From stem to steam: the importance of the Arts in education
For many years, STEM subjects have been valued above others by some institutions; teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics are how we will produce top-quality learners who have minds capable of innovating and leading business and industry to new horizons.
is no doubt that, taught effectively, these subjects are hugely important to
young people across the globe, as the critical-thinking and analytical skills
required to succeed in today’s society are promoted within. These ‘hard’
skills make a learned and logical-minded individual, but let’s not forget about
the ‘soft’ skills required in many walks of life.
skills are deemed to be those which aren’t measurable through common means of
testing; team-work, etiquette, communicating, listening and analysing are a few
examples of soft skills which are increasingly important in the modern world.
This is where the Arts contribute. ‘STEAM’ is the new STEM and STEAM means a
well-rounded individual; someone who can analyse, create, listen, interpret and
problem-solve within the context of a team. These are the qualities which, when
possessed by an individual, make a highly admired and desirable person.
In recent years, there has been pressure on school
leaders to reduce the amount of curriculum time for creative subjects,
resulting in the side-lining of softer skilled subjects such as music, art and
drama. Creative subjects have also had a stigma attached to them; creative
subjects are for a certain ‘type’ of person who may not be very successful in
maths or may not enjoy the sciences (try telling this to Einstein or Heisenberg
who were accomplished violinists and pianists, respectively). The point here is
that we are pigeon-holing ourselves as ‘one or the other’ which is surely
wrong. In an ideal world, equal emphasis is put on all aspects of STEAM
subjects; the analytical, the logical and the creative so that one individual
can achieve in all areas. The individual who understands exponentials and
logarithms but is also willing to take on the lead role of Macbeth is probably one who has a great memory, a
logical mind and is brave enough to perform on-stage to a critical audience of
their parents and peers. I think these skills are commendable.
Picasso had it spot-on when he said “all children are born artists”. The
problem comes when we teach the art out of them. Without an emphasis on our
Arts subjects, we deny students the chance to develop this inherent creativity.
Einstein once said “the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but
imagination”. Now, whether we agree with this or not, one cannot ignore that we
have numerous intelligences, but perhaps there isn’t the time to discuss
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences…
aside for one moment that music is one of the oldest taught subjects, the Arts
have an incredibly important role to play in a student’s education and
shouldn’t be overlooked as ‘additional’ or ‘extra-curricular’. A painter or a
pianist who has finely trained motor skills could make a stable-handed
electronic engineer; a director or an actor could have the oracy skills to make
a fine barrister; a creative writer could make the imaginative problem-solver
for any company. For each of these examples, one requires knowledge provided
from our STEM subjects and the skills which are promoted in the Arts subjects
in greater quantities than anywhere else.
order to be successful, musicians must have discipline in practise, resilience
in performance (particularly if it doesn’t go as planned!) and are encouraged
to reflect on their own work regularly. Successful conductors are possibly the
most analytical of musicians as they must spend hours analysing a score to
understand the composer’s intentions, realise the harmonic and rhythmic
elements, be able to communicate this to a room of 100+ musicians with
confidence and authority and be able to count to (at least) 4! Not for the
faint of heart…
education without music, dance, drama, physical education and design is an
education which strips young people of the chance to become more developed
individuals and in an age which is all about individuality, we cannot afford to
let this happen.
To find out more about STEAM at Downside, the school runs Virtual Visits throughout the week. Contact the Admissions Team to find out more. The School is also calling for Year 7 entries and 11+ scholarships applicants for September 2021. firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0)1761 235103.