Why Arts should be taught?
“The students need to focus on mathematics and sciences for a better future, arts are great as extra-curricular activities in the school but only when students have free time.”
“Shouldn’t you just teach the students who are actually good at drawing, rest of them won’t get it.”
Sound familiar? The concept of education in our country is limited to the mark sheets of the students. Children who take interest in drawing, singing or any other form of arts are generally asked to focus on the studies, stop distracting themselves with the extracurriculars and concentrate on the ‘subjects that matter’. Arts have been struggling their way into the education system of India, even if they exist as a subject in some schools, they're either forced on the students or treated in the manner of a protocol to make the mark sheet look good. These challenges have so far disabled the arts from serving their actual purposes.
According to Understanding Excellence in Arts Education, a research by Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, there are multiple significant purposes of Art Education at the school level that are closely linked to the community and different learning contexts. The research articulates what students ought to learn from high-quality arts education, fall into seven broad goals.
- Foster broad dispositions and skills, especially the capacity to think creatively and the capacity to make connections.
- Teach artistic skills and techniques without making them primary.
- Develop aesthetic awareness.
- Provide ways of pursuing an understanding of the world.
- Help students engage with the community, civic, and social issues.
- Provide a venue for students to express themselves.
- Help students develop as individuals.
So, the first thing that needs to be set straight is that teaching Art is not limited to the idea of children being prepared to become artists. Don’t we teach math or languages to all the students, do we expect them to become mathematicians or writers only? For a holistic and inclusive approach towards education, it is important to include Arts in the curriculum. Arts Education can also act as a motivational trigger for the students who are not able to do well in other subjects and help them improve academically.
In the current educational situation of our country, private school education is completely concentrated on the grades that their students score, pushing the students more into the books without training them for any real-world experience, while the Government schools are still struggling for retention of students and basic numeracy and literacy. Introducing Art Education to these schools can not only ease the pressure of academics but also connect the students back to their communities and educate them more about the social issues in the real world. It can also make their education creative and interactive, sparking the interest of learning in the students, which might result in a lesser number of dropouts from the Government Schools. Integrating art with other disciplines reaches students who might not otherwise be engaged in classwork. It can be treated as an aid towards better literacy by encouraging children to read about the themes they draw. Arts Integrated learning also helps students to retain the information for a longer period of time.
As already mentioned, arts provide a venue for expression for children enabling them to imagine and interpret the unsaid. This helps them develop the ability to think, the ability to acknowledge and find meaning in others’ emotions, and the ability to derive multiple understandings of a single work of art, developing the realisation that other’s sense-making of a particular situation can be both different from and as valid as one’s own.
So, despite all the researched facts about Arts education enabling students to improve learning in other subjects, raise IQs, and boost scores on standardised tests; and acting as a means to increase school attendance and reduce the dropout rate, the Arts should be taught not only for what they do in service to other subjects but for what they provide that other subjects do not.
- Seidel, S., Tishman, S., Winner, E., Hetland, L., & Palmer, P. (2009). The qualities of quality: Understanding excellence in arts education. Cambridge, MA: Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education.