IN this age of technology, the arts is fundamentally essential for society. The arts bring beauty and creativity into society. They are very important because they make society better. The arts bring a sense of enjoyment and pleasure. They allow for the expression of truth and beliefs. They portray various ideas, feelings such as triumph, love, happiness, sorrow and boredom. Each and every message behind the arts shows ideas that are relevant to society. Society can only be complete when there is a good balance between mechanical human capital and artistically inclined human capital.
A healthy Malaysia not only requires a good number of engineers, doctors, IT consultants, but also artists, designers, poets and singers to emerge as a whole, prosperous and healthy society. Therefore, the arts need to be given importance for children’s artistic growth.
Every child is born with artistic sensibilities that need to be nurtured so that they have a mind to appreciate and value nature. A child artist emerges when he or she is given the support at home to pursue his or her imagination, and then at school, and only then does society recognise his or her creative pursuits. It is essential to instil artistic knowledge from a tender age because the child will grow up with an artistic sensibility and be able to see the world from a different perspective.
The arts help students to learn and grow in many ways. They enhance students’ creativity by allowing self-expression. In most arts programmes, students are asked to create a painting that represents memory or compose a new rhythm for a piece of music. When students are taught to think creatively, it helps them in their future career. The arts improve academic performance; students who regularly participate in the arts do better academically.
The arts develop students’ fine motor skills when they hold an instrument such as a paintbrush or oil pastel. They build self-confidence and help students to develop their visual-spatial skills. Arts education teaches students to appreciate, criticise or interpret by using the visual information. Arts strengthen problem solving and critical thinking skills by allowing students to make choices and decisions. This carries over into their education and other parts of life.
And last but not least, students in the arts learn that they are accountable for their contributions to the group. If they have made a mess, they are responsible for it. Mistakes are a part of life, and learning to admit, fix and move on will serve students well as they grow older, making them a better person.
Furthermore, the school system (primary, secondary and tertiary education) in Malaysia needs to have a creative environment for students to enhance their creativity. In schools, arts educators need to instil the desire to pursue the arts (visual arts and performing arts) through continued inspiration and encouragement. It is essential to instil passion and love for artistic activities among the students so that we can generate more creative adults in this country.
Arts education has undergone an immense transformation in the school system. It has become less popular these days, unlike the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM education). Over the past several years, I have seen fewer schools giving importance to the arts, visual arts and performing arts The Ministry of Education needs to make arts education more important, diverse and dynamic, provided it is implemented with a true spirit within the school curriculum. Schools should have aesthetically pleasing art and music studios for the students to access art materials or musical instruments to experiment and explore.
The focus must be on nurturing creativity and innovation (thinking skills or cognition) and not merely on technicality (motor skills). The arts have always been very energetic and vibrant on their own. In the world of the arts, with benefit of multimedia, there is opportunity for new innovation and invention.
Students who have passion for the arts can pursue careers in fine arts, performing arts, photography, graphic design, interior and architecture design, fashion design, furniture design, animation, advertising and so on.
Art educators have to use 21st century skills in teaching the arts so that classroom learning can be more exciting, fun and interesting.