The inclusion of Art Education in school curriculum has come under the scanner after recent moves were made to eliminate several art courses as part of cuts school budget costs across the United States of America. Generally, four forms of arts have been taught to students at public school from the elementary level. These forms are: a) Music – Psychomotor learning or the development of skills in vocals as well as instruments, cognitive learning or attaining knowledge on the subject and affective learning or learning how to appreciate and be sensitive towards music, b) Dance – Teaching not only traditional dance styles such as ballet or ballroom, but including contemporary modern dance and popular world dances such as Bollywood too, c) Visual Arts – Teaching traditional subjects such as painting or sketching to a more advanced and professional level, in addition to including new subjects such as photography, graphics designing and 3D animation, and d) Theatre – Formal training in acting, direction, script writing and other facets of theatre from a basic to advanced levels. However, the emphasis given to each of the subjects has varied greatly. For example, according to a 1995 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, music was taught in over 97% of all American public schools while Visual Arts was included in the curriculum of 85% of public elementary schools. However, dance was formally taught in only 43% of the schools while theatre was included as a separate subject in the curriculum of a mere 8% .
Considering this disparity between the various branches of arts, it becomes vital that the curriculum being taught at schools maintains a consistent high standard. In order to mark and achieve such standards, the quality of the content being taught is imperative. For a long time, although schools have included arts as part of their regular curriculum, the content has been more or less generalized in nature. Using arts as a means of encouraging improved mental growth and development would require a more focused approach to art education. As such, content of the four main streams of art will need to be revisited and revised, with a phased approach that will enable students to learn their choice of arts in a more comprehensive manner. The content could include: a) Perception: Developing, in planned stages, a child’s approach and awareness towards an art form, leading to improved orientation – To include topics related to the various forms that an art can take and the effect it has on the human psychology and overall well being, b) Expression: Developing, in planned stages, a child’s creativity and the manner in which it can be expressed through a specific art form – To include topics that teach children to incorporate personal experiences, storytelling as well as imbibing the confidence to create something new, c) Cultural Impact: Improved knowledge and awareness of how arts have had historical impacts and influence modern day society – To include world history and cover major cultures that have impacted the art form, d) Relevance: Connections between dance and other art forms such as music and literature – To include how each art form can be overlapped and collaborated with in order to provide a more complete arts exhibit, and e) Performance: Basic as well as specific dance form training with a focus on developing individualism and creativity – To include personality development training in keeping with the art form selected by the student..
In order to effectively implement the teaching of the four main streams of art in public schools, the following measures may be taken: a) Audit & Reconciliation: Arts curriculum in schools across states should be audited in order to identify lapses in focus as well as disparities between the emphases laid on the various art streams. Once such gaps have been noted, steps need to be devised to bridge them, b) Equal Access: Several students, though interested in and capable of doing well in an arts stream, do not have adequate access to learning facilities , and c) Resource Integration: In addition to in-house teaching faculty, schools should collaborate with arts foundations within their states and districts in order to provide low cost, specialized training and learning facilities.
In conclusion, while arts education has been a part of school curriculum for decades, recent economic contingencies have led to cuts in the funds as well as time being dedicated to arts. However, considering the impact that arts has on mental as well as personal development, it is crucial that emphasis be laid on not just including the four main streams of arts in regular curriculum but also taking steps to improve and maintain standards across all levels of schooling.
Bodilly, S. J., Augustine, C. H., & Zakaras, L. (2008). Revitalizing arts education through community-wide coordination. Pittsburgh: RAND Corporation.
National Center for Education Statistics. (1995). Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. Washington D.C.: US Department for Education.