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We live in rapidly changing times. The process of enormous technological change occurring around us is shrinking the world allowing for the exponential increase in exchanges and communications across cultures. Our societies and economies are based more and more on knowledge and are reliant on constant innovation and in such a context, the ways we communicate and interact are evolving, including in the workplace, with employers increasingly requiring recruits to be creative, innovative and adaptable, and to have advanced communication and social skills.

Forces of globalization are having an enormous impact on societies and cultures across the globe. Traditional practices, languages, and forms of art and architecture are disappearing. Our cultural diversity is therefore being gradually reduced and this reduction in diversity represents not only a loss of remarkable traditions and valuable knowledge, but a loss of resources and perspectives on which to draw for the creation of new and innovative art forms, expressions and ideas. Education systems are partly to blame for the current situation; however they are also crucial for safeguarding this important aspect of humanity.       


Educating for Creativity: Bringing the Arts and Culture into Asian Education

Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok. 2005. 161 p.

ISBN 92-9223-065-4

Changing Educational Requirements

Clay-model making. © Education Division of Bharat Soka Gakkai / Varsha Das

It is becoming clear that our educational systems are not prepared for these changes in society and culture. As the UNESCO 2005 Education for All Monitoring Report indicates, the abilities and skills required for meeting the challenges of the emerging “knowledge societies” are generally not provided in schools or learning centres. And reports from educators, who have participated at UNESCO meetings around the world, reveal that most schools do not consistently incorporate elements of local culture and the arts into education.

In such a context it is increasingly recognized that we need to rethink the role of our educational systems and how education is delivered. It is vital that we find ways of enabling learners to develop the skills in creativity and innovation that are increasingly required, and of ensuring that learning is understood as a lifelong process so that people are continually able to adapt. We also need to prepare learners to succeed and thrive in an age which increasingly demands skills in complex interactions requiring high levels of judgment and individualized creative responses. It is equally important that learners are given the opportunity to understand, value, safeguard and draw upon the incredible diversity of cultures that sustains our creative abilities. The tools for achieving these skills can be reached through creativity and the arts. 

The Benefits of Arts Education

© ARTS-ED/Janet Pillai

“Education for All” (EFA) and “Quality Education” are UNESCO’s central educational goals. The concept of “quality education” encompasses respect for local cultures and engagement with local communities and recognizes that for education to be of high quality it requires: motivated students and teachers; locally-relevant curricula; learner-centred methodology; and inclusive, accessible environments.

Arts Education is increasingly recognized as a means of bringing the ideals of quality education into practice and fostering the skills required in knowledge societies, while at the same time contributing to safeguarding cultural diversity. Learner-centred Arts Education is acknowledged as being effective in making teaching and learning more enjoyable and accessible. In addition, learning in the arts, ranging from drama and music to handicrafts, endows students with the ability to engage in the creative process, that is, the ability to use imagination, critical thinking, and physical and mental skills to generate a unique creation. By engaging in this process, students gain self-esteem and confidence in their abilities, therefore becoming more motivated and productive.

The Arts in Education Approach

Playing the Gayageum, Republic of Korea. ©UNESCO/Younghoon Lee


UNESCO basically promotes two main approaches to Arts Education, which can be implemented at the same time and need not be distinct. The “learning through the arts/culture” approach demonstrates how we can utilize artistic expressions and cultural resources and practises, contemporary and traditional, as a learning tool. It targets to draw on the rich wealth of culture, knowledge and skills of societies to enhance an inter-disciplinary approach to learning in a range of subject areas.

The “learning in the arts/culture” approach stresses the value of cultural perspectives, multi and inter-cultural, and culturally-sensitive languages through learning processes. This kind of approach contributes to engender understanding of the importance of cultural diversity and reinforce behaviour patterns underlying social cohesion.