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ERIC Number: EJ986719
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Feb-5
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Bucking Cultural Norms, Asia Tries Liberal Arts
Fischer, Karin
Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb 2012
Sun Yat-sen University's East-meets-West curriculum is distinctive, but its embrace of liberal education--education across disciplines, meant to provoke broad thinking--is far from unusual. At a time when China and its East Asian neighbors are trouncing U.S. students on international exams, educators in these countries are nonetheless adopting, and adapting, that quintessentially American approach to learning. Some of the top institutions in the region, like Sun Yat-sen and Taiwan's Tunghai University, are setting up selective liberal-education programs. In South Korea, a declaration by the late Apple chief Steve Jobs that equal parts liberal learning and technological know-how were critical to the computer giant's success has kindled interest in the humanities. This coming fall, all university students in Hong Kong will be required to take a new, fourth year of general-education courses. These undergraduate-education reforms, promoted by government officials and business leaders as well as educators, stem from a basic economic calculus: The countries' current educational systems have produced stellar test takers but few innovators and inventors. The global economy is placing new demands on international hubs like Hong Kong and Singapore and opening up China's once-closed markets to overseas investment. Not only do new hires in these places have to collaborate with counterparts around the globe, they're also competing for jobs. And they're not faring well, dinged for inflexible thinking, inability to work in teams, and lack of creativity. A survey of Hong Kong employers rated local graduates far inferior to those educated abroad. In mainland China, more than one in 10 graduates have yet to find a job a year later, even in a booming economy. Casting their eyes West, reformers have latched onto American-style liberal, or general, education as a way to foster more nimble and adaptable thinkers. But although the efforts share the goal of broadening out the narrow, professionally oriented degree programs favored by local institutions, they may have little in common with the U.S. model, and even less with one another. Some take a canonical Great Books approach, others emphasize interdisciplinarity, while still others are a hodgepodge of courses in public speaking, foreign languages, and computer literacy--in short, anything outside major requirements. Curriculum is just one of many challenges raised by the push toward liberal education.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: China; Hong Kong; Singapore; South Korea; Taiwan