“Reading, writing, arithmetic and art? A growing chorus is calling for the subject to have the same prominence as the traditional pillars of school curricula. The education system needs to embrace this argument, says Helen Ward.”
“It may sound like a case for ICT learning how to insert a jpeg or upload videos but only if you consider websites to be primarily text-based with supporting images. In fact, in the world of YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, web pages are overwhelmingly an assemblage of images. Learning to write effectively is not just about learning how to spell – it is about choosing which words will be most effective for your purpose. Similarly, being visually literate, able to choose and create images, is not about how to upload images – it is about what pictures to select and why.”
“Barbara Stafford, emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, US, foresaw these changes in her 1994 book Artful Science: enlightenment, entertainment and the eclipse of visual education. She argues that we are increasingly communicating in images, as we have done historically in text, but a high-level visual education to accompany these advances is lacking.
“We are entering an era of ‘oral visual culture’, as the dominance of text recedes. ‘No longer pre-literate, we are post-literate,’ Stafford says. But she points out that the educational system is ‘image illiterate’. And she calls for the change to be led by art teachers. ‘Those of us with knowledge about techniques for making and understanding images, their construction and cognitive role throughout history, had better speak up now or be content to vanish into disciplinary extinction,’ she says.
“At a time when the English educational system is rethinking the national curriculum, this could be the perfect moment to overhaul the way we think about art in school. It is important to note that no one is arguing for maths or English to be downgraded, but simply stating that communication is evolving faster than education.”
“There are, however, other reasons to take the subject more seriously. Indeed, no essay demanding greater prominence for art in education would be complete without running through the well-rehearsed arguments of how important the creative industries are to this country’s economic success. Creative industries now employ more than 2 million people in the UK and this is forecast to grow. Schools need to keep up, say the sector’s advocates.”
“Marketing. Could there be a better example of how art is infinitely more important as a subject than it used to be? Imagine a modern, successful, multimillion-pound, cross-platform marketing campaign, conceived or consumed by anyone image-illiterate. Impossible.”
“But last term, the National Curriculum Review published its first draft programmes of study for English, maths and science. Art and music, it stated, will remain part of the primary curriculum, but it is not clear what status they will have in the secondary curriculum.”
However, in his proposed reform of Key Stage 4 exams, Education Secretary Michael Gove refers to “new qualifications in the core subject areas of English, mathematics, the sciences, history, geography and languages English Baccalaureate Certificates Success in English, maths, the sciences, a humanities subject and a language will mean that the student has the full English Baccalaureate.”
“Mr Gove said that ‘the GCSE was conceived and designed for a different age and a different world’ but his proposed replacement for it is from a different age and a different world that of the 1940s and the school leaving certificate!
“Describing such a narrow range of subjects as a ‘Baccalaureate’ devalues … the important academic subjects that will be excluded such as religious education, music, computer studies, ART etc. A good general education needs to be broad, balanced and relevant, rather than narrow, restrictive and harking back to a golden age that didn’t actually exist.”
Where does the EBacc leave Art? Do let us know your thoughts…