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About the "UNESCO Arts Education Observatories"

Art restoration in Bhutan. ©UNESCO/R. Engelhardt

Educational systems in the Asia-Pacific region are adapting to the new opportunities and challenges of increasingly knowledge-based societies. In the context of this shift towards a new educational paradigm, the mainstreaming of arts within educational systems can contribute to improving the quality of education and to human development and the safeguarding of cultural diversity through its role in forming creative, innovative and socially tolerant generations of people.

This process of adaptation implies a rethinking of the role of the arts education. Conventional approaches to arts instruction stress the teaching of art history and aesthetics and the learning of artistic skills so the student is able to reproduce artistic forms and create new ones in a competent manner.

This approach was undoubtedly important, however, in our increasingly knowledge-based society, the arts have become a vital instrument for communal expression, intercultural exchange, learning and professional advancement. They enable people to engage in personal as well as collaborative endeavours that contribute to community well-being and personal identity as well as fostering cultural diversity and creativity. As a component of arts education they have become a dynamic tool to challenge outdated ideas and stimulate innovative thinking in a manner that fosters social understanding and tolerance.

© Santi Chitrachinda

UNESCO is contributing to this process with the Asia-Pacific Action Plan (previously titled Action Plan Asia), which has supported the establishment of a series of Observatories. The Arts in Education Observatories are functioning as clearing-houses of information about the instrumental uses of arts education. The Observatories aim to collect, synthesize and disseminate information from a regional network of input-providing institutions. This facilitates knowledge-sharing and information- utilization by the network of institutions and by UNESCO, its Member States and cooperation partners. In the long term, the Observatories are to provide the basis for informed advocacy processes, which lies close to UNESCO’s mandate and will also be supported by the Arts Education community. It is hoped that the Observatories will thereby contribute to mainstreaming arts, creativity and culture in both formal and non-formal education.