In the seminar "Liberal Education: Teaching Children to Succeed in Change" taking place at the Olympia Schools on December 11, 2021, the guests opened up about the application of liberal education at school and at home.
Liberal Arts: Origins and Core Values
The Liberal Arts were originally from the ancient Greek. At that time, learning is about seeking knowledge through philosophy, mathematics, or astrology. Through times, liberal arts education lends itself into different variations. However, to Dr. Nguyen Chi Hieu, its essence is in four key ideas: Freedom, Connecting to your inner world, Interacting and integrating, and Always asking questions.
"Freedom" in liberal arts is not to bind people to a certain subject, category or profession. Students are free to explore the fields and knowledge that they love. In a volatile world, there are professions that will disappear. If you only train you to do a certain profession, how will you manage 10 years later that profession disappears?
“Connecting to my inner world” is to find out who I am, my inner feelings, thoughts, and aspirations. Liberal education not only has subjects to learn about the outside world, but also subjects and opportunities to help students learn their own self to build self in front of a changing world with many streams of thought. Ideas and cultures collide. It is very important for a person to build "Who am I" in the midst of this flow and to stand firm in the face of fluctuations.
“Interacting and Integrating” is when you know how to live across cultures, how you collaborate with people in the open world both physically and on social media. How to use external and internal knowledge to live in an increasingly culturally diverse world.
Studying for a career, or learning to know yourself and explore the world?
Liberal education is an educational philosophy, not a discipline to have a clear definition. The design of the liberal arts curriculum has also changed over time as an adaptation. Currently, there are a number of schools applying liberal education with their own modification. In addition to the traditional subjects of liberal education such as humanities, education, and art, they also integrate knowledge of science and engineering to help students adapt to a life dominated by technology.
Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram, Fulbright University Vietnam shared: “Liberal education in a university is where students find themselves, not just to be trained in a certain profession. Here, you are free to explore and do everything to develop your inner self. Students at universities with liberal arts education have access to a variety of disciplines to explore before choosing a path for their life. Not everyone can find their passion, but you have the opportunity to find the calling of a field that you are interested in.
After being exposed to different professions, you can leverage that to go deeper into certain subjects. Liberal education at the university focuses on the way that you seek knowledge rather than finding it, so you will be trained rigorously on how to be a life-long learners, how to think, to criticize, to create, to ask questions to solve problems.”
General Education with Liberal Arts
So how can students connect what they are learning to specific fields in occupations in the labor market? “I'm glad that the liberal arts programs I know by pioneering educators in Vietnam such as Olympia and Fulbright are connecting what children are learning with what the market needs.” - Ms. Phoenix Ho.
The liberal arts schools in Vietnam are doing quite well in connecting the spirit and values of liberal arts with reality. Dr. Nguyen Chi Hieu gives an example of liberal education when teachers not only turn English learning into IELTS preparation or grammar exercises, but also create opportunities for students to use English in school. “At Olympia, over 4 years of high school, students have the opportunity to learn and experience across continents, fields, from the history of these continents, influencing cultures, religions, ideas and philosophies and push to contemporary literature and problems that the continent is dealing with to answer the root questions: Why is there war? Where do religion and science meet? It is these things that help you dream and seek knowledge with the liberal spirit. At the same time, we also put real projects into life, using our thinking, research skills, information research to solve and critique problems: How to renew Vinamilk's brand, how to to make fashion magazines more accessible to young people? How to bring 7-Eleven chain to Hanoi?”
The essence of education is not only imparting knowledge available in books. The integrated knowledge and skills from liberal arts education should go into practical problems and connect with what students have learned in school, from their families. From there, students can pursue knowledge in other fields, can think critically, draw conclusions and solve problems in life. Since then, they are more ready to step into a society where change is the only constant.
Read the Vietnamese version here