The arts encompass a wide variety of disciplines that have given birth to some of the greatest achievements of human culture. However, because not every pupil can go on to become a Beethoven, an Olivier, or a Picasso, there is a tendency to dismiss music, drama, and art classes as inessential.
There are several reasons why arts subjects have become marginalized as schools are forced to tighten their budgets. We live in a world increasingly dominated by science and technology, and so these subjects are seen as being most important at school. We think that out in the “real world”,this is where the well-paid jobs are. In contrast, only a tiny handful of those who study the arts go on to find gainful employment as musicians, actors, etc., and only a small fraction of those can expect an equivalent income to that of successful doctors or scientists.
Thankfully, however, an increasing number of schools are recognizing how the arts can benefit students, and are placing these subjects at the heart of their curriculum, with the respect and funding that this entails. The international Singapore school is one such example that offers a full program of music, drama, theater, and visual arts – including the option of photography and digital media from year eight – as an integral part of an Australian international education program for all students.
Institutions such as the Singapore School realize that as well as offering great benefits in terms of personal growth, arts subjects also offer a wide range of future career opportunities. The ongoing growth of the digital sector is seeing massive and increasing demand for all manner of creative designers and content providers. Software design and digital illustration may not be what we traditionally think of in terms of the visual arts, but an arts education is an essential grounding for anyone wishing to work in these areas.
Traditional fine artists are also empowered by the internet, enabling them to promote and sell their work online. The field may be more competitive than ever, but it is more democratic, and less about “who you know” than the quality of your work and the effort that you put into marketing it. In addition, visual artists develop their motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and even math skills such as geometry,and can use these in other subjects as well as in their life and career generally.
Expression and understanding
In drama and the performing arts, students learn to accept constructive feedback and to better understand a wide range of human emotion and experience. The stage or page can be a useful outlet for self-expression both emotionally and rhetorically. Drama students usually exhibit greater self-confidence, especially in public speaking, which is beneficial in every walk of life. Creative thinking, leadership skills, and the ability to work in a team are also learnt through drama and playing in music ensembles.
Finally, if a student is good at art and enjoys it, they will work hard and do well, earning them a better grade than if they were pushed into a subject for which they had less natural aptitude. Values such as self-discipline, problem-solving, and constructive thinking will have been instilled, and they will emerge a better and more rounded individual as a result.