What is happening in Arts Education today? Initiatives at the local, national and international levels.

, ,

Ann Kipling Brown reflects on the initiatives and developments in arts education at the local, national and international level.


My involvement in arts education began in my first years of teaching and has continued through the teaching positions I have held as a specialist teacher in dance, itinerant teacher in dance, lecturer and professor in dance education. In my first years as a teacher I worked in the East End of London, United Kingdom where the programs in the arts were important in both primary and secondary schools. I was on a team of dance educators that offered programs in dance in both the primary and secondary schools. As part of those programs we often collaborated with colleagues in the different arts areas to create projects within the schools and community. I carried on this commitment in my future teaching positions making sure that collaboration was possible and that the arts were included and supported within the schools and community settings. My last twenty years have been devoted to building and supporting dance education within a program at the University of Regina that brings the arts together in a teacher education setting. My research has included the role of the arts in education and a consideration of the arts as a way of knowing with specific reference to dance.

The intention of this article is to share the initiatives and developments in arts education at the local, national and international levels. The hard work and dedication of leaders and participants in various conferences and summits have created policy, clear objectives and examples of practice that have influenced many artists, researchers in the arts and education, educators, policy makers, administrators, and government officials. First, I will describe where I teach to provide a context and point of reference for my viewpoints. Second, I will outline initiatives both at the international and national levels and within those initiatives I will explain my particular involvement.

Arts Education Program, Faculty of Education, University of Regina

The Arts Education program began in 1982 at the University of Regina and focuses on teaching in, about and through the arts. It is a unique offering that is comprised of the study of five arts disciplines that included dance, drama, literature, music and visual arts. The students take all five areas for the first two years of the program and then select a major and minor from those arts areas. During the five years the students follow courses in the selected major and minor areas together with courses in educational psychology, professional studies, aesthetic education, technology and selected areas in arts, such as sociology, philosophy and anthropology. This program prepares the teacher education students as both generalists and specialists in arts education providing experiences in the content areas of the arts and pedagogy related to the arts. As well as the traditional requirements for preinternship and internship the students also participate in an annual off-campus residential experience, now titled Professional Learning as Community Experience (PLACE), in the fall and winter semesters of the fourth year of the program. The primary focus of PLACE is to provide both students and faculty an opportunity to investigate the arts and cultural contexts of both urban and rural communities and their relationships to the formal education system.

My experience and understanding throughout my professional life has been that there is always a struggle to find a place in the school day for the arts and in any time of economic cutbacks the arts programs have been extremely vulnerable. In Saskatchewan we have been fortunate to have the arts as core requirements for student learning and a strong curriculum to make sure that our students receive sound and meaningful experiences in the arts. However, we know that this is not the case in every school and that our colleagues in the arts in other provinces and countries are struggling with the same problems.  I will be presenting several initiatives, both national and international, that have brought together leaders and colleagues in arts education to explore, exchange and implement the state of affairs and to support change and innovation in arts education.

The Role of Arts Education in Canada

In Canada, in the early 1990s, there was a call to prepare students for the 21st century. Tomkins and Case (2012) identified that educational reform was needed. There was much criticism that students in Canada compared “… unfavourably to other industrialized countries” and that the “… perceptions of excessively high student drop out rates” required attention. Concern that the curriculum did not take into consideration the diversity of the nation’s classrooms resulted in curricular developments on two fronts: “establishing sets of common or essential elements that formed the “basics for all”, and “… [t]he new “core” of the curriculum [that] reduced focus on academic study, emphasizing vocational and career-related development, particularly in the areas of technology, mathematics and science, problem solving, critical thinking, literacy and communication”.  Although the arts were not mentioned directly, many provinces, including Saskatchewan, retained the arts as core, identifying them as part of literacy. These reforms had great effect on how teachers were expected to deliver the curriculum.

Pertinent information to the status of arts education comes to us through the report, (2005). Dr. Max Wyman, O.C., president of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, explains in his introductory message in the report, that “… it [the report] does provide a concise snapshot of the thinking that currently surrounds the issue of the programming in arts education that is currently available, and of the potential for development and growth in this area. In particular, it highlights the significance and importance of arts education in Canada, providing both philosophical argument and a practical description of programs, organizations and teacher education, as well as identifying some of the major players and challenges they face” (Message)

The Commission undertook consultations across Canada in late 2004 and early 2005 to identify the current state of arts education in Canada, supporting the work of the Canadian project, Arts and Learning: A Call to Action. The consultations were also in preparation for two major events – the Europe Regional Conference on Arts Education in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2005 and the World Conference for Arts Education in Portugal, 2006.

The World Alliance for Arts Education (WAAE) has initiated four world arts education strategic planning summits since its foundation in 2006 (Hong Kong, 2007; Taipei, 2008; Newcastle, 2009; and Rovaniemi, 2012) along with many regional summits and meetings. I have been involved with two of these summits, Newcastle, 2009; and Rovaniemi, 2012.

