Choue In-won, President
of Kyung Hee University
By Cho Jae-hyon
Humanities are withering at universities as schools are abolishing and reducing liberal arts courses to make room for job-friendly departments.
But Kyung Hee University is going against the trend. It plans to bolster the liberal arts and invite internationally-renowned scholars in the field.
With the aim to help revive sagging humanities and bring university education back to its basics, it established the “Humanitas College” at the end of last month to revamp and rejuvenate its liberal arts. From next semester, liberal arts courses that have been dispersed at different colleges and departments will be united under the Humanitas College.
“Universities have put too much focus on teaching students particular skills or technology needed for employment, while social sciences and humanities have taken a back seat. This trend should change,” Kyung Hee University President Choue In-won said in an interview. “Pragmatic and vocational specialties and knowledge are necessary but they are simply not enough. They should be based on humanities that teach about being human.”
He said Chinese universities and other top global schools have provided relatively strong liberal arts courses and Korean schools need to pay attention to this.
“As witnessed in the recent global financial crisis, triggered by greedy Wall Street financial experts who are mostly graduates from top business schools, what’s important in education is nurturing talent that is considerate and thinks of the public good,”Choue said. “For sustainable economic growth, we need this solid, underpinning foundation of humanities.”
He said students who have cultivated creativeness and the ability to think critically through humanities studies are increasingly favored by corporate recruitment officers, adding that pragmatic and liberal arts education do not conflict but complement each other.
Choue said Humanitas College will play a role in reviving public awareness of the importance of the study of humanities. “More diverse and higher-quality liberal arts courses will be developed and provided to students, with the Humanitas College overseeing all the programs.”
Not only students but ordinary citizens will have opportunities to get free online access to some of the programs as the school will offer Internet classes. “A number of internationally-renowned foreign professors will provide online lectures from the spring semester. All these open classes will be provided online for free.”
He said the humanities are needed to help us get back in touch with our essential humanity and recover our sense of values. “Education is ultimately all about human beings and the humanities will give students nourishment to grow into citizens who will help create a better world.”
Choue said all of society needs to build an environment that favors those with creativity and imagination over those with higher school grades and vocational knowledge.
“Then we can have a government, companies and civic groups with greater growth potential. The humanities will lend us the leverage to join the developed nations,” he said.
On top of strengthening humanities courses, the school will require students to more actively participate in volunteer activities. Freshmen need to volunteer for at least 40 hours a year.