Arts and culture in schools

By Drum Digital
03 April 2014

Since the beginning of this year all South African schools are required to offer at least two of five creative arts subjects to learners in Grades 7, 8 and 9. But how is this a good change and how does it affect your child’s studies and career choices?

Since the beginning of this year all South African schools are required to offer at least two of five creative arts subjects for learners in Grades 7, 8 and 9. But how is this a good change and how does it affect your child’s studies and career choices?

We spoke to Lize-Meri Smalberger, an English, dance and drama teacher at Chris Hani Arts and Culture Secondary School in Khayelitsha, Cape Town:

Which subjects are offered to learners as part of this change to the curriculum?

Schools have to offer two of five creative arts subjects from Grades 7 to 9. The choices are dance, visual arts, drama, music and graphic design.

Why have these subjects been introduced to the curriculum?

These creative arts subjects have been introduced to help learners develop as creative, expressive and innovative individuals. They also provide basic access for all children to art education and expose them to dance, drama, music and visual arts.

Furthermore, the curriculum aims to help children identify and solve problems and make decisions using critical and creative thinking. Through this process they learn to become responsible for their environment and the health of others. “The first drama exercise my students had to do was in a group. They had to choose a social issue they found in their environment, research it, find the causes and look for solutions then create a performance based on all their research,” Smallberger says.

Can learners continue with these subjects after Grade 9?

Only if their school offers it after Grade 9. Most schools don’t offer any arts subjects after Grade 10.  This creates the opportunity for more schools to introduce arts subjects for Grades 10-12 into their curriculum.

If the school doesn’t offer creative arts after Grade 9, Smallberger says, learners have definitely still benefited from it and it’s definitely worthwhile. “The curriculum teaches life skills. A lot of my shy students learnt how to be confident after studying drama. It also teaches self-discipline, and these subjects are unique in that they allow the child to improve themselves and become a more observant person with social skills.”

How can these subjects affect a child’s career or study choices?

The skills they acquire from these arts and culture subjects can help them with several job and study opportunities. Careers in journalism, advertising, design, marketing, social studies, public relations and human resources are only some of the different study and career opportunities available to learners who take these subjects.

Is this curriculum a good idea?

Yes, as learners are exposed to the arts. They becomeactively involved in class activities and a lot of group work where they learn to work with others and to respect other opinions. It gives learners confidence and allows them to express themselves in everything they create.

What are the teething problems with the introduction of this curriculum?

The biggest problem with the implementation of the curriculum is that there aren’t qualified teachers teaching these subjects. In some schools the accounting teacher now has to teach drama and dance – both fields in which they have no experience. So the quality of the subject is compromised. Another problem is that a lot of schools don’t offer arts subjects from Grades 10-12 and learners don’t get the opportunity to pursue the art form of their choice.

-Londiwe Dlomo

Extra source: Government document from the department of basic education (National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement [CAPS] for Creative Arts [senior phase])

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