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Considering arts in education for a stronger society

August 24, 2018 4:45 am

Government, civil society and members of the diplomatic corps came together yesterday to discuss Arts and Education at a Dialogue funded by the European Union.

The Dialogue was one of a series as part of the EU-funded Valuing Voices project which is about valuing all voices in society – based on an understanding that diversity of voice leads to better governance for everyone.

The project is delivered by the British Council and Save the Children Fiji (SC Fiji) and supports the Fijian Government’s international commitments to consolidating democracy and the rule of law, and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The event was launched at the Grand Pacific Hotel by the Permanent Secretary of Education, Alison Burchell.

Ingrid Swinnen of the European Union says the EU acknowledges the role of Culture as both an enabler and an important component of development.

Director of the British Council in New Zealand and the Pacific, Ingrid Leary says with more than half the 837,000 Fijian population aged under 25, and one-third aged below 14, the school curriculum now was going to really shape the Fiji of the future.

As the Valuing Voices project is about exploring new ways of amplifying voice, the second half of the dialogue provided up to 25 children with an opportunity to speak out responsibly about opportunities and challenges in integrating arts and culture into the Fiji school curriculum.

In Fijian society, as in many societies, the Arts is not regarded by many parents as a viable career option.

Platforms and pathways are limited, and children who are interested or talented in the arts are often encouraged to pursue other interests.

These children, and society at large, often misses out on their skills and talents.

Research shows that vital skills for employment in this millennium include creativity, collaboration and cooperation.

The discussion explored how these soft skills can be enhanced in the education system and especially through arts-based activities.

The children provided insights into how their self-expression could be portrayed through various art mediums.

Iris Low-McKenzie, CEO of SC Fiji says the focus with children was to provide a space for adult participants and artists to inspire and encourage the children, to solve problems, build relationships, and get involved in ways that rebuild social capital and contribute to a fully self-expressed society.

“Other themes explored in a panel discussion were:”
• Art academic development, research and challenges
• Contemporary art, social activism and therapy
• Music, cultural identify and transformative change
• A child’s experience in art and curricula
• Eco Friendly art and activism
• Disability inclusion in the arts
• Pacific Arts for Children and Young People – the untapped potential

Other activities in the 30-month Valuing Voices project have included song-writing training and competitions, social media masterclasses, digital film-making workshops and peace journalism.

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