Students gain a lot from the general education curriculum

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2016, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2016, 3:59pm

I refer to the letter by Raphael Blet (“Baptist University should stop forcing students to do courses”, June 9).

It is unfortunate that some do not yet see the value of a broad education and its implications for the future. The general education curriculum plays a critical role in ensuring students (particularly in Hong Kong) have the broad knowledge and essential skills needed to succeed – as citizens, employees and lifelong learners.

A survey of employers in Hong Kong shows that in addition to the basic skills in a field, employers would like graduates to have effective communication and problem-solving skills, teamwork, and a good work attitude. General education provides such opportunities to students who wish to add value to their education. Furthermore, general education activities encourage students to think critically in a complex, information-driven economy, understand cultural differences in an increasingly global society, and make connections and analyse information across various disciplines and contexts.

We all benefit from exposure to ideas generated from different disciplines. This allows us to appreciate the complexity of life. Mr Blet seems to think that the world we live in only requires little or no exposure to ideas that come from the various disciplines. He wants an apprenticeship, not a university education.

Our human endeavours require thoughtful approaches and solutions. University education broadens one’s horizon on how to think, to live, and how to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. I am surprised that someone who studies art is not sensitive enough to understand how we humans relate to the creative works of art and appreciate them. Such appreciation comes from exposure to different ideas from different disciplines.

University education prepares graduates to face a complex world with tools that help them intellectually, socially, spiritually and physically. The role of general education is to move individuals like Mr Blet from point A to point B, and allow them to become more than an apprentice.

It is fascinating that the same philosopher Mr Blet admires talks in the same article about “talking regularly to many bright young people, having lively discussions with them, occasionally opening their minds to new ideas and then seeing their fascination with these issues and desire to know more. What a feeling.”

Such discussions are at the core of general education courses and can “open minds” of individuals who wish not to put their heads in the sand.

A. Reza Hoshmand, director of general education, Hong Kong Baptist University