The average Nigerian school concentrates more on STEM subject than ‘softer’ subjects such as Fine Arts, Music, Drama/Theatre and Languages (alternative). This is because these kinds of subjects, usually categorized as ‘The arts”, are not considered as important as other subjects. They are not always recognized as a vital component of modern day learning, so are not evaluated through high stakes. Even more, several parents discourage their children from opting for these subjects, as they hold the misconception that art is a superfluous, isolated subject. They rather encourage the children to go for “serious subjects” that help them secure jobs that meet the needs of our ever-changing economy.
What these schools and parents do not understand is that the arts have a powerful impact on learning and are important in their own right. If learning about music at an early age wasn’t important, do you think most of us will be able to recite the letters of the alphabet by singing the abc song in our head? Also, If drama, movement, and performance weren’t important, why would we look forward to watching African Magic or MTV Base? Or why idolize celebrities like Beyonce or even our own Tiwa Savage -performers who use their voices and gestures to hold a mirror up to life so that we might see ourselves more clearly? There is a strong need to strength and expand the Arts rather than reduce or eliminate it. Here’s why:
Unlike other subjects, the arts require learners to convey meaning through the use of movements, symbols, visuals and sounds as well and these create room for self-expression. The students learn innovation, creativity, focus, self-discipline, as well how to express themselves and communicate using multi-literacies. They also learn how to get in touch with their own feelings and those of others.
In fact, you find that students who are confused and frustrated in other classroom settings become not only absorbed, they find a way to articulate their thoughts and emotions through non-linear and non-verbal communication; and sort of creates a balanced learning environment for the child.
Cultural awareness, Empathy and Tolerance
Many of the arts such as theatre, music e.t.c require learners to work together. By collaborating, they not only learn how to work together to achieve great things, they learn to understand differences and diversity. They develop creative problem-solving skills, communicate thoughts and ideas in a variety of ways, gain the tools necessary for understanding human experience, and they learn to adapt and respect the differences in the way they and others work and think. By learning about other people, they are able to develop their ability for empathy, and as such understand and appreciate cultures, traditions, and symbols. Essentially, the arts becomes a way of changing perceptions and stereotypes as learners are exposed to different societies and cultures through their arts.
Critical intellectual skills
“How do I express this feeling through my music?” “What is the artists’ perspective?” “How should I play this character?” These are some of the questions the learner may need to ask when studying the arts. It fosters problem-solving and critical thinking skills which they can carry over into their education and other parts of life. They learn to observe, interpret situations, see different perspectives, analyse and synthesize problems. This to think critically to solve problems in a unique way is what comes to play when they are launched into the real world and they have to find their feet in the labour market. They are able to make choices and decisions in any situation…which is basically the requirement for being a successful adult. Even more, they are less gullible and less easy to puppeteer.
Confidence and inventiveness
The arts create opportunities for students to explore their talents and build their confidence. Getting up on a stage and singing or taking on a character that differs completely from one’s own character gives the learner a chance to step outside their comfort zone and try new things in other areas of their lives. By engaging the learner in this process, the learner develops a measure of self-esteem, self-discipline, cooperation, and self-motivation, which sparks ingenuity and inventiveness.
Can you think of other reasons the arts should be given more prominence in Nigerian schools today?