Baroda AER 2019: 24th May 2019: St. Kabir School, Saiyed Vasna
Baroda AER 2019, the third in the series of Art Education Roundtables, was special for many reasons. AER traveled to the city that is home to MSU, a pivotal centre for the arts that has produced some of the country’s finest artists, curators and critics, and the session was held in a school, a space that is central to the execution of AER’s vision. Art1st Foundation is grateful to the Gallery Ark, Vadodara for organising the event at St. Kabir School, Saiyed Vasna.
As we progress along the planned series of AERs, we are also approaching the Annual Seminar on Art Education (December, Delhi), organised in the memory of noted artist and pedagogue Tushar Joag, the advisor of Art1st Foundation, who passed away in 2018. The objective of this seminar is to bring together a range of voices to collectively put together a vision for the future of arts education in India.
The Baroda AER panel had Arun Gupta (Principal Faculty, Film & Video Communication Department, National Institute of Design), Dhananjay Rai (Assistant Professor, Centre for Gandhian Thought and Peace Studies, Central University of Gujarat) and Sharmila Sagara (Associate Professor, Visual Arts, Anant National University). The session was moderated by the Director-Outreach of Art1st Foundation, Premjish Achari, also a writer and curator.
Cinema as an instrument of cultural education
Arun Gupta talked about the existence of various mediums in cinema such as literature, theatre, visuals, etc. complementing one another which can be used to open up the imagination of the child. He showed sequences from the movie Modern Times (1936) and explained how Chaplin used irony in the film to critique modern industry, enabling the audience to look beyond the perceived reality of the times. He also talked about how popular movies especially Bollywood movies, even the popular songs, which could be used to teach various aspects of life and make learning more enjoyable. Movies can also be used to teach students about sex education dissipating myths and outlandish notions. However, the talk did not touch upon the possibility of teaching film-making as a skill and a probable career that can be pursued.
Need for a critical pedagogy and universalisation of quality education
Dhananjay Rai started off with some statistics on the Indian education scenario to emphasise the lack of prioritisation in the budget, the vacancies that remain unfilled directly impacting the teacher-student ratio, the marginalisation of government institutes due to the arrival of private institutions. Rai proposed the necessity of critical pedagogy is required to overcome this. The curriculum should be seen as a runway for the children and teachers to take off, instead of seeing it as the final word. In schools, Rai suggested that a critical pedagogy should help children to demystify culture and normativity. He emphasised on Paulo Freire’s work Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) and suggested to use the critical tools in the book to empower the child. Besides this he also encouraged the teachers to read Raj, Samaj aur Shiksha by Krishna Kumar and film on Gijubhai Badheka called “Temple on the Hill”.
Towards a freer way of accessing knowledge and learning
Sharmila Sagara emphasised on capitalising on the Indian roots of traditional education to train the students, rather than looking outward for western models. She criticised the modern Nehruvian model for encouraging a mimetic way of understanding knowledge, and she proposed the need to develop a freer way of accessing knowledge and learning.
Themes that emerged from the Q&A session
- The rigidity of the current education system
- The necessity of the integration of arts and the other disciplines
- Relevance of including subject teachers in the art education programme
- The current status of art and other extracurricular activities as meaningless exercises
The fourth AER will be held in Chennai on the 28th of June 2019. From there, the AER will travel to Bhubaneswar, Mumbai and Guwahati. Join us in whichever city you can!
Further readings for the curious:
Screening Literacy: Case Studies. http://ec.europa.eu/assets/eac/culture/library/studies/literacy-case-studies_en.pdf
Into Film Website for resources and list of films: https://www.intofilm.org/resources/1222
Gijubhai Badheka, Divaswapna (1931)
Documentary “Temple on the Hill”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esBYOgaBAbA
Freire, Paulo. Education for Critical Consciousness. New York: Seabury Press, 1973.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1970.
Chapter 8 from a PhD thesis discussing the child-centric pedagogy of Tagore and Montessori
Chandrica Barua | Research Assistant | Art1st Foundation (New Delhi)