As a university student, I have had the opportunity to interact with students coming from systems of education other than my own. The differences between these systems are most reflected in class in, for example, how different students learn and retain new information, competitiveness, and problem-solving.

What interested me was that each individual applied their thought process, attitude toward learning, and problem-solving skills during lectures and examinations exactly as they had learned to during secondary school. Every aspect, the curriculum, the method of teaching, the interest and understanding developed then,proved of consequence now. This may seem obvious to the intuitive, but it is not emphasised on at secondary school level, and led to a multitude of issues to consider. Primarily, though, it was this exposure that convinced me of the vitality of an educational system of a higher quality; the greater this quality, the more likely the students are to succeed in university.

Many of the students whom I know are currently or were students of the local education system tended to not appreciate the postulations behind what they study, which is one of the primary purposes of an education. A significant hindrance that ensued from this culture of rote-learning is when these students enrolled at university, or prepared for entry, they found it difficult to apply the concepts they were made to memorise by heart. Most of them had to begin from scratch,revisiting the most fundamental concepts in their syllabus; some ended up not doing as well as the time they had invested merited. A former student of this system myself, I remember putting most effort into knowing the course thoroughly, rather than why it was necessary to understand its significance in everyday and professional life. Ultimately, this is neither desirable nor constructive.

Now, this is a far more complicated situation to resolve than to merely direct the students and teachers to devote more time to understanding. It is reasonable to question if the effort is worth it when the examinations are knowledge-based.

There is, thus, a need to thoroughly revise the local education system- from the writing of the subject matter, to the paper pattern, to the marking scheme. But this on its own would be inadequate. From what I have observed in academic performance in university, and job performance, quality, and security after university, it is imperative that an education system should value and aim to foster critical thinking in our students, encourage them to build on and go beyond the concepts they learn, apply them to everyday and professional life, and lead informed lives, engaged and active in their community. One way to achieve this is to introduce a liberal arts curriculum, a conjunction of the humanities as well as the sciences.

To understand the purposes of a liberal arts curriculum, I distinguished between diversity and constructive diversity. Consider the following analogy: it is imperative for an admissions officer to select as diverse a group of students as possible on the premise that this improves cultural understanding and the learning process as a whole.

Likewise, studying literature enhances, for instance, one’s understanding of other cultures, the principles of human nature that connect us, and the social constructs that form the differences between us. Thus, one learns to better interact with people of different cultures. Given the rapid globalisation that is occurring today and the growth in foreign investment in Pakistan, this is a strong advantage – it could even be regarded as necessary. Students majoring in management science are advised to take courses in psychology as much of their work is subject to interactions with various people – suppliers, distributors, colleagues, subordinates, customers – and marketing. A number of tech CEOs and inventors have majored in humanities or social sciences. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki completed a Bachelor’s degree in history. Elon Musk majored in both physics and economics. Essentially, a liberal arts curriculum enhances one’s ability to connect concepts, hypotheses, and phenomena across diverse disciplines. This, in turn, allows us to deal with multiple dimensions of the problems we encounter, using multiple perspectives, which is inextricably linked with a stronger growth of the mind and person. This intellectual growth and circumspection, inevitably, permeates into our professional life.

A well rounded education allows students to expand on their critical thinking, to analyse and evaluate better. As an Economics and Mathematics major, I often find myself and other students applying the approaches, skills, and techniques we acquire while studying the humanities to our core subjects. For instance, in writing as well as literature, we are encouraged to go beyond the context of, say, a reading, and think in broader terms, as well as to be rigorous in our analysis and attention to detail. This insight, then, projects into our core subjects: a greater effort is made to progressively understand the subject matter. That is, instead of continuously struggling with the basics of the subject, students get ahead and even look beyond the classroom. They consider further applications of the technology and advancement of the technology itself. In other words, they are in a better position to improve and innovate.

In my personal experience, a student of a liberal arts curriculum is made to understand that education should not be regarded as a path to a prestigious university or occupation, but something life-long and far more meaningful. This our education system must emphasise: the ultimate goal of education is growth.

Furthermore, because the themes of a liberal arts education are more subjective to analyse, I and my fellow students have had to invest a greater amount of time in self-study and appraisal, that is, be better teachers of ourselves. And because being better able to teach yourself can be regarded as equivalent to learning quicker, liberal arts students display greater adaptability. In today’s highly unpredictable economy, where studies indicate the average worker is likely to change jobs several times throughout their career, the importance of adaptability cannot be underestimated. Not to mention the abundance of research present to show that employees often feel job candidates are under-prepared, if not underqualified. They look for qualities such as the ability to learn quickly, to teach themselves, and to bring intuition and creativity to their job. This clearly delineates the importance of studying a liberal arts curriculum. Again, the importance of competitive advantages in today’s job market is not negligible.

As Benjamin Franklin once famously said, an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Indeed, one of the best indicators of a country’s future economic position is the expenditure made on education in the present. This viewpoint, however, does not seem to prevail in the standard Intermediate class, where the shortcomings of the local education system are distinctly reflected. To highlight, progress is achieved by growth of both mind and person, the foundation for a liberal arts curriculum. Emphasis on this is one of several situations our policy makers must focus on. If a liberal arts curriculum is introduced widely at secondary school and university level, it is highly likely that the benefits will be enormous.