The fragrance of the newly printed pages of books, the excitement of learning something new, the feeling of accomplishment on mastering a tough concept, the sheer joy of making tiny notes beside the main text in a book, the amazement at the mass of knowledge accumulated by each teacher. There were so many things to love about school but one! The spirit of inquiry, for the most part, trampled under the weight of marks. I did not even realize when this subtle shift took place. Monotony and routine had set in. The goal of high school education shifted gears and became the sheer means to get into college, find a job, and create a life of luxury. I wish I knew better as I feel I would have made very different choices.
I now know that the true goal of education is the lifelong happiness of the learner. What do I mean by that? Education should encourage the individual to realize their precious potential and to display their unique individuality with enthusiasm and vigor. Most educational institutions have lost sight of this all-important objective. As an educator, I often cringe at this reality but then again I put my best foot forward to guide students to universities and colleges that will encourage them to ask questions, deliberate over them while casting aside entrenched opinions aka beliefs and collaboratively reach thoughtful conclusions. In short, universities that will encourage students to think not just for themselves but also for others. When students pick up such lifelong skills, their measure of happiness is enhanced and they are well-poised to attract any type of job or work.
My recent conversations with my students who are studying at some of the best liberal arts colleges around the world (read Yale-NUS College, Barnard College, Haverford College, Mouth Holyoke College, Bryn Mawr College, Vassar College, Huron College, Ashoka University) were like a breath of fresh air. Their experience at their respective colleges points to inquiry-based learning in a small classroom setting with accessible professors who treat them with unconditional trust and warm respect.
The three reasons why any student should learn more about liberal arts colleges are:
- They foster students who learn to unlearn, think of new ways of approaching a challenge, and essentially pick up the beautiful art of questioning.
- They offer the flexibility to explore a vast breadth of subjects, encourage students to constantly discover new academic interests, and to appreciate the interconnectedness between various disciplines.
- Their educational philosophy of appreciating others and their perspectives are ingrained in their pedagogy.
I feel immense excitement when I hear my students share these positive experiences. It reminds me of the young girl within me who loves to learn for the sake of learning and for the sake of self-growth that leads to the positive transformation of the immediate environment and world.