Mapping the Future

Some Notes in favour of Arts Education

Published On : 22nd April, 2021

Lately Arts education is considered as the last option for students choosing career options post their 12’th standard. There are several misconceptions about Arts Education. Arts education is thought to be a girl’s only domain. Also arts education is thought to be for the academically weak students who cannot sustain the rigor of commerce or science or other professional education categories. These beliefs root from the false impression that arts education does not provide any career after the degree and also from the wrong belief that arts education is academically very easy to pursue as compared to other fields of education.

First of all let us understand that the role and purpose of education is much more profound and far reaching than fetching a job at the end of it. The purpose of education is to develop the knowledge, skill, or character of students. A job is a natural outcome, but not the only outcome. Ayn Rand summarizes the purpose of education quite well. She says ““The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life-by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past-and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort.”

Education lays the foundation for the fulfillment of a person’s dreams and aspirations. Education helps a person meet his/her career objectives. Economic growth is a part of career objectives and not the only objective. The true purpose of education is to bring about profoundness to one’s emotions, to broaden one’s perspectives and to lead to a healthier approach of looking at life.

Arts Education is the pursuit of human excellence and excellent intellectual achievements, not only the pursuit of excellent. Arts education teaches students how to reflect both analytically and evaluatively on different situations of life not through a narrow lens of scientific evidence, but through a broad people based perspective. The field of liberal arts is an area of study which has deep roots and tradition in higher education.

To compare arts education with other forms of education is like comparing apples to oranges. The resources, strategies, and results are very different. The commonality, however, is that both can be successful. Yes, arts graduates find job opportunities in addition to teaching!

Avoid the trap, of believing that teaching is the only options for arts graduates! There are numerous career options for arts graduates that may not be known in the public domain. Here it is important to consider a simple rule of demand and supply. Whenever supply exceeds demand the cost and importance of supply goes down. Similarly whenever the demand exceeds supply the cost and importance of supply goes up. Now apply this in job situation. As in case of traditional fields of education the supply is already exceeding demand, their value is going down and hence they face increased competition and fewer job opportunities. On the contrary arts graduates being low in number are now a day found to be high demand.

Another myth – Companies don’t hire liberal arts graduates. They are interested graduates who come from business or technical majors. Not necessarily! It is true that there are some companies that focus on business and technical graduates. That’s because the nature of the position requires specific knowledge and expertise such graduates have learned through their coursework. There are many types of jobs which do not require technical or specific skills. There are many companies who look beyond the degree when recruiting candidates. They look for skills, traits, and characteristics in candidates. Through their coursework, arts graduates afford themselves opportunities to develop such skills and characteristics. The key is knowing you have these skills and building on them.

The question which is top of the mind while choosing to pursue an arts degree is – Who Will Hire me and Why? The answer to this question is “many companies and organizations, and for lots of reasons!” Right and outside the career box approach is necessary here. Inside the “careers” box are traditional professions that arts graduates pursue specific to their discipline. History graduates may find historic preservation, government positions, or museum opportunities in this box. English graduates may find journalism, public relations, or publishing in their box. All arts graduates will find the teaching profession in the box.

Outside the box, the career opportunities expand. This is where the whole new world opens up for the arts graduates, who will find opportunities they might not have considered. This is where history graduates may find themselves pursuing publishing, and English graduates pursuing historic preservation.

SKILLS, SKILLS, SKILLS!! are the most important career aspect which is also the most ignored. When political science graduates are hired as financial planners – and they are! –the employer is looking at qualifications other than their specialization. English graduates are offered technical recruiting positions for reasons other than their degree. Liberal arts graduates are hired if they are right for the job…if they have the necessary skills! 

Companies and organizations want to know “What skills do you possess?”. Knowing and understanding your skills helps you identify possible career paths. Being interested in a career is one thing, but succeeding in it requires more than just interest.

