Why is art, craft and design education so vital to our culture, our society, and ourselves? The reasons are myriad, meaningful, complex and fiscal says Lesley Butterworth of the National Society for Education in Art and Design.
Art and design as a subject on the curriculum, (with craft tacit rather than explicit within its content) is generally taken for granted as an entitlement for children and young people in formal education. Images of small children cheerfully elbow deep in primary colours and young people meaningfully engaged in front of a well-known painting or actively behind a camera lens spring to mind.
These assumed images are now under considerable threat, and in many schools and settings the paints, kilns and cameras are now actively abandoned. What is happening to our subject, our teachers, our children and young people and ultimately to our creativity, culture.
Opening doors of opportunity
Within the context of formal education the subject supports personal, social, moral, spiritual, cultural and creative development, and enables participants to engage with and explore visual, tactile and other sensory experiences and how to recognise and communicate ideas and meanings. These opportunities enable them to work with traditional and new media, so that they develop confidence, competence, imagination and creativity.
Through these opportunities they learn to appreciate and value images and artefacts across times and cultures, and to understand the contexts in which they were made. Experiences in art, craft and design enable them to learn how to reflect critically on their own and others’ work. They learn to think and act as artists, makers and designers, working creatively and intelligently. They develop an appreciation of and engagement in art, craft and design as critical consumers and audiences and an understanding of its role in the creative and cultural industries that shape and enrich their lives.
In life ‘knowing how’ is just as important as ‘knowing that’. Art, craft and design introduces participants to a range of intellectual and practical skills. It enables learners to use and understand the properties of a wide range of tools, machines, materials and systems. It provides children, young people and lifelong learners with regular opportunities to think imaginatively and creatively and develop confidence in other subjects and life skills.
It has a crucial role at the centre of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; moving STEM into STEAM fosters creativity and innovation. Art, craft and design supports and services other subjects, industries and sectors. It provides an introduction to potential careers in the visual arts and creative, heritage, cultural and digital and design media industries, sectors that are contributing significantly to the UK and reputation on a competitive international world-class platform. Many young people come to the UK to study art craft and design.
It is concerned with making critical judgements based on a sound knowledge of a variety of contexts; judgements about cultural values, cultural history, aesthetics, quality, craftsmanship and fitness for purpose, and provides an opportunity for and engagement in leisure pursuits that can yield lifelong benefits, well‑being and life satisfaction. It enriches children and young people’s experience of school and college life.
Most children and young people find it enjoyable and motivating, helping to develop positive attitudes to school and life beyond formal education.