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ERIC Number: EJ1002371
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 22
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 22
ISSN: ISSN-0021-3667
The Liberal Arts in Anglophone Africa
Lilford, Grant
Journal of General Education, v61 n3 p189-210 2012
In 2009 and 2010, the author was involved in two University of Botswana initiatives on graduate employability. The first was a university-wide task force exploring the attitudes of students and staff and recommending reforms both in learning and teaching and in support services for students. The second was a Faculty of Humanities tracer study, in which the author was part of a team traveling to major centers in Botswana to identify the employment destinations of recent graduates. Both initiatives grappled with the consequences of overspecialization in admissions and instructional policies as well as a lack of generic skills to enable students to adapt their qualifications to new environments. Both problems are compounded by the expectation that a degree automatically qualifies its holder for a government job, with a relatively high starting salary, high status, and extensive benefits. Rapidly growing enrollments in higher education throughout the continent, combined with structural reforms, which are shrinking the civil service, confound this expectation. Through both initiatives, and through his experience in higher education in South Africa, Uganda, and Botswana, as well as the United States, the author became aware that the specialized tertiary education, which promises government employment on graduation, is at the root of the problem. A liberal arts education that does not entitle its graduate to a particular job, but which supplies writing, analytical, lifelong learning, and creative skills that apply to a number of work environments, may be better suited to the human resource needs of the continent and the employability of its graduates. This article is therefore a contribution toward an expanded debate on higher education in Africa and on the need to explore other models in reforming existing institutions. The author is an advocate of the liberal arts, not as a panacea but as a component of reformed tertiary education systems throughout Africa. The liberal arts offer a more viable model, whether integrated into more specialized syllabi or as a broad-based first degree that aspires to wisdom for its own sake. As the first part of a longer project, this article seeks to demonstrate, through the history of the liberal arts on this continent, that African traditional, Islamic, and Christian models promulgated a broad education, which aimed to develop the whole person. In addition, Africa played a key role in the development of the liberal arts, and the detailed study of African thought and culture is integral to the study of humanity. (Contains 1 note.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Africa; Botswana; South Africa; Uganda; United States