There were three keynote addresses at an education conference I attended recently. Each speaker dealt in some way or another with assessment, presenting statistics that highlighted South African pupils’poor performance – most particularly in maths and science.
The emphasis at such occasions on these subjects is always striking. Art education, the area in which I teach and conduct research, rarely if ever gets a mention. It remains extremely marginalised in schools, with some researchers suggesting that it holds a “secondary status” in many teachers’ minds.
This is particularly strange given that art education can open up avenues for different ways of knowing – for all subjects. These include the aesthetic, scientific, interpersonal, formal and practical modes that can be encountered through the senses, intellect and emotions. Making and appreciating art involves the emotional and mental faculties – and research has proved that this can lead to cellular learning.
This means that an important vehicle for learning and knowledge acquisition is within reach of all school children: quality and meaningful art education. The question in South Africa is how to make this a reality. A great deal of the answer lies with teacher training.