At Kyoto University, each faculty takes responsibility for its undergraduate program to provide four years of consistent education. From the first to fourth years, the curriculum offers specialized courses, and liberal arts and general education courses, in parallel. Of these two types of courses, the Institute for Liberal Arts and Sciences (ILAS) plans and implements those of the latter type that are common to all faculties, such as liberal arts courses, foreign language classes, and preparatory courses for specialized education. In doing so, it follows the individual faculties’ curriculum policies for undergraduate programs.
Kyoto University places particular emphasis on the two functions of liberal arts and general education described below.
The first function is to guide every student from the passive learning they experienced until senior high school to the autonomous learning required in universities. Although foreign language classes and preparatory courses constitute the essential foundation of specialized courses, they become unexciting if regarded simply as tools to an end. These classes should therefore encourage students to experience the joy of thinking and to survey the entire edifice of academic knowledge established through many centuries’ contemplation.
The second function is to facilitate students in expanding their intellectual horizons on their own. Liberal arts and general education courses should support students in visualizing the vast unknown academic sphere, understanding the fields they plan to enter and their relationships with other domains, and making better choices in life as educated individuals.
To enable ILAS to plan and implement liberal arts and general education courses fulfilling the functions described above, each faculty transfers certain teaching staff to ILAS, where they participate in the Committee for Planning and Evaluation. Taking the faculties’ curriculum policies for undergraduate programs as its starting point, the Committee deliberates on the optimal formats for liberal arts and general education courses. It addresses such areas as subjects offered, class content and methodology, grading, and teaching staff. It then enlists the cooperation of the entire university in implementing the courses. ILAS has, moreover, adopted a structure that enables the entire university to share responsibility for these courses. It has established a body called the Council for Liberal Arts and Sciences, in which all the faculty deans participate, along with representatives of independent graduate schools, research institutes, and other relevant organizations. The Council oversees the planning and implementation of courses, as well as the management of ILAS itself as an organization.
Before ILAS was established, some of Kyoto University’s liberal arts and general education courses were too specialized and were not adequately fulfilling their purpose and function. From the 2013 academic year onward, ILAS addressed such issues by discussing optimal formats for the courses and updating them accordingly. In the 2016 academic year, it launched an educational framework based on a new curriculum. In addition, ILAS plays a leading role in ensuring a genuinely international educational experience at Kyoto University. For example, it accepts exchange students from abroad and improves the English courses for Japanese students, as well as Japanese language and culture classes for international students. It also conducts unique programs designed by Kyoto University to accept more international students at the undergraduate level. Furthermore, ILAS is striving to systematize and implement the teaching that underpins data science, given the latter’s increasing importance as an element of basic education in the 21st century.
As modern society transforms itself at a dizzying pace, our values may remain unaltered in some ways, whilst new challenges may call for different approaches in response to change. Against this backdrop, ILAS will constantly update the liberal arts and general education offered at Kyoto University as it continues to further improve provision.