voluntary arts ireland

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Creative Classroom

In the light of the up and coming vote in Westminster about the restructuring of the University funding system and a parallel process in play in the Republic of Ireland it brings the value placed on the arts and creativity into sharp focus again.

Underneath the headline figures of the rise in the student fee cap to unprecedented levels is the suggestion that arts and humanities courses may lose their teaching grant funding - with the cost of the courses presumably made up by the increase in student fees. Science and mathematics subjects will also receive a cut except it is recognised that they have extra, lab-based costs and so will continue to receive a teaching grant to cover that.

Whatever I might think about the shifting of the cost of higher education from the state to the individual beneficiaries, this appears to me to be another example of a judgement based on the value that STEM subjects should take precedence. Perhaps surprisingly I would agree with this approach if government recognised that one of the STEM subjects should be Creativity.

It never ceases to amaze me that we hear endless talk about creativity and innovation throughout all areas of life but we don't embed it in our education system. Instead we withdraw investment from the areas that provide the most creative stimulus such as the arts and stalwartly refuse to learn from the models of practice developed in the creative world that could have broad applications.

Perhaps our thinking has become too narrow, or too lazy but any decision that focuses on re-working old models by giving them a lick of paint is surely missing the point?

We probably now need to challenge the original premise. After all not so long ago artists were scientists and scientists were artists - why do we persist with not making the connections between disciplines when we teach.

What the world needs now - to quote a well-known song - is curious minds, confident people able to relate and see a bigger picture, and collective action. I can see how STEM subjects help in some of these areas, but I can also see how participation in the arts and creative activities help too.

When imagining how to restructure University funding we have to ask what kind of classroom are we trying to build - is it one focused on hitting an employment target, or making education more accessible or helping to nurture new talent? Perhaps its all of these but whatever it is it surely it needs to be a creative classroom - one that also extends outside of official school time and buildings and occurs throughout our lifetimes.

Creativity is at the very core of learning - don't you think it should be the same with our education system?