Art in danger!

I was recently reading The Art Newspaper and an article entitled ‘Arts education in England threatened’ featured. This brought to my mind our educational progress and reformation and the way it is affecting the humanities, especially art, in our schools.  This is something occurring globally and to a certain extent even in Malta’s educational curriculum. Art is demoted and thus being considered as an added or vocational field of study.

Anny Shaw, correspondent for The Art Newspaper brought to the light the concerns brought forward by the Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) and Arts Council England about the eminent cut of the arts subject from secondary school education in England following the introduction of the English Baccalaureate. As stated, pupils are to be ranked according to grades scored in five core subjects being: maths, English, science, a language and either history or geography.

I believe that the arts are facing a hard time. An increasing interest in generating an empiricist and scientific frame of mind is placing aside the arts. In Malta, the arts have suffered throughout.  Since the early nineteenth century, art was one of the major subjects offered in our curriculum, until it was demoted and noted as being an additional subject.  Locally, students who have an artistic inclination are being deprived from having the opportunity to study the fine arts. A case in point, Malta’s highest body of education does not offer a degree in fine arts.  In turn, students have to find other alternatives. They have to further their studies on a personal basis, either locally or more-likely to attend foreign universities.

One ought to ask; is this the right way to go? The pressure excerpted from the technological progress is to undermine the arts?

Being an educator and art teacher, I daily encounter a good number of students who lack initiative and creativity. Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon that is gaining momentum quite rapidly in our schools. Contrastingly, these two artistic qualities are also considered as pre-requisites when considering working in well-established technical posts. In fact technical establishments constantly show their concern that the present generation of apprentices lack the urge to create and produce something innovative in an ever-growing global entity, where everything is considered as discovered and pre-emptied.

Are we to compensate for this lack? Should art related subjects further generate and enhance the student’s innate creative abilities?

Is the philosophy of making more attractive science oriented subjects going to be fruitful? Is the shelving of art oriented subjects going to back-fire in the long run?

These are some of the issues which our educational establishments should address. I believe that our education should offer a holistic approach allowing equal opportunities for those students who opt to study the arts.  Anna Culter, the director of learning at the Tate and a member of the CLA, hits the bull’s eye when saying that “if arts subjects are taught with rigour, they add values and competencies and a capacity to think imaginatively and differently, which we need in a society based on innovation. It’s what we valued in the Renaissance, this wide range of knowledge that inspires innovation.”  This affirmation should become a main focus in an expanding educational and pedogical conscience.

One finds it difficult to apprehend the way art is growing to become something related with our civilisation’s glorious past, the history of great social eras (Renaissance, Baroque and many others). Our curricula are growing to be more nostalgic rather than generating a sense of belonging through the application of the arts, which will eventually set the ball rolling in drafting our future.


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