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4 min read - Friday 15th October 2021 
An Outdated Education System: A Creativity Killer? by Millie Robson 
The creative sector is in crisis. It’s under attack from those who devalue, those who defund and, perhaps the worst offender, an education system designed to stifle creativity. With the odds stacked against the arts, how can we fight back and prove that creativity is vital?

The impact arts can have is highlighted by L. Nathan, an educator: ‘Our ancestors knew the arts were synonymous with survival. We created art to communicate emotions: our passions, jealousies, and enduring conflicts… Daily life, communication, and rituals were circumscribed and delineated in a range of artistic expressions… We buried our dead with song and even dance. We created theatre that proposed solutions to our woes. We drew pictures of our kings and queens, and on the walls of caves to tell the history of our day. Was this the primitive form of expression, or were we informing future generations in a way that language will never do alone?’.

This concept that the arts are so much more than a subject - that they are integral to our existence - is supported by research within education systems. It has been proven that arts education has positive effects on student wellbeing, creative thinking, increased achievement in other ‘academic’ subjects, analytical skills, teamwork, communication and more. The co-director at the Cultural Learning Alliance, Sam Cairns stated ‘Research shows that children with an arts deficit are disadvantaged educationally and economically while their more fortunate peers – generally from more affluent backgrounds – are more resilient, healthier, do better in school, are more likely to vote, to go to university, to get a job and to keep it’.

There are many programs that have documented the direct impacts on participants, one of which is the Creative Partnerships Program established in 2002. The Creativity, Culture and Education foundation managed the Creative Partnerships program until funding was cut in 2011. The aim of this program was to foster long-lasting partnerships between creative professionals and schools to encourage open-minded thinking and creative learning.

In a 2010 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers that investigated the program, it was concluded that there was a positive impact for learners, parents, schools and teachers. The report found that the program ‘can result in higher quality employees and employment, can be considered as a benefit to employers but also to wider society to the extent that society benefits from a more highly skilled, engaged population’ and that ‘Higher attainment will lead to increases in the lifetime earnings potential of learners’. Not only would this directly impact the learners involved in the creative program, but there was also a wider societal benefit as higher engagement in the education program would result in lower truancy rates and potentially leading to lower crime rates. This report stresses the ripple effect that a rounded and immersive arts education can have on a child, as well as wider society.

However, despite the recorded benefits, funding for this program was cut following the coalition government being elected in 2010. As programs and education sectors continue to lose monetary support, there is an insinuation that those in positions of power and those who hold the funding purse strings do not value art and creativity.

How can the impact of arts education be so well researched and documented, and be unappreciated, actively disregarded and defunded? The chronic undervaluing of Arts Education will have an unprecedented impact on all age groups, not just generations now. How can we expect an innovative, successful and considered society if we are allowing this idea that the arts aren’t worthy of time or money to be perpetuated through our government and media?

It is clear that the perceived value needs to be reinstated in the arts, but how can this be achieved? The simple answer would be to throw a huge amount more funding at Arts Education programs. We have seen how revolutionary and impactful programs and organisations can be when money isn’t so heavily restricted, such as in the Pioneering Places program and the Creative Partnerships program.

Yet it is important to question how effective it would be to reinstate funding into education systems that do not cater to a 21st Century society. Despite being released years ago, in January of 2015, there is still so much to be learned and explored from the film ‘Most Likely to Succeed’, which seems to be answering some of those questions on how we can adapt and update our learning. This documentary presents the issue of an education system that leaves students ill-equipped for modern society, questioning why we are relying on a system formed in the Industrial Age. Concentrating on a forward-thinking school in San Diego, it examines the impact new educational approaches can have on students, parents, and teachers; the documentary poses the question of what it even means to ‘teach’ and ‘learn’.

Isn’t it ironic that the creative arts are the first to be defunded, and yet creativity is the key skill needed to overhaul our outdated education system? Perhaps the most effective (albeit unachievable) method would be to scrap the current education system and rebuild it in a way that responds and reacts to a modern audience.

Gatekeeper Magazine© 2021