So Michael Rosen is talking about it. Jude Law is talking about it. Even Julian Lloyd Webber, Greyson Perry and Danny Boyle are in on the act. What is it that they are all gossiping about? This is not your average mundane Hollywood gossip, but something that might affect the education of future generations and more importantly the future of art in this country, the EBacc or English Baccalaureate. So we thought we might dust of our soap box, step up and say a few words…
It has long been a criticism of the education system that children are spoon fed – that they are merely taught to regurgitate information for their exams and coursework. Students are not educated enough about the basics in order to effectively use language, numeracy and common sense later on in the workplace. There is never going to be an easy solution to this. I, (Katy from the Filskit ladies) know I am not alone when I say I am not confident with grammar. I rely on spell check and wish I could speak a foreign language. So it is clear that something needs fixing. However, is this really the fault of the GCSE? Is it worth placing absolute emphasis on these basics at the sacrifice of arts and culture?
Well, I guess you can predict our response… NO! Having worked in and around schools since graduation, and, in fact, our time at school not being that long ago, the immense pressure on students and teachers to achieve high scores at exam time is apparent and it is making what is taught at schools a little skewed. As children are increasingly told that without brilliant grades they will not succeed, they will focus on getting that A or A*, rather than contemplating the fully rounded richness that an education can offer. Needless to say, in order for this education to be well rounded, it needs to be exploring all aspects of learning, including creative learning and the arts.
Personally I am not convinced that the English Baccalaureate will solve any problems. Teachers, not through lack of skill or want, but due to pressure, will continue to teach to the order of the content of an exam, regardless of whether it is called an EBacc or a GCSE. Furthermore, I do not think you can underestimate the damage to those currently taking GCSEs. I have already heard young people question the point of taking GCSEs on the grounds that they are worthless to a government and society that lambasts them. It appears that Gove has a pair of rose tinted glasses that he likes to pop on, and look at how his education has brought him to the successful place that he is now in, as he looks for future generations to replicate it. Well he mustn’t forget those other success stories of people with little or no education.
Now I come to the importance of arts in the EBacc. I understand some people’s cries to keep the arts out, as it cannot be quantified through examination, like science or mathematics. However, I believe there are important reasons why they should be included. Firstly, it is important in the recognition and status of art in Britain’s culture. By sidelining the arts you are stating that they are not integral to an education. People in arts and education have been battling for years for colleagues and parents alike to understand the importance of the arts as subjects in their own rights and not just as a means for exploring other topics.
Secondly, introduction to the arts at a young age can not only encourage innovation and exploration, but can lead many talented people into the arts industry who might otherwise follow alternative careers. The arts can be used to engage children, teenagers and adults in a way that encourages freedom of thought, expression of ideas and a deeper understanding of each other.
Finally, as it stands, artistic subjects are inclusive and participants are involved and encouraged, regardless of grades and exam results: you don’t need an A* in maths to be creative, you need an imagination – something which should be nurtured in people of all backgrounds, irrespective of whether they can afford to enjoy the arts as something extra-curricular. All these are qualities which are not merely desirable in a society, but are absolutely necessary.