The Benefits of the Humanities: Transferable Skills and Leadership

The Benefits of the Humanities: Transferable Skills and Leadership

The humanities, arts and social sciences are important for developing transferable skills and leadership qualities. However, they are often overlooked in comparison to the “STEM” subjects. This blog discusses the skills that students develop through the humanities, arts and social sciences, as well as the evidence that supports the value of teaching these subjects.

The information in this post is sourced from academic literature and surveys from reliable sources. Click here to view the full article, “Recognising the Importance of the Humanities“, which includes academic references and links to further information.

From Thirdman on Pexels.

Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in the Curriculum

Until Key Stage 3 (year 7 – 9), “foundation subjects” including the humanities, arts and social sciences are required by the national curriculum in England. At Key Stage 4 (year 10 – 11), the national curriculum states that maintained schools must offer students the opportunity to study at least one course in each of the following areas:

  • The arts, “comprising art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts”
  • Design and technology
  • The humanities, “comprising geography and history”
  • Modern foreign languages

It is also required that state schools “teach religious education to pupils at every key stage”.

From Yan Krukov on Pexels.

It is worth noting that some subjects fall under more than one subject category, depending on the institution. For example, geography is often considered a social science, rather than a humanity. However, all of these subjects share many common characteristics, which set them apart from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Why should we Value the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences?

It is well known that the STEM subjects see high rates of employment and are valuable subjects. However, the humanities, arts and social sciences also have unique benefits, which are often overlooked. For example, there is evidence that degrees in these subjects are linked to positions of leadership in a range of professional settings. In 2015, research by the British Council found that out of a sample of 1700 people from 30 countries, 55 % of those in positions of leadership had degrees in the social sciences or humanities. The same report found an interesting difference between leaders above and below the age of 45: “Younger leaders … were more likely to have a social science or humanities background, while those over 45 were more likely to have studied … STEM”. This would suggest that the skills that are developed while studying the humanities and social sciences are becoming increasingly valued in leadership.

So why are these subjects so good at setting people up for leadership roles? The key is in the transferable skills that humanities, arts and social sciences students develop. One of these skills is critical thinking, the skill we integrate within all our lessons at Endoxa Learning. (To read more about which subjects develop critical thinking, click here.) The skill of critical thinking is applicable to many different contexts. However, evidence shows that learning to be a good critical thinker depends on learning it through practice in particular contexts. Experts argue that the arts, humanities and cultural studies are the best way of achieving this. While learning about particular historical events or undertaking literature analysis will not make a student more employable, performing tasks like this does allow students to develop “cognitive maturity” and critical thinking abilities.

From Fauxels on Pexels.

Alongside critical thinking, there is evidence that the humanities, arts and social sciences develop these skills:

  • Ability to learn new skills
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Independence and initiative
  • Innovation
  • Literacy
  • Persistence
  • Personal responsibility
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

The Importance of Transferable Skills

Developing skills like critical thinking allows professionals to succeed in the world of employment, even if their career path takes them in unexpected directions. Career changes are becoming much more common in recent years and this is especially true for younger generations. This is why the transferable skills gained from humanities subjects are so important. Professionals who move to new careers need not worry about starting from scratch or being unsuited to other industries, because they have skills that are important across the working world. Furthermore, many humanities, arts and social sciences graduates go into careers that are not directly related to their degrees, but they are able to adapt quickly to these new fields due to the wealth of transferable skills and leadership qualities that they acquired during education.

Based on a 2019 LinkedIn survey.

Likewise, many of today’s challenges require an interdisciplinary approach. For example, challenges like poverty and climate change must be addressed through the integration of humanities, arts and social sciences subjects with the knowledge produced by STEM subjects, so the existence of a workforce with expertise in these subjects is essential.

At Endoxa Learning, we help develop strong critical thinkers, who can take these skills from subjects like religious education, geography or business and use them in the wider world. Our mission is to enable everyone to think critically, and this starts with the teaching of the subjects that nurture this skill.

Click here to learn how our lessons work.

If you’re passionate about the humanities, arts and social sciences, read our article on the importance of these subjects and the challenge they face from curriculum narrowing.