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Arts education should be embraced, not sidelined - Amorelicious
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Arts education should be embraced, not sidelined

If you have ever read Kahlil Gibran’s “Broken Wings,” you will know that you stumbled upon a treasured literary work. I have long been fond of Gibran’s writings, which have nurtured my spirit in a way that made me perceptive and appreciative of elegant wisdom, profound emotions, and scenic surroundings. Last month, I was lucky enough to attend a musical adaptation of his 1912 masterpiece at Dubai Opera. You cannot begin to imagine how this performance elevated my spirits to ethereal realms. The acting was elegant, the music was angelic, the plot was riveting, and the prose was magical.

 

Savoring the arts is an essential part of our human experience. We can witness the ubiquitous presence of the arts in our daily lives, from iconic buildings, culinary delights, gorgeous interior designs, and well-tended parks, to everyday consumer products, music, and fantastic films. Thus, I would like to contend that policymakers need to place greater importance on arts education in schools and universities to complement the science and technology revolution. Not only is the creative economy a growing, lucrative sector in many countries, but the arts have the power to elevate people’s knowledge and skills to exciting frontiers.

 

Research conducted by Michigan State University on its 1990-1995 Honors College graduates who had specialized in STEM subjects found that the arts played a critical role in their success as scientists and inventors. Most believed that their ability to be innovative and creative was as a result of their lifelong engagement and exposure to the arts. Interestingly, Nobel laureates are at least 15 times more likely to participate in the arts than the general population.

 

A comprehensive arts education program can introduce children to a wide spectrum of inspiring individuals working in the fields of literature, visual arts, design, architecture, museums, theater, and music. Exposure to these creative fields early on can have a notable impact on students’ academic, social, and emotional development. Specifically, it can improve academic performance, in addition to enhancing inquisitiveness, creative thinking skills, problem-solving skills, attentional tasks, civic engagement, and social tolerance.

 

The government of Singapore realizes the importance of having an arts education program. Every year, the National Arts Council works with the Ministry of Education and the arts community to design and deliver more than 1,500 arts programs by 300 artists. The Words Go Round program allows students to interact with Singaporean and foreign writers to discuss literature and writing. The Artist-in-School Scheme brings together established artists to co-design attractive arts experiences that will resonate with students and deepen their understanding and appreciation for the arts. Additionally, the council has designed an arts education program specifically for preschool children, spanning dance, music, theater, literary arts, visual arts, and digital media. The program consists of exposing children to various art fields in the form of performances, hands-on participation in artistic activities, and excursions to arts venues, museums, galleries, theaters, and artists’ studios.

 

In the US, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) champions arts education as part of its wider strategy for promoting the arts. The NEA funds schools across the country so that students can get access to high-quality arts instruction and activities. It also provides professional development activities for teachers, principals and artists in order to equip them with the skills and knowledge to deliver an outstanding arts education program. Additionally, the NEA launched the Arts Education Partnership, which is a national coalition of more than 100 public and private entities working together to promote arts education for students, both in and out of school.

 

Funding for arts education programs is currently declining, or being eliminated altogether, as it is often deemed to be frivolous and unnecessary. Yet, in order for governments to be competitive in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, schools need to offer a robust arts education program that is designed to nurture creativity and innovation, which will consequently lead to a high-skilled talent base and the development of pioneering products, inventions and services.

 

Perhaps Tom Horne, a state superintendent of public instruction based in Arizona, said it best when it comes to the goals of education. “We’re preparing kids for jobs. We’re preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two,” he said.

 

To remain competitive in the global knowledge economy, communities must make arts and crafts opportunities available to foster creativity and innovation. This will drive the formation of highly skilled, well-paying jobs, as well as offer new commodities and services.

 

Published in Arab News.

 

 

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