To begin, it should be noted that due to funding cuts, the arts in schools are the first to go. In a recent BBC survey of over 1,200 schools, it was found that nine out of 10 secondary schools in England are making cuts to their arts subjects, saying they were cutting back on staff, lesson time or facilities in at least one creative arts subject, to then focus more on ‘academic’ subjects. In many schools, there are even strict guidelines on what students are allowed to choose at GCSE and A level. Personally, I had the freedom to choose 3 subjects I enjoyed, (and then 1 academic subject, alongside the core English maths and science). However, recently students have only had had their freedom to chose limited to picking 2 or less of their favourite subjects, with often limitations on how many arts subjects they can choose. Many students at only aged 13/14 are pressured into non-creative lessons, being persuaded into the on-going idea of an ‘English Baccalaureate’ (choosing a language and humanity at GCSE), which in my case has never been particularly asked for or talked about year 12 onwards. Whilst academic subjects are certainly popular within certain students and look great on a CV when applying for that much loved 9-5 desk job, I would argue that this limitation is both frustrating and also damaging to the confidence and expression of our next generation.
The arts offer benefits that academic subject could never; the minds of young people simply cannot be taken through around 5 hours of desk work a day!
I would ask; do academic subjects engage every student? Albert Einstein once said “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This outlines how subject such as dance and drama can reach to students who might not engage in classwork. The world doesn’t just contain scientists and lawyers, journalists and accountants. The world is full of designers, actors, public speakers, advertisers, directors, writers and so much more, and I think education should reflect this.
Young minds need to be nurtured and guided through education, each one with different needs and abilities. The arts can challenge students at every level, and every student should have the opportunity for personal expression and the freedom to be creative and inventive.
For those who aren’t yet convinced of the vital need for arts, equal to academic subjects, perhaps you should at least consider how much performing arts assists the beloved work student complete at a desk. It is no mystery that students all learn differently; whilst it is understandable that it’s virtually impossible to bend to every single students’ needs, teaching through the arts can really assist the learning of many students. Teaching difficult concepts visually or through something like movement and drama, can definitely make them easier to understand. Also, whilst trigonometry is clearly an incredibly vital to a 16-year-olds skill set, art instruction helps children with the development of inventiveness, creativeness, critical thinking, language and social skills, motor skills and so much more.
The younger generation is underestimated in how they can impact the world; they have a fresh perspective on the world, with new ideas and solutions to issues. This can be nurtured and expressed through performing arts as subjects, particularly drama and media. The Arts in schools can help students to take the time to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world, it can also connect students with the wider world, as well as their own culture.
Is clear to me that teaching the arts in schools offers students what academic subjects simply cannot. We could hand them incredible opportunities for their expression and learning.
So why are they given a pen and the task of simply recalling information? Why are they held back?