With the contentious release of the Australian Curriculum pending, two arts education specialists consider what a national arts curriculum will mean for arts institutions. In this timely new Platform Paper from Currency House, co-authors Meg Upton and Naomi Edwards call on arts companies to radically rethink their education programs and engage meaningfully with the education sector to deliver the arts curriculum outcomes originally envisioned.
“Some major theatre companies still regard students as no more than bums-on-seats. Problems arise when the company appears to view the curriculum merely as a means of building attendance or providing financial viability; and this ignores the quality of the student’s experience.”
Education and the Arts surveys extensive research showing how transformative the arts are to learning and understanding. But performing arts organisations and the education sector, say the authors, are a long way from understanding each other’s practice, protocols and language.
Upton and Edwards point to the frequent marginalisation, questioning and cost-cutting faced by education program within arts institutions. Discussing recent controversies over productions and plays targeted to young audiences, the authors urge breaking through the gatekeepers – the teachers, parents, and policy-makers, and the producers and curators – who decide what young people can see and study.
“We must learn to trust young people’s capacity to confront challenging material, to be able to position themselves in relation to it and find a response if a safe and supported environment is provided. It is here that eduction programs provide critical points of intersection. It is time the various curriculum authorities looked to industry as equal partners in learning.”
Young people are not the audience of the future. They are the audience of now.