OPERATIONALIZING LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION AT THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA

OPERATIONALIZING LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION AT THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA.
The reason for this paper work is to show the relevance of liberal arts education here in the American University of Nigeria. This paper highlights the various ways of providing liberal arts education in the American University of Nigeria. It emphasizes the need of liberal arts education not only in AUN but also in Nigeria as country.
Many people do not understand the need and foundation of liberal arts in Nigeria. It is essential for us in AUN which know the concept of liberal arts education to make it known to others all over the world and not only Nigeria.
However, before I go on, what is liberal arts education? It is a form of learning in which one does not allow one to dwell on his/her major/speciality but it provides a general knowledge about various skills one can do more than just his/her field.
Liberal arts education is known to be the oldest scheme of high education in the western history. liberal is derived from Latin meaning “free man”. Therefore, we can say that liberal arts education is for the free man or is essential for a free person so as to engage in various skills and public affairs without opposition. This way, one would be exposed to different things and not just his/her speciality. Liberal arts education teaches people basically how to write, speak and think. So now you see why it is a necessity in Nigeria.
We may be asking ourselves, “Why liberal arts education in Nigeria?”. Well, here in Nigeria, liberal arts education is not widely recognized. Only the few who have been privileged to learn it in some other parts of the world where it is practiced understand it and know its importance. In Nigerian universities today, liberal arts are so unrecognized that it has been forgotten. This ought not to be so and would be explained.
Liberal arts education helps in the growth of a firm, school, country and so on. Not practising liberal arts education, can cause degradation. As said earlier, liberal arts education helps one to write, speak and think. These three skills are really important in a society especially in Nigeria where the illiteracy level is very high. Now let’s see how these three skills would be of help in Nigeria.
Writing: writing is the arrangement of words, symbols, thoughts and even imaginations orderly so as to communicate meaning to a reader for the purpose of information, education, entertainment, explanation and so on. Writing in not meant specifically for anyone. One needs to have good writing skills no matter your profession or personality. You never can tell where you would find yourself tomorrow. Writing is an asset for every individual. Writing draws reading. One cannot write comprehensively without reading. Writing skill in Nigeria is really poor. Even our newspapers have poorly developed articles and I believe that liberal arts education would be able to improve the writing skill in Nigeria as writing gives the ability to think clearly, widely and creatively.
Speaking: speaking is another skill that liberal arts would impart. The way one speaks, tells a lot about his/her personality. One should be able to communicate freely and clearly. Speaking is a very important skill which is very poor in Nigeria. I mean, we had a recent incident in Nigeria where the Inspector General of Police, not to mention any name, gave a really low standardized speech. A speech of low quality and so unacceptable. I do not mean to be so repulsive but don’t you think that such a high placed official should have such a high speaking standard? Speaking requires good thinking. Now we see that the way one speaks tells how he thinks. The ability to carry people along while speaking is very important. Clarity and confidence are also important in speaking. Good oral communication is important. It tells a lot about one.
Thinking: as mentioned earlier, speaking requires critical thinking. One must learn how think critically for good expression and speaking. Liberal arts education involves mainly how to think critically. To learn how to think is also a great asset. It is very useful to every individual. Once one has learnt how to think, it would be easy to express himself, read, write and provide solutions to problems. You see, here in Nigeria, most people have not learnt how to think comprehensively and that’s why problem solving is difficult. Learning how to think provides a wide range of knowledge.
Operationalizing Liberal Arts Education at AUN. AUN is known for the strong practice of liberal arts education. AUN engages students in various general courses outside their majors. However, the school is determined to do more like:
Adding more term papers, less multiple-choice question exams; This is because most faculties set exam questions which do not involve much explanation and writing just to escape the stress of reading long stories and so on. This would not help the students as they would not be able to express themselves and improve knowing that this school is a liberal arts school. Term papers which include broad writing should be involved in all courses to broaden students’ knowledge. These term papers should include assessment.
Oral presentations should be part of grading; Oral presentations should portray ones speaking skills. By involving oral presentations in grading, students would be able to improve in their speaking. One should be able express his/her feelings and taught through speaking. It boosts ones’ confidence.
Creativity, not memorization; In Nigeria, we are used to the memorization and examination system and not the writing and creativity. The only time where you see writing take place is mostly during English classes which is not appropriate. Term papers like I have said, would increase ones’ knowledge and skills because comprehensive reading, thinking and creativity would have been involved.
Blended culture; Knowing that AUN brings people from all over Nigeria and even all over the world, students, instructors, faculties should be able to come together and understand each other and even involve all the cultures to make learning interesting. Though, I agree we should maintain the American standard but that should not stop the African culture and also other cultures from all over the world to have a stand. Students should also be made to understand their instructors and his/her way of teaching so as to make learning interesting and examination easier.
Extracurricular activities; To engage in liberal arts education, various activities outside learning need to be involved. Although, we already have some of those happening on AUN campus but more should be involved. Students should contribute on what they want to do and it should be carried out.
Thinking about thinking; This involves students thinking about what they want to do, how they should do it, how they should study, and even their memory capability. This way, students would be able to know how to learn on their own and pass and also take responsibility.
Let me now talk about Integrating the LEAP Signature Work in AUN Curriculum; This involves a student using what he/she has leant to perform a task or do a project related to a problem he/she is facing. By doing this, students would be able to do project without relying on anyone but his/her own research. This is important for all students because defending your work shows your competence as a student. This involves critical thinking and also oral presentations because the student would defend the project before the whole class.
I would say that I totally agree with the fact that Liberal Arts Education in the American University of Nigeria should be operationalized. I agree that it should be improved by increasing term papers to enhance students writing, oral presentations should be introduced to enhance students speaking, creativity should also be inculcated to improve students thinking and same to the other points.
I hope and believe that AUN would improve more and more in liberal arts and bring this great change to Nigeria through our knowledge of Liberal Arts Education.