Arts education is the communication and integration of life, literacy and learning that can only be achieved through experience by learners. Art education ranges from music and dancing to visual arts and theatre (Junior, 2008). These disciplines are as old as letters and numbers and hence provide a platform of gluing the community together. Indeed art is the universal language that does communicate to all peoples across cultures. In the early 1960's arts education was secure but the scenario changed in the late 1970's. The usual funding for arts related activities was eliminated from the school budgets. Any learning must appreciate the role of art for its success. This can simply be inferred from the Chinese proverb that emphasizes on 'doing' in order to fully understand during the learning process. A substantial segment of youths in America's public schools have had a taste of art education. Emphasis on art education in America first came to limelight in a 2002 Act as signed by the then president George Bush. The Act dubbed NCLB (i.e. No-Child Left Behind), listed arts among the ten core subjects that were to be offered in the school system. The idea of having arts as mandatory in schools never materialized as did for Mathematics, reading and English. Activities like music, drawing and drama appeared to consume much of the budgetary allocation and so risk being fully eliminated from the school system. As such a risk grows bigger and bigger and probably happen, there is the danger of education failing to develop the wholesome capacity of a leaner that is essentially purported to.
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Discussion on importance of art education
Art education is the centre of all human experience
Works of art has, throughout history, been the central part in conversations and true understanding. The struggles, dreams and lives of people have been recorded inform of works of art. For example, sculptures and monuments of influential people are placed in places to communicate certain messages of heritage and potential. Arts are basic in ensuring understanding of numbers, words and history as they integrate the environment with the concepts.
Arts is a language in learning
Understanding can only be shaped and expressed in a language. This language is provided by the arts. Whether arts is taken to be a language, a form of intelligence or a learning modality, arts is able to engage varying learners and provide opportunities to them so that they can share what they know. Simple furniture may require hundreds of words to describe while it would only take an art, and in particular a drawing to express how the furniture looks like. Moreover, it would call for several translations of the description into different cultural languages to pass the same understanding. An artistic impression of furniture can be understood by a variety of cultural backgrounds (Zakaras, Bodilly & Augustine, 2008).
Integration of mind, body and the spirit
Art has the capability of expressing emotions and ideas into live experience (Koopman, 2005). Concepts expressed in words may affect only the mind and fail to integrate with the body and spirit. Learning is most effective when what has been captured I the mind can be experienced in the body and affect the spirit. It is the word of art that has such ability since art can be expressed in words e.g. songs and poems as well as theatre work in addition to pictures and carvings.
Provides an alternative assessment program
Not all learners demonstrate their conceptual understanding in the same format.
Some students may demonstrate their competence in the generally accepted ways like tests while others would better dance the number strings, act exaggerated poetry, draw portraits in expanding the understanding of portraits, describe concepts of place and time in visual art, create stories in theatre or even dance numeric patterns. In full appreciation of individual cognitive displays and in the recognition of art, artistic demonstration of a concept should be acceptable. The limitation that is associated with the conventional demonstration of competence is harmful as it considers all human being alike (Atkinson, 2002). A learner who can for example, blink the eye twice to signal two should not again be forced to write the "two" as a figure/value on paper to prove his/ her competence in understanding the number two.
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Art develops collaboration
The global orientation in the modern world requires more of interpersonal skills and the social skills in enhancing interactivity. Concepts those are otherwise hard to grasp by an individual could be simply presented as an art for easy understanding. For example, children would easily understand historical events not through mere reading about them but also through painting them in a timeline, acting them or even writing a song on them. Students can spend an afternoon doing a dance on DNA in the company of parents and teachers. The hard abstract mathematical concepts that present a real challenge to school children can be presented by creating opportunities where children could hold the ideas in their hands as a group (Atkinson, 2002). The elimination of art education in the education system risks having a disintegrated society.
Inclusion of art education into the education system
Based on the advantages of art education aforementioned, there is an urgent need to integrate the art aspect into the education system. The contents of the Act earlier mentioned should be enforced to safeguard the art education. The legislature needs to also revise the Act to make arts a mandatory subject in the school, perhaps right from elementary to graduate levels. As such the government needs to invest heavily in quality resources for various institutions in an attempt to create art culture. The general public including the parents and adults need also encourage arts activities among the school children. Every state should also make arts education a priority and not as a subject susceptible to elimination by factoring it properly in the education budget. The same should be practiced at the school level. Presidential popularizing of arts education and the related activities may also serve to enhance inclusion of arts education in schools. Furthermore, the teachers should encourage the involvement of art activities in learning as well as provide enough time for art as a subject. When giving assignments, the teachers should emphasize use of artistic methods in coming up with solutions (Skilling & Jerry, 2003).
In the education structure, the introduction of art education as well as artistic methods of learning should be introduced in the early schooling years. At the kindergarten and nursery schools, teaching should use artistic methods in explaining concrete concepts. The children should be encouraged to interact in learning activities. Elementary levels should fully integrate art education in the school curriculum. Other than using artistic teaching methods and learning activities, the learners should be introduced to art as a subject. Appreciation for artistic representation of historical events in terms of drawings and narrations should be encouraged. At the secondary level there should very high standards of emphasis on art. For example, art scenic or outdoor activities can be included during curriculum redesigning in order to offer the basis for evaluating the learnt art outcomes among students.
According to Lafee (2007), learning institutions ought to use artistic illustrations on abstract concepts and ideas. The full introduction of the art education should be done at the technical and vocational institutions. It is at this level that the education system should fine tune the artistic capabilities that have been identified in the lower levels of education. There should be full scale training in music, theatre, drawing and sculpture at this level. Students should be allowed time out to visit the relevant industries in the various vocational disciplines that they choose. Art education should also be expanded to get to undergraduate, masters, doctorate and postal doctoral levels. In all levels of teaching, artistic explanation of concepts should be highly regarded in enhancing comprehensive coverage of the content.
The struggle that is usually associated with grasping of concepts in class may also be reduced with the introduction of artistic teaching and learning activities. Arts also bring joy to life. There is usually a natural pleasure associated with making and looking at artistic works. The cognitive and affective domains can interact well to produce all round graduates from the education system (Buchanan, 2008). When students derive joy from the education being offered, they will learn with ease, and perhaps deriving the best from the educational system. They will derive the satisfaction that education is supposed to render to the learners.
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The discussion has explored the concept of art education and its inclusion in the education system. The full inclusion of this kind of education and its appreciation by the stakeholders would improve the otherwise traditional and conventional form of education. Such an education would minimize the late of unemployment. The graduates of levels above the high school diploma would be self reliant. Some would graduate as musicians, actors and other fine art specialists. Such a caliber of graduates are able to self employ themselves by engaging in economic generating activities. Others would become trainers in the various vocational fields that they were trained on. Art education can therefore generate joy into the learning process as well as making schools to be more vibrant places for creativity as well as practical application in learnt skills.