Bringing art into the classroom

IADEA’s annual conference wants to encourage schools to keep up with global practices, connecting visual arts with subjects like maths and science

“Art is the best way to teach. Children understand best through images,” says Blaise Joseph, director of Kochi Biennale’s Art by Children programme and a speaker at the upcoming Indian Art and Design Educators Association (IADEA) 2019 conference in Delhi. It seems like such an obvious statement, but sadly, art education in India is still outdated. Most believe that it is meant for those few who draw well, when, in fact, it is so much more: art improves observation, cognition, design thinking, all necessary in the classroom. It is when these are absent that “you get repetition, such as the sun and mountains [a staple in most school artrooms]”.

Joseph emphasises that visual arts is not just painting; it is all encompassing. “I’m not just teaching children how to draw,” says the Kochi-based artist and teacher, who structures his classes around local contexts. “When I get kids to document something like biodiversity, and introduce that as an art activity, it connects to history, psychology, memory, current realities, numbers, language, and more. Only when you reduce it to image making does it become limiting”

This underlines what art educators the world over are realising: that in our digital world, visual literacy is essential. In the West, we’ve heard of examples of music being used to teach fractions, and history being taught through theatre and scriptwriting. In the same vein, IADEA’s second annual conference wants to encourage our schools to keep up with global practices and connect visual arts with subjects like maths and science.

Sara Vetteth, founder of IADEA, stresses how art and design “helps children learn to think out of the box, to innovate”. And this is what we need today, at a time when our skills are being called into question. Hopefully, the conference, supporting programmes like Joseph’s and a growing understanding of STEAM — where art is brought into the gamut of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in education — will change the tide.

The second annual IADEA conference — with the theme Art Integrated Learning – Connecting Visual Arts with other subjects — is on October 3-4, at the India International Centre, New Delhi.

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