“Employers look for good grades and work experience, yes, but they also place a lot of weight on “soft skills” –good communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to work in a team, leadership ability, and the like. Such skills are essential in today’s workplace, which is increasingly team-oriented, and crucial to good job performance, regardless of industry.” Obviously, skill requirements will vary from job to job and industry to industry. But certain skills exist that many employers across a variety of professions seek.

There are numerous career options that arts graduates can pursue other than teaching. They can prepare and appear for civil services examinations and pursue a career in state of union civil services. They can be in defence services or can apply for numerous government jobs. The eligibility for MBA is any graduation and hence they can choose to be in business administration. Law is another career that any arts graduate can pursue.

Languages – media, publishing (including the growing field of Web publishing), advertising, marketing, public relations, Advertising, Translation/Interpretation, Journalism / Broadcasting, Banks/Financial institutions, Import/Export companies, Manufacturers, Retail stores

Economics – Banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies and investment houses, Management, marketing, Data analysis, economic journalism, Budget Analyst, Credit Analyst,

Pricing Analyst, Economic Analyst, Financial Analyst, Appraiser, Stock Broker, etc.

Psychology – Counseling Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology, Occupational Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Health Psychology. Psychologists work in a wide range of workplaces, such as Private practice, Consulting firms, market research, recruitment firms, Health and welfare services, Community agencies, Police, law courts, prisons, defense forces, Counseling services, Research institutions, Training and development services, etc.

There are several emerging career opportunities for arts graduates such as geographical information systems, carbon markets (carbon trading), econometrics, appropriate technology solutions, etc.

The most important area emerging for arts graduates is business. In earlier days engineering, productivity, quality and technology were the central tenets of business culture. Thanks to changing face of business which needs innovation, today creativity, obsession with consumers’ unmet needs is informing the business needs.

Innovation is an imperative for any business today. Innovation is all about making new and better things, as well as making things new and better. Areas such as Anthropology, Social Science, Ethnography, Ethnographic research are very fast becoming the key elements of Innovation.

Businesses and other organizations are increasingly hiring anthropologists and other ethnographically-oriented social scientists as employees, consultants, and advisors.

In the industrial society the technology- driven innovation dominated the development. But throughout the 20th century the technological management got more important and educational institutions and science centres which supported the technology- driven innovation were established. But now, it’s not necessarily this type of innovation that leads to the largest profit. It’s not only a competition to discover new technology anymore, but also customer-under understanding and the perception of user needs.

The broader field of customer centered innovation is now a key part of many organizations’’ development and growth activities. Customer centered innovation has been practiced in one format or another since the early days of icon based computing. Whether focused on human-computer interface design, physical product use or finding the right positioning of a service in the consumer’s mind it has had many applications. This kind of innovation process is an interdisciplinary field which gathers new methods and different knowledge and tools from social sciences like psychology, anthropology and ethnology to get a deeper understanding of the costumers’ experience and latent demands. Similarly the study of organizational behaviour draws heavily from psychology, sociology and anthropology. 

Dan Pink in his seminal work “A Whole New Mind” says – The era of “left brain” dominance—and the Information Age it engendered—is giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities—inventiveness, empathy, meaning—will govern. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy wrote in his New Vision, “Our time is one of transition, one of striving toward a synthesis of all knowledge. A person with imagination can function now as an integrator.” He went on to call for “an integration of intellectual achievements in politics, science, art, technology, in all the realms of human activity.” These words are so prophetic. Arts graduates owing to their broad based training and human based attitude are well in position to perform the role of integrators in this post technology society.

It is the need of the hour for universities and arts faculty to also think out of the box of their known frames of reference. They need to actively interface with various other fields and to find where there might be a strategic fit. Currently there is a paradox and that is arts graduates do not know where to turn to and fields needing them do not know whether arts graduate could be of help to them. This situation could only be mitigated by active role of the faculty members serving in arts faculty by reaching out and reaching far.

Having said that there exist numerous exciting avenues for arts graduates, it is important to mention that the existence of these opportunities in non way compromises “Excellence”. Excellence is the key and hard work, acquisition of appropriate skills, thinking outside – the – career- box is extremely important recipe for success.