UNESCO wants arts education to cure social ills
By Hannah Bae May 28, 2010, 15:12 GMT
Seoul - Art could be the answer to world peace, according to the Seoul Agenda, a set of guidelines on arts education adopted Friday by some 2,000 participants at UNESCO's 2nd World Conference on Arts Education.
UNESCO's 193 member countries are to 'apply the principles and practices of arts education to contribute to resolving social and cultural challenges facing the world today,' said the Seoul Agenda, which was released at the close of the four-day conference held in the South Korean capital.
The guidelines reflected the changing definition of arts education around the world, an idea widely discussed among educators at the conference.
The 1st World Conference on Arts Education was held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2006. Stakeholders in the field came together to share their ideals, experiences and practices to produce a report, the Road Map for Arts Education.
'Arts education can be linked to every area of civil society,' Dan Baron Cohen, a Brazil-based community arts educator and cultural activist, told the German Press Agency dpa.
He pointed to examples in Colombia, where he said arts education is resolving problems of violence related to drug trafficking, and Brazil, where police are using theatre, music and dance to reach out to prisoners.
'The idea that you're educating people to become artists or to be able to recreate art has been enlarged. Arts education is seen as the foundation of the most important human education,' Baron Cohen said.
But one challenge presented by more atypical forms of creative learning is lack of research into their effects.
And credible research is an important link to monetary support, said Lindy Joubert, director of the UNESCO Observatory for multi-disciplinary research in the arts in Melbourne, Australia, during a panel discussion.
'There's a cry for funding, but funding will only come with arts research methods and outcomes,' Joubert said.
Currently, the main source of arts education funding comes from national governments, according to UNESCO.
Countries at present noted for impressive arts education infrastructure are those that have had 30 to 40 years developing their syllabuses and pedagogy, such as Canada, the United States and New Zealand, Baron Cohen said.
'But this is formally. Meanwhile, there is outstanding informal arts education that takes place outside schools in Latin America, Asia and Africa, but it's lesser known because research on it hasn't been published,' he said.
But there is some disagreement over what constitutes credible research, said Michael Wimmer, director of the arts research firm EDUCULT, in his address.
'There is no one scientific method to cover arts education in the right way,' he said.
A more open-minded approach to what is considered 'good' creative expression is important in deciding who receives funding, another speaker, Kim Hi Kyung, a South Korean professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said.
'Government organizations should really support all kinds of creative projects,' she said. 'We should open ourselves a little more, and we should encourage people's individual creativity despite divided ideals.'
Colombia said it wanted to host the next conference, held every four years, in 2014.