UNESCO’s World Conference for Arts Education in Portugal, 2006

UNESCO held its first World Conference on Arts Education in Lisbon, Portugal, in March 2006. A key element of that Conference was a Joint Declaration by the International Drama/Theatre and Education Association (IDEA), the International Society for Music Education (ISME), and the International Society for Education through Art (InSEA) (The World Dance Alliance (WDA) joined the group a year later) to work together through a World Alliance for Arts Education (WAAE). The initiative was a reflection of UNESCO’s vision that education is the most effective way to fight poverty, improve health and well-being, generate growth and promote responsible citizenship. Additionally, it supports the Organization’s strategic objectives as the lead agency for Education for All.

The Joint Declaration included the statements:

We have united to define an integrated strategy that responds to a critical moment in human history: social fragmentation, a dominant global culture of competition, endemic urban and ecological violence, and the marginalization of key educational and cultural languages of transformation.

We believe that today’s knowledge-based, post-industrial societies require citizens with confident flexible intelligences, creative verbal and non-verbal communication skills, abilities to think critically and imaginatively, intercultural understandings and an empathetic commitment to cultural diversity.

The report of the latter conference identified that many agencies, such as “… ministries of education, universities, school boards, private schools, cultural organizations, government and non-governmental agencies, community centres and arts production companies” (p. 10) are involved in arts education and provide a range of courses, programs and activities.

Towards a Paradigm of Creative Education for the 21st Century, 2009

In 2009 the WAAE partnered with Creativity, Culture and Education (UK) and the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative in Newcastle, United Kingdom. The WAAE summit, ‘Towards a Paradigm of Creative Education for the 21st Century’, brought together over 100 experts from over 50 different countries to discuss the role of arts education in the future of education. Dan Baron Cohen, Chair of the Presidential Council and leader of the summit commented, “This year’s summit aims to build further strategic partnerships between arts education, industry, civil society and government, to ensure that our education systems are capable of nurturing sustainable development, global solidarity, cooperation and human rights. The WAAE will then take its proposals to the second UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Conference of Arts Education, which is being held in Seoul in May 2010”. The WAAE summit was held in partnership with Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and was supported by Creativity, Culture & Education (CCE), the national organization, which aims to transform the lives of children and families by harnessing the potential of creative learning and cultural opportunity. The WAAE summit was held at the Dance City arts organization in Newcastle, which nurtures social transformation and artistic excellence through creative movement, and coincided with Juice, Newcastle/Gateshead’s Festival celebrating the creativity of children and young people.  As participants in the WAAE we were able to attend two performances by young people. Additionally participants were able to visit local schools including Hotspur Primary School, a Creative Partnerships Enquiry School in Newcastle, as well as local arts buildings including the BALTIC and The Sage Gateshead and leading new writing theatre Live Theatre.

My presentation at the summit focused on Saskatchewan’s initiatives in arts education, specifically the Arts Education Program in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina and the aims and objectives of the Arts Education curriculum for K – 12 schools in Saskatchewan. It was evident through the presentations and discussions that arts educators are dealing with many of the same issues surrounding the role and implementation of arts education in both teacher education and school-based arts education.

This summit prepared strategic recommendations for a WAAE delegation to present at UNESCO, Paris, November 2009 and then for presentation at the 2nd UNESCO World Conference on Arts Education, Seoul, Korea, May 2010. In Seoul, the WAAE was profiled as one of UNESCO’s key summit ‘partners’ along with the Korean Arts Culture and Education Services (KACES).

UNESCO’s The Second World Conference on Arts Education was held in May 2010 in Seoul

Following the 2009 initiatives UNESCO’s The Second World Conference on Arts Education was held in May 2010 in Seoul, the Republic of Korea with the outcome of The Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education. The goals affirm the importance of arts education, encouraging focus on infrastructures, policy development, research and practice that will provide “… lifelong and intergenerational learning in, about and through arts education” (p. 1 -10). Another major goal aims to “Ensure[s] that sustainable training in arts education is available to educators, artists and communities” (p. 6). It is mentioned specifically that “… sustainable professional learning mechanisms” should be provided for teachers and artists; that “… artistic principles and practices” should be integrated within pre-service teacher education; and that such in-service and pre-service activities should be carefully monitored through “… supervision and mentoring” (p. 6).  The research that colleagues in the Arts Education program were invited to present is particularly relevant to the latter aim regarding training in the arts.

