Tertiary education today needs broad-based learning

Inauguration of the Yale-NUS College Campus.
Inauguration of the Yale-NUS College Campus.PHOTO: ZA

Dr Charles Bailyn's views resonate with me ("Reuniting science and the liberal arts"; Monday).

In 1952, I enrolled in a small college - Baker University - in Kansas in the United States.

Though I majored in biology and minored in chemistry, in the hopes of entering the medical field, I also had to pursue a core curriculum which covered both the so-called liberal arts and sciences subjects.

Similarly, at the Boston University School of Theology, where I studied after deciding to become a pastor, students were required to have a broad-based education in the liberal arts and sciences.

Indeed, students at the college level were discouraged from taking too many subjects in religion, and pursued theological courses only at the post-graduate level.

Yale-NUS College's integrated programme, with its common curriculum, is a welcome innovation in tertiary education for the 21st century.

We can no longer regard the post-secondary school experience to be simply skills training, as if we were robots for the technological community.

There needs to be holistic education which equips students to be more than just skilful technicians.

Education is a lifelong process and there is an urgent need for us to develop skills and human values to engage critically and act in a responsible way.

Technology has made facts and figures readily available and we no longer need to memorise them.

But we have to learn where the information is and how to gather it for our use to solve problems.

This comes down to an all-rounded education and the lifelong learning process.

Our policymakers are on the right trajectory as they implement this enlightened educational process.

There is hope for the emergence of responsible leaders in our community and nation.

Yap Kim Hao (Rev Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Tertiary education today needs broad-based learning'. Print Edition | Subscribe