“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso
It was not long ago that arts in schools was thought to be a luxury, and arts classes were cut from the curriculum to make room for more time to prepare for standardised tests. Currently, there is more and more information available that shows how crucial arts integration is to creating well-rounded, well-prepared learners and leaders of the future.
The celebrated sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz once suggested that art does not solve problems but makes us aware of their existence. We think, arts education, on the other hand, solves problems. Years of research have repeatedly shown that it’s closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equal opportunity.
There is no doubt that growing up with the arts has innumerable cognitive and developmental benefits. Rhythm is in every part of one’s life, we just have to become aware of it. Children learn so much by hearing music, or watching a dance of different kinds. They learn to discriminate between different sounds, colours, forms and rhythms. Children learn rhythm and expression, which are important in skills such as counting, patterning, and many motor activities.
Music, in general, speaks to our emotions. It can also be calming, soothing, and comforting. It can energise us or relax us. The opportunity to hear and play different instruments builds good auditory discrimination and listening skills. Picking up a paint-brush or breaking into dance helps to express and let go. It is also a strong motivator and means of self-expression.
Academic research has found a link between arts education and success in other seemingly unrelated subjects. Studies also show that students who are lucky enough to have music education receive higher grade point averages in core subjects (specifically, math) than those who do not have music education.
Research has also shown that it impacts the development of motor skills, social-emotional skills, language skills and also one’s overall literacy.
Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. It helps to strengthen memory skills, practice self expression – the list goes on. But what it does, most importantly is, it gives us joy.
Arts education, especially in India, has not often been given the importance it deserves – the result of tight budgets, an ever-growing list of other mandates that have crammed the classroom curriculum, and a public sense that the arts are lovely but not essential. Even though it has proven time and again to have made a difference in a child’s life, it is not always given the time or space in our curriculum.
From the time that a child is in the womb, sound plays an important role in their lives. As an infant, listening to and recognising the voice of their parents.. to a toddler that uses music and repetition as a means to enhance memory and language skills, to preschoolers who are finding their voice and singing non stop. As they grow up, older children and teenagers use music as expression as also a means to form friendships. It makes it quite obvious then, that it should play an important role in every child’s upbringing and daily life.
When you think about the purposes of education, there are three. We are preparing children for jobs. We are preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two.
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