Of art education, academic achievements

Education in the arts is an integral part of the development of each human being. Those who have studied learning processes throughout the ages, beginning with Plato, have emphasised the importance of the arts in the education process. Arts education refers to education in the disciplines of music, dance, theatre, and visual arts. The study of the arts is integral to our society. They are part of the cultural heritage of every Zimbabwean. The arts are what make us most human, most complete as people. The arts cannot be learned through occasional or random exposure any more than math or science can. Education and engagement in the fine arts should be an essential part of the school curriculum and an important component in the educational program of every student.

Against this backdrop, a new picture is emerging. Comprehensive, innovative arts initiatives are taking root in a growing number of school districts.

Many of these models are based on new findings in brain research and cognitive development, and they embrace a variety of approaches: using the arts as a learning tool; incorporating arts into other core classes (writing and performing a play about, say, slavery for history class); creating a school environment rich in arts and culture and hands-on arts instruction. Although most of these initiatives are in the early stages, some are beginning to rack up impressive results. This trend may send a message to schools focused maniacally, and perhaps counter-productively, on reading and math.

Sufficient data exists to overwhelmingly support the belief that study and participation in the fine arts is a key component in improving learning throughout all academic areas. Evidence of its effectiveness in reducing student dropout, raising student attendance, developing better team players, fostering a love for learning, improving greater student dignity, enhancing student creativity, and producing a more prepared citizen for the workplace for tomorrow can be found documented in studies held in many varied settings.

The fine arts also provide learners with non-academic benefits such as promoting self-esteem, motivation, aesthetic awareness, cultural exposure, creativity, improved emotional expression, as well as social harmony and appreciation of diversity. These are the very fibres of the fabric known as Zimbabwean culture.

Perhaps the most fundamental element to education one should consider is the manner in which we perceive and make sense of the world in which we live. An effective education in the fine arts helps students to see what they look at, hear what they listen to, and feel what they touch. This helps students to stretch their minds beyond the boundaries of the printed text or the rules of what is provable. The arts free the mind from rigid certainty. Imagine the benefits of seeking, finding, and developing multiple solutions to the myriad of problems facing our society today!

“Fine arts helps provide cultural exposure yes because you study the history of other cultures in the history of development of art and several art movements,” said Janet Siringwani, an Artist and teacher at Lomagundi. “Art grooms students in having an open mind thinking, self-esteem and developing better team players. If one looks at what has been produced, be it a drawing or painting; when people compliment and praise the work there is potential to convert appreciation into monetary value.”

These processes, taught through the study of the arts, help to develop the tolerance for coping with the ambiguities and uncertainties present in the everyday affairs of human existence. There is a universal need for words, music, dance, and visual art to give expression to the innate urgings of the human spirit. (Eisner, 1987)

The premier organisations in the corporate world today recognise that the human intellect “draws from many wells.” Arts education gives access to the deepest of those wells.

Intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual. It can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing, creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion. And strong arts programming in schools helps close a gap that has left many a child behind.

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