The Melville project, as it became known, involved a research presentation that described the evolutionary partnering project that included the University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Davison and Miller elementary schools in the Good Spirit School Division together with a community arts centre from the rural setting of Melville, Saskatchewan. This partnership project and research examined the relationship among and between the members of the alliance, explored the values and beliefs about arts and arts education and their contributions to inservice and preservice teaching and the impact of arts education on all participants of the community. Specifically the research study was designed to address the effectiveness of the professional development experience that is the foundation for teacher training particular to the practicum experience in rural school settings. The study also examined the specific roles of the teachers, university students, advisers and administrators for definition of role through practice and professional growth by experience.

UNESCO WAAE Summit 2012, 7 – 10 November 2012

The WAAE will hold its fourth summit in partnership with the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland, 7 – 9 November 2012, entitled Cultural Encounters and Northern Reflections. Rovaniemi, in the far north of Finland, fosters cultural understanding, especially those within the Circumpolar North. Rovaniemi provided an ideal place for WAAE to celebrate achievements to date and also prepare future agendas and action. And so, the summit reviewed and developed the WAAE’s strategic plans within the areas of Research, Advocacy and Networking. Further the aim was to develop the relationship between creative pedagogies and the cultivations of knowledge-based societies that nurture sustainable development, global solidarity, co-operation and human rights through strategic partnerships between the WAAE, industry, civil society and government representatives.  Invited delegates shared their specific research on pedagogy, curriculum, cultural sustainability and community engagement and advanced the understanding of

As an invited keynote speaker my presentation, A Model for Dance Teacher Education:

Promoting Communal and Personal Well-being, reflected on practices in dance education that reveal attitudes that relate to the epistemological foundations of dance teaching where dance teaching is primarily focused on the performer’s practical knowledge of dancing. Those experts, usually expected to have had professional dance experience, handed down pedagogical practices so that leading and following became the forms of teaching and learning. In other words dance teachers have taught as they themselves were taught, thus relying heavily on tradition. The overriding norm in dance education is that dance students are socialized to accept authority and the dominance of the authoritative voice. They come to distrust their own voices and devalue their intrinsic abilities to think and contribute to their own learning. In particular, the traditional pedagogical practices of ballet that Finke (2000) states “privilege hierarchy, authority and rigour and exclusivity” (p. 529) resulted in centuries of silencing and alienating women training in the art form. I shared several research projects during which I had talked with teachers and students about their experiences. Through a constructivist methodology I was able to hear about both teachers’ and students’ reflections on their own experiences and their view of what dance means to them as a student or a teacher. In summary I suggested an active transformative practice that examines the tradition of discipline and self-sacrifice, the authoritative dance teaching practice, the pressure of the idealized body and the gender schemas and stereotypical attributes our culture seems to generate about dance and ballet in particular.

The next world summit on Arts Education – Polylogue II will be held in Munich and Wildbad Kreuth, Germany, 13 – 17 May, 2013. There will be three main topics of evaluation, mapping and the concept of competences through roundtable discussions, panel presentations and keynote speeches.

Further actions that are important to arts education are the work of the national Roundtable in Canada that considers the challenges of preparing arts educators for the challenges of the 21st century.

National Roundtable, Canada

In Canada, while in-service activities are offered by various agencies cited in the report, Learning to Live, Living to Learn: Perspectives on Arts Education in Canada, (2005) the pre-service education of teachers is the responsibility of designated universities in each province and territory. The report briefly identifies what is important in pre-service education and outlines the range of offerings:

Future teachers need to know what the arts can do and how individuals learn in and through the arts. Not enough time is given to pre-service arts education programs to teachers and there are great discrepancies and inconsistencies in the programs that are offered. Program courses can range from as little as 12 hours in length to 5 years in certain provinces. In most, teachers’ arts education takes place over an 8 to 12 month period. (p. 11)

It appears that the concerns stated in the above reports have not lead to much change in pre-service or in-service training in Canada. This inaction prompted the formation of the National Roundtable for Teacher Education in the Arts (NRTEA), lead by Michael Wilson and Madeleine Aubrey, both avid advocates for arts education and co-chairs of the Roundtable. The Roundtable has met on two occasions, May 2011 and June 2012.  The vision of the NRTEA “… is to engage, empower and inspire arts educators in both public and private sectors through new insights into pre-service and in-service training and learning in the Arts to enhance delivery of arts education across Canada” (p.1). As a participant in the two Roundtable discussions that involved professors, teachers, artists, pre-service and graduate students, arts administrators, government officials, and school board consultants and superintendents it was interesting to learn of the paucity of training offered across the country and the limited access of sound programs to all learners.  In May 2011 we “… discussed and explored the current nature of pre-service and in-service teacher education in the arts” and “… the need to create or identify guidelines of an ideal programme for in-service and pre-service education in the arts” (p. 1 -2).  In 2012 the participants investigated four areas. Here I summarize the strong outcomes of these four areas: the need for a strong philosophical base; a balanced inclusiveness of all artistic expressions, focusing on learning in, through and about the arts forms; meaningful aesthetic experiences and practical training in the arts for all in-service and pre-service candidates; and programs that include strategies dealing with certification, structure and models of delivery. In all these activities it is evident that there are good programs for both students and preservice and inservice training; however, it is not consistent and in some areas it is non-existent.

