“Imagination is the source of all human achievement.” These are the words of Sir Ken Robinson, a highly regarded professor, researcher, writer and speaker, who advises governments, non-profits, education and arts bodies on education in the arts. Perhaps best known for his TED talk, “Do schools kill creativity?” – the most viewed TED talk of all time – his contention is that to prepare today’s children for success in the future, their creativity must be nurtured. – Joanna Boxall
Education systems around the world prioritise the teaching of maths and science – the subjects considered most useful and necessary for a successful and well paid career in later life – and as a result, the arts have been relegated to second place. Children may be steered away from an interest in art, music or drama, perhaps because pursuing a career in these disciplines is fraught with uncertainty. Fine arts have thus come to be viewed as more frivolous subjects, even luxuries, and art programmes are often the first to suffer as a result of budget cuts.
By the time today’s children become adults, we can safely assume that technology will be driving most aspects of their lives, and thus the emphasis education places on science is understandable. However, as Sir Robinson so eloquently argues, imagination and creativity are the wellspring of innovation, and in a rapidly changing world, the ability to come up with fresh, new ideas may well be the most valuable skill of all. It is therefore essential that creativity be encouraged, not stifled.
Even if a child does not show a particular artistic ability, learning art alongside more ‘serious’ subjects is vital, not only to give young minds a well-rounded education, but because there is ample evidence that children who take art classes are more proficient in reading, maths and critical thinking, and are also more motivated to stay in school.
Ideally, education systems should all incorporate the arts in some measure, but if they do not, parents can still ensure their little ones receive plenty of exposure to the arts and have opportunities to explore their own creativity.
The use of various tools and equipment, such as scissors, paintbrushes or crayons, aids the development of motor skills and dexterity. Art and craft activities help little bodies learn to control large and small muscle groups, and thus improve coordination and precision.
Practising art broadens a child’s vocabulary and teaches them words for colours, shapes, styles and actions. Later on, it also teaches what colours evoke which emotions.
Art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. When creating a piece of artwork children make their own decisions and choices about colours, materials, shapes and more. This is a skill that will serve them well in other areas of life.
Various studies have looked at the correlation between art classes and academic achievement and many have found that when children take art classes, their performance improves in literacy, maths and science. However, this should not be the sole reason for encouraging children to pursue artistic endeavours: they should be encouraged to create and appreciate art for art’s sake. After all, what would the world look like if there were no new music, art, film or dance?
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