Sunday, May 23, 2010

My views on how Singapore can adopt the Liberal Arts.

My journeys in wealth creation has stretched most of the technical disciplines. In Singapore, that's what most of us are built to do. Work hard, get a degree and then get employed rapidly to start building wealth for the future. The economy of the future almost ensure that an engineering education will but be enough to sustain a career beyond a decade.

Moving into a management role will require a person to be more aware of the subtleties of corporate life, which means that the advantage will shift towards a manager who is more human and can solve problems with very little structure and live with truckloads of ambiguity.

It is this realization that I disagree with the government's approach towards the liberal arts. Right now, the trend is towards training law and medical students in the liberal arts where they remain elite and give them this opportunity to delay graduation by a year to become more well rounded human beings. All this does is make the program more expensive and delay the money making years by a year for the smartest guys in our education system.

I think this approach will fail. Debt ridden students are more likely to game the grades system to maximize their starting incomes. Humanity can always come later.

Furthermore, the industries in the future will still be run by us Generation X's. We're a ruthless and unforgiving generation who has been trained to be very unsentimental in work matters. The burden will be upon the debt-ridden Generation Y and the Millenials to wrestle the thought leadership from the Generation X's - it would not be ceded more easily.

So i think that a liberal arts education will widen the generation gap between Singaporeans.

I believe that way forward for a liberal arts college should be the opposite of what the West has intended for their people.

The Liberal arts should become an alternative to the EMBA, to allow executives who have reached a level of comfort with themselves to learn more about their past and humanize themselves into better managers. The liberal arts multiple and amplify the years of wisdom already gained by engaging in the workforce. It will also open the minds of the folks in the economy who need it the most.

It will also make execution much easier, mid-level executives can afford to pay for the low lecturer-to-student ratios and discussions between working peers can also attain a level of gravitas as yet unattainable from a bunch of young adults. I bet the academics want a more mature discussion too with cases drawn directly from the working world.

I hope that the Universities will consider making the liberal arts a postgraduate qualification, where senior managers will come back to school to re-school themselves in grammar, logic and public speaking.

Because if you look at the quality of Singapore management today, we're in a dire need for self-improvement.

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