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Why is Liberal Arts Education Important for Myanmar Youth?

Living in a time of unprecedented global challenges, it is inevitable that we would have to work together with both local and global communities to tackle complex problems and challenges in order to benefit people from all walks of life. 

What is Liberal Arts Education? 

Liberal arts and sciences education, also known as liberal arts education, consists of seven subjects or skill sets, including grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. In ancient Western culture, people with all of these seven skills were acknowledged to be educated ones. 

Liberal arts education has flourished not only in ancient Western culture but also in the eastern countries. For example, in ancient China, people also learned the six skills called “liù yì.” The six arts include rites, music, archery, chariot racing, calligraphy, and mathematics. Liberal Arts education has a similar essence to Aṭṭhārasa (18 Craftsmanship) in Myanmar.

Liberal Arts education focuses on well-rounded interdisciplinary learning, encompassing humanities, arts, social sciences and natural sciences. It allows learners to gain knowledge and experiences not only in one selected subject or field, but also in other fields to inform a holistic way of thinking. 

How important is it for Myanmar Youth? 

We had a chance to interview Myanmar graduates from liberal arts institutions based in the U.S, including DePauw University, Colgate University, and Lewis & Clark College. We asked about their experience with liberal arts education and their perceptions of how interdisciplinary education provided by liberal arts institutions can equip young people with all the sought-after skills and knowledge.

Aeint Myat Chel (Colgate University)

Aeint Myat Chel

“Liberal arts education is an education approach that teaches students to be able to think from different viewpoints. Liberal arts education has been flourishing around the world. Liberal arts education is not just available in other countries, but people will be able to receive this education from the university in Myanmar soon such as Parami University.  The Myanmar education system is useful in terms of memorization for some subjects. On the other hand, liberal arts education provides students with the ability to think critically. I am not saying that memorizing skills are not as important as critical thinking skills.”

Pyi Theim Kyaw (DePauw University)

Pyi Theim Kyaw 

“To me, liberal arts education is an education system that has interdisciplinary subjects to learn from, and allows me to explore what I am interested in. Liberal Arts education is really important for Myanmar. The reason is that we have to be able to stand on our own feet, and it could be difficult if we don’t know what we are passionate about. As liberal arts education has introduced me to a wide range of subjects to explore my passion, I have become more independent and wise. As a result, I am more confident to do things on my own. This is what is needed the most for young people in Myanmar.”

Khin Wai Phyo Han (Lewis & Clark College)

Khin Wai Phyo Han

“Liberal arts education is an education that helps shape an individual to be able to think critically from different perspectives. Through this liberal arts education, I have realized two main things including: 1) You will become more comprehensive and empathized on something regardless of your interest in it 2) I have developed the ability to look at a problem from a different lens, think critically and solve it effectively.”

With the necessity of liberal arts education for our young generation in mind, Parami seeks to nurture Myanmar's young leaders by offering a leadership program to hundreds of young people from all walks of life across Myanmar since 2017 and including Parami University, which will open in 2022. Through liberal arts education, Parami aims to provide youth with sought-after skills—critical and creative thinking skills, analytical skills, and problem-solving skills, which are the essential skills to becoming a leader in a rapidly changing world today.

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