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Envisioning a new education

Tamara Winikoff

Tamara Winikoff is Executive Director, National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).

Have you noticed that something important is changing? In what seems like a flash, we have become addicted to visual modes of communicating through video phones, computer systems, TV, film, advertising, electronic and print publications, and through the many manifestations of art and design in our everyday lives, especially those determined by new technologies. Visual skills have become essential for everyone to realise their vocational, personal development and entertainment objectives. However, this is not reflected in the preparation provided by schools and the tertiary education sector.

Recognising this, the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) has been organising meetings of a group of art and design education specialists and concerned industry bodies—the Art Education Group of the National Visual Arts and Craft Network. The group is pressing for an urgent review of the current purposes and quality of visual communication, arts, craft and design education at primary, secondary and tertiary education levels. They are also examining the role played by public galleries and service organisations in providing life-long education for the general public.

International research indicates that in future it will be vital for economic and cultural sustainability that everyone be proficient in visual communication and able to engage with and contribute to the “creative industries.” The Art Education Group contends that demands for visual literacy now parallel those of numeracy and text literacy. As well as contributing to general learning outcomes, they believe appropriate training could prepare students for a steadily growing variety of creative and aesthetically oriented occupations. These include fashion, advertising, marketing, media, publishing, IT, design and heritage interpretation—the areas loosely described as the ‘Creative Industries.’ Or it could be in less clearly related areas such as health, community service, education, business or manufacturing, as well as skills for unknown future industries.

Despite the enrichment provided by artists to the cultural life of the community, there is still a lack of recognition of the visual arts as a profession. Taking these subjects at school has come to be regarded as a soft option, and in some states students are disadvantaged in achieving higher education entrance because of the lower weighting given to art subjects. This indicates a necessity for more appropriate streaming to be provided from primary school through VET and/or University and into a professional career. But currently, each step along the way is beset with obstacles.

In the last few weeks, members of the Art Education Group have met with politicians from all parties and staff of the Australia Council, seeking their support for work to be undertaken to define targets and provide data that can be used to realign Australian curriculums and teaching to better meet the needs of professionals in the field and the larger community. Keep your eye on election policies.

Tamara Winikoff is Executive Director, National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).

RealTime issue #62 Aug-Sept 2004 pg. 40

© Tamara Winikoff; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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