higher education such as abolition of Science, Arts and Commerce stream at the undergraduate level with the emphasis on liberal education that promotes multi-disciplinary learning and cross-disciplinary capabilities.
What this means is that a Science student will have the flexibility to take up subjects in humanities and vocational training and vice versa in case of an Arts student. Education of this nature is already running successfully in the ivy league universities in USA.
The policy has proposed introduction of a four year ‘Bachelor of Liberal Arts (BLA) in place of the existing three-year undergraduate programme for all such institutes, which are capable of running the programme. The four-year course will come together with specialisation in a particular field. Institutes which wish to continue with the traditional three-year degree programme must move towards a liberal educational approach, it emphasised.
The recommendations presented to the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry argued that a comprehensive liberal education will help nurture all capacities in a human being. It said a liberal form of learning will help a student develop both his/her creative and artistic as well as the analytic side.
The policy has been put in the public domain for public feedback. “The recommendations if accepted could even call for legislative interventions and amendments to the Central Universities Act. The recommendations are sweeping in nature and implementing them is not happening anytime soon,” said sources in the HRD Ministry.
The policy, drafted by a committee led by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, as even suggested that engineering schools such as the IITs must move towards a more liberal education integrating arts and humanities, while arts and humanities students must aim to learn more science – while all must make the effort to learn more vocational subjects.
“India’s rich legacy in the arts as well as in the sciences and beyond will greatly help in making the move towards liberal education an easy and natural transition,” the policy has stated.
The committee has suggested that all higher education must “move into multidisciplinary institutions”. “Institutions offering a single stream must be phased out, and all universities and colleges must aim to become composite multidisciplinary higher education bodies.
Why such a suggestion?
The committee has said that the world’s greatest innovation and breakthrough have come because of cross-fertilisation of ideas. The CAT scan, MRIs and laser in medicine have come from space scientists who were looking at them for different reasons.
Similarly, radiocarbon dating used in archaeology and history came from physics and chemistry.