Arts Education in Saskatchewan

In the province of Saskatchewan arts education has long been provided through programs offered by professional artists and community programs. Additionally, arts courses in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Education at the University of Regina provided access to certain art forms. In 1982 the implementation of the Arts Education program in the Faculty of Education, University of Regina influenced and supported the need for a comprehensive arts education program for schools and specialist and generalist teachers who would be trained to teach arts in schools.  Since its inception the Arts Education program has established a five-year Bed degree and an after degree in Arts Education. The Arts Education program requires that the students follow five arts areas (dance, drama, literature, music and visual arts) for the first two years of the program and then select a major and minor from those areas. During the five years the students follow courses in the selected major and minor areas together with courses in educational psychology, professional studies, aesthetic education, technology and selected areas in arts, such as sociology, philosophy anthropology. These studies lead to a comprehensive education in the teaching of arts, full teacher certification, and a combined BA in each of the arts areas. In addition, we offer a Certificate in Dance Teacher Education for those who wish to teach in private studio and community settings.

In 1990 the implementation of the arts education curriculum for all K – 12 students began. It took “… a broad approach to teaching and learning in the arts in which all students are enabled “to understand and value arts expressions throughout life”” (p.iii). The broad areas of learning of the curriculum include the following about arts education:

In arts education, students learn how the arts can provide a voice and means to make a difference in their personal lives and in peer, family, and community interactions. The arts give students multiple ways to express their views and to reflect on the perspectives and experiences of others. Students learn how to design, compose, problem solve, inspire change, and contribute innovative ideas that can improve the quality of their own lives and the lives of others. Students in the arts seek to discover who they are, envision who they might become, imagine possibilities and alternatives for their communities, and provide new ideas and solutions for building a sustainable future. Students also gain an understanding of the immense contributions that artists and the arts offer to the world. (p.4)

In the academic year 1996-97 an evaluation of the implementation of the Arts Education curriculum was undertaken in order: to evaluate the extent of implementation in the province; to collect information about practices and student experiences: to identify supports and barriers to implementation; and, provide information for future implementation and maintenance. Interviews, focus groups and telephone surveys were employed to access information from administrators, teachers, students, parents and local arts communities. In addition, case studies of classrooms of six schools were conducted. The universities also provided information about teacher education programs. The following summary reveals the situation in 1996-97.

Most administrators, teachers, students, parents and members of the communities in Saskatchewan believe in the aim, goals and objectives of the Arts Education Curriculum. The curriculum evaluation project has revealed that some elements of the curriculum are being implemented as intended in some locations around the province, and in some cases very successfully. However, implementation is not progressing at a desired pace, and will require measures to enhance the process (p. v).

It appeared that dance was the least taught of the four strands (dance, drama, music and visual arts) with teachers saying that it was difficult to teach if they did not have any experience in the area. There was confusion as to whether dance would be covered by the Arts Education or Physical Education teachers and observations that there was little time or space for a dance program in the schools. It was recommended in the evaluation report that a clarification of the differences between dance in Arts Education and Physical Education should be made and that there should be more professional development for the dance strand.

In 2012 it appears that the same problems exist. Even though professional development has been offered the presence of dance in schools is very low. Where graduates of the program, working in a generalist or specialist role, are in the schools there is success; however, we hear the same arguments of space, time and lack of confident teachers.


Canadian Commission for UNESCO. (2005). Learning to live, living to learn: Perspectives on arts education in Canada. Preliminary Report on Consultations. Canada: Ottawa.

T.J. Cheney Research Inc. (2004). The growth of dance in Canada over three decades. (Prepared for the Canada Council for the Arts).

Report of The World Conference on Arts Education: Building Creative Capacities for the 21st Century presented by Mr Lupwishi Mbuyamba at the UNESCO’s World Conference for Arts Education in Portugal, 2006.

Saskatchewan Arts Board & Dance Saskatchewan Inc. (2009). A review of dance in Saskatchewan. A Final report.

Saskatchewan Education. (1998). Arts Education: Grades 1 – 9 Curriculum Evaluation Report.

Tomkins, G.S. & Case, R. (2012). Curriculum development. The Canadian Encyclopedia (including The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada). Canada: Historica Foundation. Retrieved from

UNESCO. (2010). The Second World Conference on Arts Education. Seoul, Korea.

Wilson, M. & Aubrey, M. (2011). Summary of Participant Comments in Small Group Discussion. The National Roundtable for Teacher Education in the Arts.