We need a dedicated creative arts curriculum to lift learner performance

Schools must seriously consider designing and implementing a systems-wide creative arts curriculum at their schools, especially those schools serving poor communities.

A structured, sustainable creative arts curriculum must complement our rigid academic curriculum if we are serious about excellent learner performance. Creative arts are a critical lever to fast track learning and learner performance.

The reality of our schools serving the poor
I know we do have extra and co-curricular programmes at our schools and our learners are getting exposure to sport codes and a smattering of creative arts at our schools.  I also know how difficult it is on our poorer schools to keep extra-mural programmes alive at the schools. The very teachers who are teaching non-stop and who are battling to mediate a new, challenging curriculum with are already struggling to feed our learners and doing their utmost to retain the learners at the schools. There is no broad-based parent structure and  neither is there a bottomless volunteer base for these schools to tap into. But, there must be a solution…

Expressive and vibrant display of energy and movement by the skilled modern dancers of Harmony Primary school

Research supports a balanced curriculum that includes arts and culture

Let’s look at the undisputed research-based benefits of having a structured creative arts programme at the school. There is a link between the exposure to creative arts and the development of the whole range of thinking skills. Exposure to creative arts will help us to develop our children’s creativity, their problem solving skills and help them unlock their expressive abilities. Creative arts foster collaboration, ignite the imagination and help the participants to become balanced risk takers. Is this not what we desire? Is a sustained creative arts curriculum not one of those missing links that can help us unleash our children’s brilliance?

Do we need to rethink the limited platforms we use to showcase our learners?

When I saw Masiphumelele High School choir and Harmony Primary School performing at the #Artscape School Arts Festival Gala event, I sat there, mesmerized by the amazing talent, the spectacular showcase and thought to myself: this is possible at every single school.

The question begs: are such isolated events the only times when we should allow learners to express themselves creatively?

When you scan the websites of better resourced schools, their arts and culture calendars are as busy as their sports and academic calendars. Besides being favoured by economics and access to other resources, do these schools and their leadership perhaps understand the silent ripple effect of creating such a supportive, learning-rich environment for their charges?

Harmony Primary School perform the finale at the Artscape Schools Arts Festival Gala event 2013

Exploring the digital frontier as multi-faceted Arts and Culture resource

Perhaps we need to give the role of the creative arts and its powerful impact some serious thought. Perhaps we need to explore the use of digital resources to fill the gap where we may either lack the skill or the human resource to offer a range of creative arts to the children. Just look at how the Khan Academy has taken the world by storm; learners learning mathematics via the internet, via Youtube videos without the experts being there physically. Even our Grade 12s learn via satellite, watching their Telematics lessons beamed from a university right into their classroom as part of their enrichment or support programmes. 

Most children access the internet on their cellphones to find information either for personal or school-related stuff. Children do not place a premium on face contact in these cases. All they want is the knowledge and they quickly adapt to the medium that they are sourcing it from.

 Let us also exploit the value of cyber world then. Via digital resources, we have access to content, quality teaching and expertise. Let us go into chaperone role while the cyber experts do the hard yards for us in this arena. Now is the time to think differently to allow more possibilities to emerge.

Arts calendar at schools a real possibility

We only have to think deeply, creatively and be the risk-takers we want our learners to be by finding a happy medium to bring creative arts to all our learners.

Masiphemelele High school mesmerised the audience with their spectacular singing


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