May 2012: First Celebration of the International Arts Education Week

Image Source: UNESCO International Arts Education Week, May 2012

The International Arts Education Week was proposed to UNESCO in 2009 by the Executive Council of the World Alliance for Arts Education (WAAE). The WAAE is an alliance between the International Drama/Theatre Education Association (IDEA), International Society for Education through Art (InSEA), International Society for Music Education (ISME) and World Dance Alliance (WDA). Joint efforts of InSEA, ISME, IDEA and WDA in the formation of WAAE and advocacy by the WAAE and the Korean Arts and Culture Education Service (KACES) was rewarded in 2011 when the 36th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO agreed to three resolutions that recognize the importance of arts education in fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and social cohesion. The three resolutions were (1) Adopt and support the Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education, (2) Designate the fourth week of May as International Arts Education Week and (3) Support a third world conference on arts education. 

The aim of the International Arts Education Week is to raise the international community’s awareness of the importance of arts education by showcasing concrete arts education projects, practices, and reinforcing cooperation with main stakeholders of arts education. Key stakeholders in arts education such as teachers, parents, children, arts education associations, artists, civil servants, researchers and government authorities may value this week for showcasing practices, traditions, innovations, projects and research highlighting the integral role the arts and arts education play in diverse communities. On 23 May 2012, UNESCO celebrated the inaugural International Arts Education Week at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (see Message by Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General). In celebrating the International Arts Education Week, all UNESCO partners and networks, as well as culture and education professionals, youth organizations, and intergovernmental organizations were invited to take part in the promotion of the International Arts Education Week. Various activities were co-organized by UNESCO and the Government of the Republic of Korea. Many organizations and educational institutions all over the world contributed to this first celebration by organizing regionally or locally-based activities during this week. The Worldwide initiatives in the framework of the International Arts Education Week’ provides examples of regional celebrations and events during the week. 

At the UNESCO headquarters, the event brought together education actors from the civil society, professional organizations and academic world and comprised two parts: a Symposium 'Arts Education, from diversity to sustainability', focusing on two major themes – the 'Implementation of the Seoul Agenda' and 'Cultural Diversity in and through Arts Education', followed by a celebratory ceremony with music and dance performances by children and grown-up artists from the Republic of Korea. See the Symposium Programme and Speaker Biographies for more information on presentations by the speakers. The Chair, Executive Council, World Alliance for Arts Education, Ralph Buck who attended the event in Paris provided some insights on the symposium.

Courtesy Ralph Buck: Chair, Executive Council, World Alliance for Arts Education: "The Symposium began with opening addresses by Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture, UNESCO and Mrs Jae-Eun Park, President, Korea Arts and Culture Education Service (KACES). Bandarin spoke to the importance of arts education and acknowledged UNESCO’s commitment to supporting arts education.  Park outlined KACES, their progress in implementing the Seoul Agenda and the status of arts education in Korea in general. Insight and reports on Korean projects highlighting their investment and commitment to arts education within schools and within the wider community can be accessed from the KACES site.

Panel I focused upon Implementation of the Seoul Agenda. Some of the important points across the presentations included (i) making sense of the Seoul Agenda in local contexts and a need to align such a global document with regional, national and community specific practices, rhythms, needs, interests, politics. In so doing realising not all arts, not all age levels, not all interests will be attended to in an ideal fashion. (ii) The need for plans of approach and how the Seoul Agenda provides a framework and beginning point for establishing ‘local’ plans; discipline specific plans; systemic/institutional plans. (iii) Why we need to advocate for arts education and then how to use the Seoul Agenda document. In doing so, it was apparent that the 3 main goals are interrelated and while each provides a focus, they cannot be dealt with independently from each other. (iv) The biggest challenges included the need to shift people’s attitudes about arts education and improve motivations for engaging with arts education; and the need to include the arts as a necessary ingredient for a quality education. (v) The value of local knowledge/practices and establishment of local strategies inclusive of local stakeholders in implementing the Seoul Agenda.

Image Source: UNESCO International Arts Education Week, May 2012

Panel II focused on ‘Cultural Diversity in and through arts education’. Ralph Buck drew attention to the role of NGO Arts Education organisations and the importance of partnerships between NGOs, institutions and corporate sectors. Some of the important points across the presentations included (i) Public (schools) and Private (studios, churches, community) Sectors all play a role in educating for change. Ongoing arts activities help in engaging youth in understanding own and others’ cultures. (ii) Building respect for one’s own culture as well as others’ cultures; developing cultural understanding through the arts. (iii) Cultural diversity is crucial all over the world and especially complex in low socio-economic urban environments. (iv) Arts educators need to be mindful that parents and church leaders can be gatekeepers, hence influential in children’s engagement with the arts. (v) Art educators’ construction of learning environments, tasks and activities are important for fostering cultural understanding. Pedagogical understanding is vital if UNESCO’s goals for Peace is to be realised. (vi) Artists and arts educators have clear roles and need each other. (vii) Projects that have clear and ‘owned’ philosophical beginning points are the best in terms of sustainability and quality outcomes/impact.  Inclusive in this is the ongoing need for evaluation of projects. (viii) arts educators (and parents) need to be mindful of children and young people’s creativity, skill and capability.

The launch of the inaugural UNESCO International Arts Education Week was an outstanding success.  This event and the realisation of International Arts Education Week modelled how NGOs such as WAAE, institutions such as UNESCO, governments such as the Republic of Korea Ministry of Sport, Culture and Tourism (MSCT) and Civil Society organisations such as KACES can form partnerships, each providing vital parts to make a bigger and important whole". The WAAE Executive Council members includePatrice Baldwin of the International Drama/Theatre and Education Association (IDEA); Rita Irwin of the International Society for Education through Art (InSEA), Margaret Barrett of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) and Ralph Buck of the World Dance Alliance (WDA).