State of the Art – Are we losing our creativity?
In recent years, there has been a massive push of young people towards the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths). Within schools, numeracy has been placed at the forefront of the curriculum at primary and secondary level. Extra points are being awarded to students who take on higher level maths at Leaving Cert, and there are more and more career events that direct student towards third level in STEM. And rightly so, the technology industry is ever growing in our country and it’s important to have an equally growing workforce. But as result, it’s clear to see the other areas of a well-rounded education are getting lost within the system…In particular, the arts.
Music, drama, art, and crafts are all included in the creative field of school education. Whether it be through the curriculum or extracurricular clubs, these subjects usually make an appearance within school walls. But unfortunately, not all students get the experience of being able to take part in the school production or spend an hour up in the art room. Access to a well-rounded education that includes fundamental creative elements can only be found on a lottery basis. If your area does not include a school that is creatively driven, it’s kind of called to be ‘tough luck’.
There is much controversy over the quality of the Irish education system in recent times. Debates over whether it caters for all students of all levels, interests, and strengths. There is no denying that the system is flawed, two years of hard work crammed into two weeks of memory games. However, as far as the diversity of subjects goes, we are lucky in that there is something for everyone. This makes it hard to watch as there is a big push within the intellectual subjects of sciences and maths, and a fall in the creative side of education, a side that many students excel and thrive in.
At primary level, it is clear how arts can be used as an expressive outlet for children who have yet to find their place. The primary curriculum states that arts education is crucial in helping to promote thinking skills, imagination and sensitivity. Now that’s all well and good from a passionate perspective, but on top of this, there have been many studies to show the importance of arts within education. A two-year study by Parkwestgallery.com revealed that students who participated in arts programs throughout school witnessed an overall 22.5 percent increase in math scores and 12.6 percent improvement in reading scores through standardised testing.
However, at second level, the fall in students taking on arts subjects is astounding due to the way they’re examined for leaving cert. In 2017, Leaving Cert Art was proven as the most difficult subject to receive an A1 (H1 2018 scale) in. Many students deemed this as unfair as the nature of the subject is to be expressive and creative, only to be scrutinised by a points scale. In Leaving Cert music there is a slightly more practical element with 50% of the overall grade being awarded for performance, however, the difficulty of the studied set works has been proven immense as it includes the works of Gerald Barry and Tchaikovsky. While history within these subjects must be appreciated, the system fails to pitch them as worth doing.
Personally, I find it hard to see how creative subjects like music and art are still mostly examined through written examinations, despite being chosen because students may have a practical talent in that area.
Granted, many schools have extraordinary extra-curricular arts clubs and activities. However, as previously mentioned, this can only be found in a handful of schools and many students miss out on showcasing their talents simply because they are not STEM or sports based. And this is where we need to look at the system within our schools and ask ourselves, are we doing enough to ensure the student’s education is well rounded enough for the world beyond school?
There is so much talk nowadays of how sports can keep you fit, and how maths can keep you intelligent, but never how the arts can keep you open-minded, creative, determined, patient, and so much more. From my own experience of being in the centre of all things performing arts, I have gained all my confidence from being encouraged to pursue what I’m good at. I never particularly excelled in the classroom, never the best but never the worst either…’average’. It wasn’t until I stepped on a stage where I was truly noticed for being the determined, strong and happy girl I was.
So parents, teachers, educators, coaches, politicians; Please encourage creativity, please encourage the arts, and never doubt what they can do for the lives of young people.
Education is great, but it is my creativity that taught me that I can be much more than what my education told me I am.