It was the documentary Cave of forgotten dreams, featuring the oldest known human-painted images in Chauvet caves of Southern France, that I began to ponder upon the motivation behind the creation of such masterpieces, dating back to 32,000 years ago. In times when even the survival was a constant challenge, these images could not be merely the expression of arts in pensive moods of mortals. There must be a definitive purpose aimed to convey something much more meaningful to the fellow human beings. Or was probably in these caves that the awakening of civilisations happened? To my mind, the paintings were an effective and efficient way of communicating ideas, feelings and information such that even before the existence of a language or script, it was art that became the instrument of educating each other about life. Art is an expression of our thoughts, emotions, intuitions, and desires, but it is much more personal than that; Art is about sharing the way we experience the world, which for many is an extension of personality. Therefore, art must have played a critical role in the inception of civilization.
With the growth of civilization, art has retained its aesthetic significance and popularity; however, as strange as it may sound, art has increasingly faced existential crisis in its role of shaping the personality of people. This can be attributed to the allocation of the right of artistic creation to only a few selective individuals- branded as artists, who unknowingly transformed art into a discipline. Art is life! Indulging in any form of art- visual or performing, impacts the basic intellectual processes and personal attributes of an individual that are at the core of cognitive, social and emotional development. Therefore, it is mandatory for young people to get authentic learning experiences such that it engages their minds, bodies and soul towards better personality. This is not abstract and many contemporary authors recognise a source of inspiration in justifying the necessity of including the arts in education to realise intrinsic benefits as well as developing the capacity to face contemporary challenges within the framework of citizenship education.
As an example with whom we can all relate, Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian recipient of Nobel Prize for literature in 1913, was not just a great poet but also a multi-talented personality. Tagore came up with the first of its kind school- the Shanti Niketan and actively contributed as one of the greatest educationists of modern age. Tagore propagated the idea that real education is the cultivation of intellect that cannot be gained by the mere reading of books. Putting simply, this implies that instead of putting a lot of emphasis on the memory, education should be a medium to develop thinking, creativity, imagination, whereby these can significantly be attained through art, poetry, theatre, dance, music, etc. In Tagore’s words about his experience of education, “Fortunately for me I was brought up in a family where literature, music and art had become instinctive. My brothers and cousins lived in the freedom of ideas, and most of them had natural artistic powers. Nourished in these surroundings, I began to think early and to dream and to put my thoughts into expression. This made us fearless in our freedom of mind, and we tried experiments in all departments of life. This was the education I had in my early days, freedom and joy in the exercise of my mental and artistic faculties….”
In coming up with this age that has witnessed an overhaul leading to significant transformation in the educational system, the current scenario calls to an urgent need of designing policies that imbibe the relevance of art in modern day education. This is to initiate an awakening to the ever-lasting impact of art in life, reinforced in the core structure of education. A silver-lining in this direction is the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 that significantly amends the education directive with the inclusion of added emphasis on the integration of art in curriculum. Prior to understanding what NEP 2020 expects and the ways by which they are expected to be achieved, let us first delve into what is an art integrated curriculum.
Integration of arts with other subjects simply means that arts (visual arts, performing arts and literary arts) shall become an integral part of teaching-learning processes. It also implies adopting an art-integrated curriculum, where art becomes the basis of classroom learning. Arts at the centre of the curriculum, helps in clarifying concepts. Art-integrated curriculum can provide means to bridge content of different subjects in logical, learner-centric and meaningful ways. All subjects such as mathematics, sciences, social sciences and languages and their abstract concepts can be correlated, linked, concretised and learnt effectively with art at the centre. Learning by this method becomes holistic, joyful and experiential. While engaging with arts, learners go through different stages, such as observing, thinking, imagining, exploring, experimenting, deducing, creating, recreating and expressing. These stages need actual involvement of all the three domains: cognitive, psychomotor and affective. Hence, it is experiential in nature and leads to the holistic development of every learner. The benefit of such experiential learning creates the basis for better learning in other subjects. Finally, if arts is integrated as a pedagogical tool, it would make learning a joyful experience for the learner. As a result, every teacher, and not the arts teacher alone, need to understand the skill of integrating art in the curriculum.
The NEP 2020, by integrating art in the curriculum, has enhanced the role of the arts teacher. Arts departments in schools would now have a completely new addition to their set of responsibilities like never before. Arts teachers would assist other subject teachers in planning their lessons with the help of integrating art as a pedagogical tool and assisting them in classroom teaching as a team teaching mode. On the part of other subject teachers, it is expected that they clearly understand and are able to discern between art as a subject and art a pedagogical tool. They are able to relate that art if used as a pedagogical tool leads to a truly holistic and experiential learning. The teachers are expected to go beyond the text book and create modules that would promote life skills such as resilience, empathy, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, etc. in the learners and make learning a purposeful experience.
To conclude, one of the most important aspects of art is that there is no right or wrong answer. Knowledge is approached in an experimental manner. As art is an expression of the self, it helps the disadvantaged to express their innermost feelings through their works of art. Art helps the children to engage with one another by breaking all the barriers, where despite belonging to different backgrounds, they can communicate among themselves and enjoy the education process.