Asian Universities to Meet at Duke Kunshan to Discuss Liberal Arts Education

Duke Kunshan University will host a conference on liberal arts education.
Duke Kunshan University will host a conference on liberal arts education.

Scholars from about 20 Asian universities will meet at Duke Kunshan University this week to examine ways to embrace a liberal arts style of teaching common at western universities and finding fresh interest in Asia.

In doing so, these faculty members and administrators are rethinking long-held cultural and educational traditions in both China and the U.S., said Noah Pickus, DKU’s dean of curriculum affairs and faculty development.

“Many of the educational systems in China and in Asia recognize they excel in certain areas and want to re-discover their own exploratory, creative, knowledge-driven methods,” Pickus said. “They understand that a rote, top-down lecture style needs to be replaced. They are pushing back against their own cultural mainstream; it’s powerful to see.”

“At the same time, a liberal arts and sciences education in the U.S. is increasingly under pressure as disconnected from the world of work and practical affairs.  Programs like this enable us to envision a compelling future for the liberal arts, one that can learn from experimentation around the world.”

The conference, “Innovation in the Liberal Arts in China,” will be held June 13-15 on the DKU campus. DKU is a member of an alliance of Asian universities attempting to mesh traditional educational approaches with more innovative teaching methods. From this working meeting, organizers hope to produce a report about the value of a liberal arts education that member institutions can use as a guide, Pickus said.

Pickus said 27 participants from 20 universities in China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, the US and Canada are expected to attend.

In August 2018, DKU will welcome its first class of students to its new, four-year bachelor’s degree program created in the liberal arts and sciences tradition. The curriculum will stress interdisciplinary learning both inside and outside the classroom.