One of the heroes of modern Conservatism, Benjamin Disraeli said, ‘as a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.’ However, the current education system is not supplying its students with the best information to succeed. For too long the curriculum has been narrowed so that more traditional, academic routes of study are being prioritised.
When I was choosing my A-Level subjects, I was pushed towards more ‘facilitating subjects’ such as the sciences and humanities by teachers, feeding the stigma around the perception of subjects such as Art and Drama. There has been a 35 per cent decline in art subjects at GCSE from 2010 – 2018 and a 24 per cent decline in A-Level Art since 2010. My A-Level Art class only had three people in it, yet my A-Level English class had so many people in it we struggled to find a classroom to fit all of us in.
The education system must be reformed to re-balance towards the Arts, otherwise we will see a knock-on effect on creative industries which are growing at a faster rate than any other sector in the UK. The Conservative Party must incentive funding in the arts subjects; a BBC survey of 1,200 schools in the UK showed that nine in ten schools have cut back on lesson time, staff, and facilities in at least one creative subject. This shows a decision to discriminate against arts compared to the sciences.
Looking beyond the classroom these subjects are incredibly beneficial later in life. Drama, for instance, provides young people with the confidence for public speaking and the ability to present themselves well in interviews. Art itself stimulates creativity, improves mental health, and as you see on the BBC Apprentice so many of their tasks show that businesses rely on creativity. The creative industry contributes to £92 billion to the UK economy and the government statistics department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport show that in 2017 the number of people employed in the wider creative industry stands at 3 million.
This discrimination of funding in the arts subjects compared to other subjects has led to a negative perception of the arts in society. This summer I worked as an Arts and Crafts instructor at a children’s summer day camp which catered to 300 children aged four to fourteen. Despite having more qualifications in my field compared to the other instructors, I was paid less, worked longer hours, as well as planning 20 different art sessions with models of my own version to show the children, not to mention having extensive cleaning duties. As the only art instructor on the camp, the week I didn’t work they stressed they had not one ‘art specialist’ to replace me. The question remains – why are staff in the creative field still discriminated against? Clearly having to pick up a paintbrush and teach over 20 children seems like an alien concept to some.
We should ultimately change how we classify success. A friend of mine at school took three attempts to pass his English and Maths GCSE and took all creative A-Levels, Double Art and Photography. His grades at academic subjects meant he was not in traditional terms, a ‘success’. Yet his niche art ideas led to him studying game art at university and he is now a young entrepreneur. He now owns a clothing company with global shipping based on his graphic art designs.
We need to bring back choice into the education system. Now young people exercise little choice over their GCSE options with a humanity and language subject being compulsory. We are only limiting young people’s chances of achieving high grades as they are required to take subjects they don’t have a natural aptitude for.
I have seen first-hand how children have been deprived of a creative outlet due to the current dominance of technology in ‘play time.’ Many of them thrive under the opportunity of brainstorming their own designs and learning about the world through art. Among young children, the gender divide has not cemented yet in art and drama with many boys age six or seven enjoying art due to the confidence and different sense of achievement it gives them. There is a very different visual reward painting a sea creature onto a paper plate than completing a difficult maths problem, for example.
The importance of education, regardless of background, has always been core to the conservative philosophy. There must be equal opportunity in education for everybody and equality amongst all subjects with the curriculum being remodelled so creative subjects are equally funded and envisioned. The Conservative Party needs to value the creative economy and ensure that the education system is regulated so that all children are able to have the opportunity to develop their creative ability.
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