Four universities to adopt US LAE standards




Four leading universities are thinking of initiating a different education system that can enhance students' ability for integrated knowledge. Ads by Google
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  Khunying Sumontha Phromboon , chairwoman of a subcommittee for human resources development of science and technology, said yesterday that the Mahidol, Thammasat, Chulalongkorn and Chiang Mai universities were all interested in implementing "Liberal Arts Education" (LAE), a system that has been used in the US for years, after discovering that it helped students improve their integrated knowledge and instilled an eagerness to learn in them.

She was speaking at a brainstorming session held to share experiences and ideas for initiating liberal arts in highereducation institutions. The meeting was held yesterday at the Office of the Education Council.

"We're planning to push the meeting's recommendations as policy proposals to the council before they are proposed to the Cabinet for consideration," Sumontha said.

Liberal arts denotes a curriculum that imparts general knowledge and develops students' rational thought and intellectual capabilities unlike professional, vocational and technical curricula that emphasise specialities.

Under this system, students would be taught art, literature, languages, philosophy, politics, history, mathematics and science.

"Learning several different fields has given me wideranging knowledge, which is a great benefit to me in real life. I use my knowledge to improve my quality of work," said Chaiwat Vibunsawat, chairman of the executive board of Krung Thai Bank, who studied liberal arts at Williams College in the United States.

Many Ivy League colleges in the US focus on LAE, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore and Claremont.

In contrast, students furthering their studies in liberal arts in Thailand need to study philosophy, languages or history as separate subjects.

Under the LAE system overseas, students are free to choose as many subjects they want as electives provided they have the basics, even though some subjects might be taught at other faculties. In Thailand, freshmen can only choose to specialise in one subject and do not have the option for electives from other faculties.

In reality, people need to be knowledgeable in all fields to lead a happy life, Chaiwat said.  

"We want Thai universities to be more flexible and promote LAE, and in order to do this universities and all faculties need to cooperate. Students shouldn't lose the chance to study a subject they want. I believe many are forced into faculties they either don't like or aren't good at," he explained.

Chaiwat also recommended that university lecturers help students recognise the usefulness of each subject in real life. This way, it would be easier to instil eagerness in learning.


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