I REFER to the letter by Nirosha Sen from Ipoh, Perak, under the heading, “Where’s the real learning?” (StarEducatio, March 30). I strongly support the suggestion to include more imaginative and creative learning in our primary schools and to be mindful of wasting another generation with emphasis on rote-learning.
I would like to expand on the importance of art education for the primary child. As parents and educators, we need to understand the value that art can have in the development of children. Art is a means whereby children learn to explore. They need to be encouraged to see, feel, touch and become involved in their environment.
In the teaching of art to children, the finished product is not always as important as the learning process. Children learn through art. Do we encourage children to express their ideas, feelings and intuition as well as their intellectual skills? Do we discuss their work with them and attempt to understand their uniqueness?
Children are imaginative beings and they have a natural urge to create. Hence, we need to give them the opportunities to do so.
For example, give them clay to play and mould into flexible forms, or allow them to make collages and turn them into various compositions. Space should be allocated for them to work with materials to produce interesting and beautiful things.
Through art a child learns to communicate visually. A child's artwork reveals to us that they are growing intellectually and emotionally. Art becomes a language, conveying something to us, the audience.
As parents, educators and adults, let us respect children and the art they produce. I appeal to those in school to encourage children by displaying their work on a regular basis, and not just the “best” pieces. Let all the children have a chance to see their work displayed and appreciated by their peers and teachers.
At the same time, we should expose children to good art so that they can develop aesthetic awareness. Taking part in countless colouring competitions is not encouraging creativity. Children soon become bored and it becomes another mundane activity. Steer away from mediocre art activities as they stifle a child's creative abilities.
We live in a multi-cultural country, and art can help children to appreciate the diverse cultures of our nation. They can celebrate that variety by learning about various art forms, for example, batik, wayang kulit, kites, lanterns, Chinese brush painting, etc, but these sessions should be made interesting for them.
Therefore, art is a not mindless activity. It is not an unnecessary frill or something meaningless. When children are encouraged to explore ideas which lie behind their work, they will develop high quality thinking skills. I am disappointed that the art education taught in national primary schools lacks this vision. The Education Ministry ought to seriously reconsider how art can be taught more creatively in schools.
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