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Session Five: Discussion and Summary

Chairperson: Dr Kapila Vatsyayan

Open Forum and Discussion

Mr Shakti Maira opened the discussion session by asking what the “Asian Vision” of Arts and of Arts Education is.

Ms Charlene Rajendran, a lecturer in Visual and Performing Arts from Nanyan Technological University in Singapore, and Ms Janet Pillai from the School of Arts at the University of Science in Malaysia, proposed a framework to identify the value of art in Asia.

They proposed that art works when it is inclusive, which leads to it being participatory and collaborative, which leads to people taking ownership and being responsible, which leads to them being responsive to needs and desires, which leads to communication and research, leading to tolerance and patience, which in turn lead back to inclusivity.

Ms Rajendran and Ms Pillai noted that we want to achieve cohesive societies and peaceful communities, so we need people who are healthy and have a sense of worth, confidence and ethical awareness. Such people are receptive and able to adapt. They emphasized that art can be a tool in creating such people.

The symposium participants then commented on the proposed framework and discussed the role of art in Asia. Mr Maira agreed that the arts can be used to create more responsive, aware and creative people, therefore enabling change in many ways. Mr Maira also noted that there are many examples of arts-in-education projects which embody the principles of collaboration and inclusivity. He emphasized that such examples and case-studies should be widely disseminated so that others can learn from them.

Ms Shruti noted that arts can both help us absorb information and can transform us.

Ms Shruti noted that learning through the arts produces people with the three key characteristics of openness, simplicity and flexibility. Ms Shruti also noted that teaching through the arts enables information to be absorbed, assimilated and re-expressed, therefore enabling it to enter the long-term memory.

Dr Subhash Malik, an academic, commented that art enables people to be heard and that it allows a child to express himself and make himself understood, and therefore allows the child to develop an interest in understanding the world.

In reference to the “Asian Vision” of art, Ms Surapee Rojanavongse, Honorary President of AHPADA (Thailand), noted that in Asia art and craft are intertwined, that craft is a tool for conveying art.

Mr Kwon Huh from the Korean National Commission for UNESCO commented that because Asia is family-oriented, in Asia the arts are a reflection of this. Another comment was that in Asia art is a way of life, so when teaching art we need to relate art to life.

Ms Neena Ranjan, Secretary of the Indian Department of Culture, commented that in Asia education about the arts comes from the family and community, and that preserving cultural diversity and intangible heritage are means of ensuring that Asian art will continue to be a part of life and continue to be taught.

To summarize the discussion, Mr Maira suggested that the arts in the Asian context are not a specialization; in Asia art is broader, it integrates various artistic aspects. Mr Maira also noted that in Asia art has a purpose, it has two key functions: transmission and transformation.

The proposed “Arts in Education Observatories” were then discussed, particularly their focus and scope, and organizational set-up. The participants made comments on the role of the Observatories and made suggestions for how to proceed in implementing them.

Mr Prithi Perera, Programme Specialist for Culture at the UNESCO Delhi office, summarized what the Observatories are intended to achieve: be a focal point to encourage research, networking and increase capacity. Mr Perera then suggested that to set the Observatories up, it would be useful to form an e-group to continue communicating and exchanging ideas and information. He also proposed that in this situation a UNESCO “Chair” would be very useful in order to bring together all of the aspects of arts in education.

Dr Vatsyayan suggested setting up an Asian internet portal and the India International Centre’s Chief Librarian, Dr H.K. Kaul, gave some ideas on how this portal could be organized, and emphasized the importance of having a coordinator of the portal in order to facilitate networking.

Ms Sajida Vandal noted the need to categorize the information collected by the Observatories and pointed out that the Observatories could both collect information about current best-practice, and also revisit traditional practices and document the ways in which knowledge was transmitted in the past – so that such methods could be revived (if they are effective).

Ms Ariunaa Tserenpil emphasized the need to collect relevant information, based on a firm understanding of what the information is for, and a clear agenda and vision, with civil society involvement.

Ms Lindy Joubert noted the need to collect case-studies from all over Asia, and share these case studies through a portal.

Dr. Sudhir commented that it is important that Observatories not only inform politicians but also inform teachers on ways in which to implement arts-in-education and provide teachers with examples to follow, because teachers are ultimately the people in contact with children and they are the ones who will make change happen.

Dr Kapila Vatsyayan closed the symposium by summarizing the key points made in the presentations over the past four days, drawing particular attention to the consensus over the value of transmitting knowledge through art, enabling art to transform children and other learners.