Arts in education -—international schools
, seems an easy enough conversation to have. Study after study has proven that involvement in dance, drama, visual art or music dramatically raises reading, writing and math scores. Visual literacy has repeatedly been connected to language acquisition and development. There are even in-depth studies that go into how focused practice within the arts physically re-wires the brain in beneficial ways. With all of these studies coming back in a resounding affirmative, why is this still such a controversial subject within an educational context?
The sad reality is that there are schools, administrators and parents that still do not believe that the arts will do anything but distract their students from what is important. However, for international students, the arts are imperative to building strong educational foundation.
Here in Shanghai, I have the opportunity to teach students from across the globe. My students come into class with vastly differing world outlooks, languages and life experiences. When students are first acclimating to a new school community and language, the arts classes are often where they are able to succeed first. In visual arts, for instance, not only do students learn the technical skills for art making, but they learn how to see and understand in a visual language. They are able to see and build connections to other students’ experiences, to their other classes, and to the world around them.
I am privileged to work at a school that fully values the arts. At Shanghai Community International School, we have fully adopted the International Baccalaureate continuum for all students from nursery to Grade 12. In the Middle Years Program and Diploma Program, the arts have equal time and importance as core subjects like math, science and English. Many of our middle and high school students are able to take multiple arts subjects, and in many cases, are encouraged to do so. This attitude, presented through the curriculum reinforces to parents and students the value of the arts in their learning as a whole. Students know and understand how they can take what they are learning in the arts and apply it to other subjects. These connections support their learning in all subjects making them more prepared to think critically when they leave my care and move forward in their education and their eventual entry into the global workforce.