On the 21st of September, 2019 Art1st Foundation, in collaboration with Avid Learning and FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) opened a discussion about art education to artists, pedagogues and educators everywhere, for the Mumbai Chapter of the ongoing Art Education Roundtables (AER).
“Shifting Focus to a Better Learning System”
The session was opened up by Art1st Director-Founder, Ritu Khoda, who took the audience through Art1st’s work with schools and school-aged children.
‘It is not the teachers, within whom the problems of education lie. It is the way they teach our children’, she reiterated. The solution to this is a simple one: Change our approach to education – to create a better learning system.
Following her introduction, we were introduced to Amrita Gupta Singh, Program Director, Mohile Parikh Center, Mumbai, and Curatorial Advisor, Art1st Foundation, the moderator for the first session of the day.
In a Panel Discussion entitled “The Integration of Art Education: Advocacy and Policy Making for Paradigm Shift“, our speakers came from the fields of Art Education, Social Advocacy and Pedagogy.
Dr. Penny Hay, Artist and Educator, Research Fellow, Centre for Cultural and Creative Industries; Senior Lecturer in Arts Education, School of Education, Bath Spa University and Director of Research; Sangeeta Gole, Pedagogue and Education Specialist, Founder-Director PEARLS and Advisor to Art1st Foundation and Shaheen Mistri, Social Activist and Educator, Founder of Akanksha Foundation came together to lead an insightful discussion
“We must empower the Children, as well as their Teachers”
Dr. Penny introduced us to her experiences in developing creative pedagogy, co-designing art-based inquiries that took children through the city as a campus of learning and experiential education. Together with Adults as ‘companions in learning’, Penny, and her team facilitated meaningful and creative enquiries for the children that they have worked with.
Shaheen Mistri’s presentation took us through her journey and relationship with creative and performative arts – focusing on the impact of Teach For India and their barrier-breaking work with children from across social classes that culminated in their most recent performance to date : A circus inspired Musical called the “The Greatest Show on Earth”. A lot of Shaheen’s focus was on the importance of children being stakeholders in their education, which was an interesting contrast to Dr. Sangeeta Gole’s experience as a Principal in shcool.
In her presentation, Dr. Gole shared anecdotes of classroom observations over the years, specifically with how Art has been taught to children. The repetitive, archaic method of making “art” in classes can only change if the teachers entrusted with the responsibility of imparting students with this education are trained to do so. As an At1st Advisor, her presentation also covered how nurturing a creative school culture has been one of the most important lessons that she has had to impart to her mentees.
When Talking about the AER, Dr. Penny said “Art Education Roundtables are an international platform for practice-based exchange and learning between artists and educators, to share ideas with colleagues to develop and support innovative creative and cultural education. The arts have the power to be transformative and should be central to young people’s lives.”
Dr. Gole explained that today, she finds that children have the capacity to be more empowered than their teachers with the right support – “A school is as creative as the head of the school, regardless of where it is situated. Therefore, a dialogue about art is essential in pro-active self expression for both teachers and students.”
Shaheen Mistri focused on the importance of bringing children into the conversation about their education, not just as recipients, but as partners. In an example from a school in Pune, she told us about a circle started by a TFI Fellow in a school in Pune, where the Head of the school hosted conversations with parents, teachers and students on a weekly basis, and they talked about “the things they loved about school”.
In these circles, she recalls listening to a grandmother of one of the students that worked as staff talk about the respect and empowerment she experienced at this particular school.
The panel discussion was marked by the light sounds of clicks as the panel continued – a method of appreciation and agreement used by students and teachers from Teach for India.
“The Purpose of Arts Education is to help learners think critically.”
The second Panel Discussion “Affecting Change through Arts Education: Reimagining Learning Environments” was moderated by Asad Lalljee, SVP, Essar Group, CEO, Avid Learning and Curator, Royal Opera House Mumbai.
The esteemed speakers for this panel ranged from the different fields of Alternative Education, Artistry and Curation. They were Aban Bana, Waldorf Educationist and President and Country Representative, Anthroposophical Society in India, Abhishek Panchal, Arts Program Co-ordinator and Visual Arts Teacher, The Gateway School of Mumbai and Shruti Ramlingaiah, Co-Curator, Students’ Biennale.
In her discussion, Aban Bana explained, “You have to give alternatives. There is technology, but there is also life beyond it. There is Art.” She focused on the importance that we must give to art in classrooms, comparing it to the place Technology holds in young student’s lives. Technology is a powerful medium, easily available to students everywhere. Art, she says, should be an answer in the same way “Google it” is. If children have a happy introduction to the world of art, they will greet the world of art education with the same amount of excitement as they do technology. Shruti Ramlingaiah took us through her experience working with student artists new to the world of exhibitions, and the impact their education has had on the work they put out, as well as their experiences collaborating with other artists.
Taking Ms. Bana’s point further, Abhishek Panchal talked about how technology is being used in classrooms to facilitate not only art but forms of animation – a move that has his full support due to its diverse impact. “Simple software, designed for children are being used in school-settings to teach children to use these techniques to further their creative thinking.”
In an example from his school, Mr Panchal talked about a student who enjoyed drawing stories that he came up with in his language classes. With the help of student friendly technology, Mr. Panchal’s curriculum helped familiarise the student with animation. Today, the child enjoys creating short motion graphics for classes – something that was possible due to the introduction of technology and integration of applications like the one in the curriculum designed by him.
Following this discussion, the audience broke for lunch, before coming together for the second half of the day – A workshop facilitated by Amrita Gupta Singh, Sharmila Samant, Ritu Khoda, Dr. Sangeeta Gole, Dr. Penny Hay and Asad Lalljee.
Discussing “Developing Solutions and Strategies for Effective Art Education”, the participants were divided into groups and were mentored by an expert. The aim of this exercise was for each group to work together and come up with solutions toward the problems they face within the Art Education system. At the end of the workshop, each group was asked to present their ideas to the rest of the participants, in order to enable constructive feedback and initiate open dialogue among those present at the symposium.
The groups were divided as follows:
Teacher Development, where the importance of teachers being trained as facilitators of art education was discussed, while focusing on the importance of an art educator pursuing their own practice.
Integrated Art Education, in which the participants brought up case studies of the positive outcome that arose from the union of art and technology in their own practices as educators and artists.
Challenging Orthodoxy, that criticized standard teaching practices in Art Education that seem to have been the same for all the participants, despite the differences in their schooling.
Best Practices, an interesting conversation where case studies form participant’s personal lives were used as examples of the changes art can bring about in the life of a student; And
Action Research, which drew attention to how the context of the subject matter being taught to students in their curriculum plays an important role in the development of their artistic skills.
Following the presentations, Art1st Foundation’s Curatorial Advisor, Amrita Gupta Singh closed the ceremony with a vote of thanks and an announcement –
The next AER 2019 is to be held in Guwahati. We look forward to seeing you there!