Open letter: Dedicated Art Education is Vital to the Future of Nova Scotia
During this challenging year, the Halifax Regional Centre for Education has gone above and beyond to ensure the education and wellbeing of our children in a global pandemic. Along with the many challenges have come new insights. As the president of the Nova Scotia Art Educators Society (NSAES), I would like to offer some of my own in regards to recent proposed changes to arts programming in HRCE.
The NSAES has learned of new integrated learning opportunities for students which are impacting program hours for the arts, particularly at the gr 7-8 level. Many schools are reducing dedicated art instruction to one hour a week to make room for this new initiative. I urge you to consider the value and benefits of maintaining dedicated arts education programming in our schools. I gratefully acknowledge the excellent work already being done here in the HRCE with many specialists and arts educators leading the way for inclusive, culturally responsive and engaging programs for students in every school in our region.
However, as we work collectively towards a just and equitable education system, we must acknowledge the unique role arts education has in making this possible. We know that the arts build, sustain, connect, and enrich cultures in all their glorious diversity in Nova Scotia. Art education helps us understand ourselves and the world around us, unpack our histories, express complex ideas, develop innovations, and explore creative solutions. We cannot do this essential work in just one hour a week.
Decades of research conclusively demonstrate the impact the arts have in education. Dedicated arts instruction engages students in learning because it creates opportunities for individuality, discovery, expression, and resilience. Harnessing this engagement by integrating it with other subjects makes perfect sense! But at what cost to art programs? If schools choose to reduce art to one hour a week, can we expect students to invest in this time if it appears the school system doesn’t? Art education can build the foundation to support complex classrooms with the skills and concepts they need to make integration successful. We can do this with dedicated arts education time and resources, and we can do this by hiring qualified arts educators. Arts educators enable students to bring creative planning, research, experimentation and reflection skills into every other aspect of school life with confidence. Art education is not about making pretty pictures, it's about big ideas and complex processes.
Finally, let's protect time to learn in the arts because they are valuable in their own right. The arts are the voice of every generation of humans and to undervalue it is to undermine our own wellbeing. We need the arts more now than ever. As we look for creative solutions to global challenges, as we turn to our movies, music, books, and creative hobbies to support our mental health during this pandemic, remember: we are the educators that supported those dreamers, makers, builders, and entrepreneurs. Building stronger arts education opportunities will ensure we continue not only to survive but to thrive.