Jane's cover image
Jane

Jane Tonkin

Year of Award: 2016 Award State: Northern Territory None > Arts - Performing
Arts - Performing > Administration
Arts - Performing > Theatre And Stage
Community > Education
Education > General
To explore innovative examples of arts complementing education and inspiring engagement with learning - Finland, UK, South Africa
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Keywords: Youth arts, education, young people, youth theatre

Evaluation

This excursion to children's theatre festivals and their accompanying conference programs, and meetings with Arts Councils, educators and artists provided a rich experience that has both inspired my vision for the future of education and confirmed that, globally, there are more similarities than differences.

There is consistent articulation about the power of the arts.

The arts support young people to engage with learning, and divergent thinking. The arts encourage young people to be critical thinkers, flexible and adaptive as they prepare for complex futures.

There are many examples of arts programs embedded in schools that enable deeper engagement with learners, and arts practice and artists engaging with teachers in terms of building relationships and expanding perspectives.

An independent or alternative concept of literacy stems from young people engaging with creative processes. This statement resonated strongly with me. As discussed elsewhere I have a keen interest in all learners having the opportunity for success and celebration whilst at school, and for many, the arts provides this avenue.

Teachers and learners need to be divergent thinkers, and artists can support this.

All the conversations acknowledge extensive expertise in education but it is a system that struggles to support divergent teaching practice. Bringing arts programs into the education space, we need to be mindful of stepping into a system but let us take advantage of the fact that the arts offers *a point of resistance and *another perspective to and within the curriculum.

Students need *means, *reason and *opportunity. Such a simple concept but one that can bypass students with communication challenges or different learning styles, those already behind peers developmentally, or who have additional hurdles in their lives Artists can, and do, play a constructive role in providing the bridge between the conventional education system and a divergent operating space.

The more we can trial activity, demonstrate the evidence of impact, and share the story, the more we will see the arts treated as a genuine and integral part of education that uniquely straddles:

  • being for its own sake, 
  • complementing other learning areas, and 
  • supporting personal growth and development.

It is easy to think of ones own environment or experience being unique. This research confirmed that the Northern Territory does face some unique challenges but we are part of a global story. Because of our size and intimate community, we are well placed to be adventurous in tackling our education challenges.

Despite extraordinary examples of arts programs having significant impact on learners and schools, in the broader context of education, the arts remain optional and not part of the core STEM focus. The arts are viewed as a fix-it but expendable as an essential experience and our challenge is to shift this view.

The arts are generally not valued in context of career planning.

The arts are the first to get cut is a consistent experience. They are seen as extraneous despite the demonstrable impact and the regularity with which they are brought out to solve a problem!

In times of crisis, theatre enables hope!

This expendability is underpinned by how the arts are viewed beyond the arts and cultural sector. Despite having close allies in education, health and toruism, there was a consistent response to the question of whether the whole of government embraces the arts? “Not really!”

Children’s playwright Suzanne Le Beau, who is “one of the most important voices in dramatic art for youthful audiences at the international level,” reminds us not “to simplify or explain” when creating work for children. Children are free of feelings of inferiority although they grow into this realisation when young. Our challenge is to raise everybody up to reduce the discrepancies in inequality. I took away three observations made by Le Beau at ASSITEJ. 

“The teacher’s duty is to wake the child up through play and transformation.”

“Teaching is also about the teacher learning.”

“Teachers should become lighter in spirit through teaching.”

 

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