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Arts make students smart

When children are physically active and creative, they tend to focus better and work more enthusiastically with the rest of the curriculum.

When children are physically active and creative, they tend to focus better and work more enthusiastically with the rest of the curriculum.

Arts, sport, music and drama are often viewed as fun extra-curricular activities for children but are given less importance compared with core subjects such as English, science, or mathematics.

The arts should be taken seriously as a source of inspiration, as a way of life
- Nataša Pantović

Nevertheless, numerous studies prove that practising arts, music and sport from an early age improves brain activity, self-confidence, and gives students an overall sense of well-being.

Students who consistently prac­tise sport, arts, music, drama, and dance, are usually more creative and innovative and also perform better academically.

Physical education programmes can influence the way children view physical fitness when they grow older, how they relate to their body and overall health. Both individual and collective sports require training and strong mental and physical preparation.

Through a wide range of games and activities, children learn teamwork, strategy-building, cooperation and gain much needed confidence.

Many team sports require children to work together to achieve a common goal. They also learn that there is much more to sport than simply winning.

The arts should be taken seriously as a source of inspiration, as a way of life.

Art programmes offer much more than just a fun outlet for children; they are an essential element of learning, cultivating self-expression, problem-solving, imagination and creativity.

According to research by Americans for the Arts, students who undertake three hours of arts, three days a week for at least one year are four times more likely to be recognised for academic achievement.

Furthermore, when children are physically active and creative, they tend to focus better and work more enthusiastically with the rest of the curriculum.

We all agree that music is a powerful force; it creates deep emotions, and it has been used since man’s first beginnings for communication, relaxation and enjoyment.

There is a common misconception that music is only for the chosen few, for talented students to practise and perform.

However, more and more countries include music as an essential part of their countries’ curriculums.

Many studies have been conducted on the effects of music on the brain. An exposure to a music programme is likely to benefit a child’s ability to concentrate, and it stimulates the development of certain parts of the brain.

Various governments have undertaken educational curriculum reforms aimed at expanding children’s art, music and sports experience.

An international study of arts education in over 60 countries found that Finland – a leader of education reform worldwide – has far more arts education than any other country. Finnish music schools have more than five times the funding from central government compared to music services in England. The importance of art in Finland is fully recognised and it is woven into their entire education system.

To move away from the attitudes that do not respect and cultivate arts as core subjects within schools, we should:

• Promote actively the importance of creativity as a tangible asset that must be nurtured to benefit the society of the future;

• Actively encourage music, sport and arts as subjects that improve creativity and general education of all children;

• Raise the status of music, sport and arts by developing a ‘tradition’ within the schools, with the teachers, with the parents, leading to continuous work with performances, concerts, sports events, festivals, and so forth;

• Prepare children for life beyond the school classroom, and have the courage to focus and invest in these areas. Tests stifle creativity because questions usually focus on finding one correct answer instead of seeking various ways to solve problems. This inhibits independent thinking and innovation.

A classroom teacher who in­cludes music, sport and arts as an integral part of his teaching methods takes on the role of a conductor, a trainer, an artist, and a researcher, guiding students’ exploration towards a deeper understanding of any subject.

Sir Ken Robinson, in his inspirational presentation ‘Bring on the learning revolution’ on Ted.com, says “we have built our educational system on the model of ‘fast food’... where everything is standardised... and this greatly impoverishes our spirit”.

Waldorf schools, also called Steiner Schools, are based on the educational philosophy of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

The methods used are those that stimulate imagination, in­spi­ration, and intuition. Edu­cation is practised holistically; handicrafts, the arts, and music are integral parts of the curriculum.

In a holistic educational model the teacher does not ‘lecture’ but provides space for children to play, experiment, learn, and create, always keeping a deep connection to life.

For example, children may be asked to write and illustrate their own textbooks, a history teacher teaching Renaissance may ask students to make copies of 16th-century scientific instruments, or sing Renaissance operas, or stage a play about 17th-century physicists.

They may study Shakespeare by staging his plays, rotating the cast so that every child memorises a couple of hundred lines.

Even some of the most exclusive private schools in the world today use these ‘old fashioned methods’ to develop children’s capabilities.

They require every student to learn an instrument, they teach their students how to play chess, they essentially work on teaching to expand their concentration span.

In such schools, children are encouraged to question at all stages, and they seek to replace competition with collaboration at every level, developing deep and lasting relationships among their peers and with their teachers.

If these ideas resonate with you or if you are also interested in this type of education for your children e-mail [email protected].

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