Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Imperative of liberal education for all-round development

Image result for pictures of Prof Ahaneku

By Gabriel Alonta
Human beings by nature wants freedom in all ramifications without limitation but it becomes very pathetic when it comes to education. However, students tend to short changed themselves in a particular field when it comes to knowledge acquisition, hence the need to inculcate liberal education to every child in order to inculcate in them multi-disciplinary consciousness.
Education has been variously defined by many scholars the world over. The unique attribute of the singular word “education” is the acquisition of knowledge, skill, competence, and the right attitude necessary for survival in any given society.
Education is the process of receiving and giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. It is an enlightening experience that could be acquired through formal, informal or non-formal setting.
While the main aims and objectives of Nigeria’s education policy arising from the 1977, 1981 and 2004 editions remains the inculcation of national consciousness and national unity; the inculcation of the right type of values and attitudes for the survival of the individuals and the Nigeria society; the training of the mind in the understanding of the world around; and the acquisition of appropriate skills, abilities and competences both mental and physical as equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to the development of the society, nonetheless, the importance of liberal education cannot be over-emphasised. 
 Liberal Education on its own, is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest.
Liberal education helps students to develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
The broad goals of liberal education have been enduring even as the courses and requirements that comprise liberal education have changed over the years. Today, liberal education usually includes a general education curriculum that provides broad learning in multiple disciplines and ways of knowing, along with more in-depth study in a major.
The purpose and value of a liberal education are considered to lie in its enabling people to make good use of their leisure, possession of which is the distinguishing mark of free persons and the purpose for which they work. It seeks to develop free human beings who know how to use their minds and are able to think for themselves. Its primary aim is not the development of professional competence, although liberal education is indispensable for any intellectual pursuit.

“Liberal education is a practical education because it develops just those capacities needed by every thinking adult: analytical skills, effective communication, practical intelligence, ethical judgment, and social responsibility.
“In the 21st century Education serves democracy best when it prepares us for just the kinds of questions we face now: questions about a wider world, about our own values, and about difficult choices we must make both as human beings and citizens. . . . The approach to higher learning that best serves individuals, our globally engaged democracy and an innovating economy is liberal education," (AAC & U Board of Directors, 2002).
"The only education that prepares us for change is a liberal education. In periods of change, narrow specialisation condemns us to inflexibility precisely what we do not need. We need the flexible intellectual tools to be problem solvers, to be able to continue learning over time."  (David Kearns, Xerox, 2002).
At a conference organised by the Centre for Arts, Culture and Humanities (CACH), Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Andrew Efemini, from University of Port-Harcourt, stated that liberal education is about broad knowledge that liberate students from mental slavery and brings about multi-disciplinary consciousness of the students. He added that through liberal education, sustainable development is ensured, because an educated population is a productive force for sustainable development.
“Liberal education should emancipate people from indigenous mentality and be more accommodating to other indigenes of the world; produce persons who are open-minded; freedom from dogmas and bias as well as produce those who are reflective of their actions”, he said.
Speaking at the event, the Director of the Centre, Alex Asigbo, noted that liberal education is about inculcating the right mindset in the student that will make them receptive to knowledge beyond their area of study.
The Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Joseph Eberendu Ahaneku, has this to say of liberal education: “Indifference attitude by our students have left them short-changed to some subjects at their secondary school making them limited in their horizon; the student must therefore be up and doing by embracing liberal education for their wholesome development and versatility”.
On his part, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Charles Esimone, explained that “liberal education teaches not only to think but also how to think, adding that liberal education when properly accepted would boost the economy; helps in policy making; enhances political participation; cohesion of the people and foster better understanding of globalisation”.
Obi Oguejiofor of Department of Philosophy, said that liberal education brings about critical thinking, liberal disposition, scientific consciousness which is the desire to know, enquire and read. “The purpose of being in the university is to know something about everything hence, the need for liberal education, he added”.
Therefore, there is no gainsay that liberal education develops cultivated persons who can use their leisure fruitfully. It is an education for all free men, whether they intend to be scientists or not. It produces citizens who can exercise their political liberty responsibly.

Our educational problem is how to produce free men, not hordes of uncultivated, trained technicians. Only the best liberal schooling can accomplish this. It must include all the humanities as well as mathematics and the sciences. It must exclude all merely vocational and technical training.



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