Importance of Art education in Indian Schools

Art has been a pivotal subject in Indian history. In the form of sculpture, paintings, architecture, fashion, design and lifestyle of ancient India, art has had a gargantuan impact on defining India as it is today. India’s opulent history has always boasted of the temples with aesthetic sculptures. It has proven time and again the magnitude of glorious monuments sprawled across the land. So why is it that in our schools today, we have side lined this subject, which involves creativity, innovation and divergent thinking?

After talking to a few art teachers in schools, I found that their training for teaching art is very limited. The art examination has been using the same topics on still life, imitating a flower and memory drawing. Is that all there is to art education? These forms of art, although helpful in learning techniques, are not creative. They test the memory of the child and some basic strokes of brushes. Even from a young age the child has been taught of how to draw a butterfly (let me not forget the scenery with the mountains the sun and the river). But why haven’t we asked them to draw what they think a butterfly looks like, or create an imaginary animal or things they see around them. Children perceive items in a different way and exploring their minds at a young age is the best time to test the child’s creativity.

Museums, art exhibitions and creative workshops are all means of exploring art. Visiting museums are a great way to understand art history and design. Art exhibitions promote young talented artists and act as a stage for new artists. Creative workshops stretch out to help divergent thinking amongst children.

Another factor which has lead to the downfall of art as a subject is the belittling of artists in India. They are known to strive and suffer before coming up with their magnificence. Engineering, doctor, lawyer are known as successful professions. But we have failed to see that art intertwines with quite a few professions such as architecture, photography, film making, fields of design, teaching and science. Art teachers do not get the recognition or the salary they should.

There is a dearth of institutes who focus on art and design across India. A few well known institutes are National Institute of Design, JJ school of arts, Shrishti, MIT (Pune) , Symbiosis Institute of Design and IIT Kanpur.

“Art Education is India is looked upon only as a hobby, having 2 sessions a week in school. Teaching art and craft has been limited to technique and not a way to express emotion or ask questions. We teach water colour and acrylic step by step instead to giving them the medium to explore and experiment. When techniques are taught, all students will use it the same way and there will be no ‘mistake’ or no innovation.

I think its also important to introduce creative thinking as a module in schools today. This along with art exploration will encourage students to be creative and show them value beyond aesthetic representation. Discussions in higher classes about – what is art? what is its purpose? what are the global art movements? what mediums are used in art today? – will give them a new perspective. “

– Trishla Talera of TIFA working studios, Pune, suggests how schools can embrace art as a major contributor towards education rather than being just a “recreational” subject.