8.3.2 Arts in schools
During the past decade, Malta has invested heavily in educational infrastructure. A parallel effort was, and continues to be made, in reviewing the operations and quality deliverables by schools, mainly affected through the setting-up of school networks, or colleges, and the review of the National Minimum Curriculum, amongst other areas. Additional developments in the tertiary sector have also contributed to the provision of a wider range of opportunities for students to train and specialise.
The recent publication of a series of consultation documents by the Ministry responsible for Education establishing a new framework for the national curriculum framework provides a strong indication in terms of the importance of creativity in the formation of tomorrow's citizens (Towards a Quality Education for All: The National Curriculum Framework 2011. Consultation Documents 1-4. Ministry of Education, Employment and the Family, https://secure2.gov.mt/meef/Page.aspx?pid=543). The extension of the curriculum framework to cover the early (pre-primary) years reflects the need to recognise children's needs to develop their curiosity, their social skills, and their identities through an environment that stimulates and encourages self-formation and holistic well-being.
The National Cultural Policy states that strengthening creativity in education in the early years and creating clear and accessible channels for specialisation in cultural and artistic careers at secondary and tertiary levels is the principal objective of the government for cultural development in the coming years.
As a first priority identified by the National Cultural Policy to address the needs for creative education, a stronger and more holistic approach is recommended. In concrete terms, the Policy recommends that "a permanent task group composed of education and culture policy experts shall be set up to focus on the integration of the arts, heritage and audiovisuals in the national curriculum, and on the creation and development of vocational and higher educational facilities and courses for the training of future professionals in the cultural and creative sectors." (National Cultural Policy, p.60)
Although the review of the national minimum curriculum highlights the importance of arts education, the current staff compliment within the Education Division will need to be augmented considerably and matched with new specialised degree programmes and PGCE courses in subjects such as Drama at the University of Malta. Currently, any teacher with a Bachelor's degree in education can apply to join the Drama Unit even if the applicant has no formal pedagogical training in theatre. This certainly defies the scope of specialised training provision. On the other hand, the inclusion of Music as an optional subject in secondary education is encouraging and similar practice-based models need to be adopted for drama and dance.
School visits related to culture and creativity
Research carried out by the Creative Economy Working Group provides an overview of the level of exposure students to cultural and creative sectors. The responses from schools (covering 8 out of the 10 colleges) were grouped under the four categories of the cultural and creative industries and are summarised below.
Heritage is the most popular activity for school visits over all. Heritage includes museums, cultural, historical, and archaeological sites, and crafts.
In secondary schools, on average every student went on a heritage-related visit during the surveyed academic year. At primary level, on average, all students went on a heritage-related visit, and 6 out of 10 went on a second visit. In fact, cultural sites, museums and other heritage-related visits are the most popular visits among all the sub-categories of cultural and creative activities visited by school groups. Crafts are the least popular in the heritage area. Crafts-related visits are relatively more popular in primary schools with around a visit for 3 in every 10 students. Only 1 in every 10 students went on such visits in Secondary schools. Visits were related to activities such as glass-blowing, ceramics, pottery, exhibition of cribs, and carnival-festivity and mask-making, among others.
Arts events are the second most popular area of activity visited by schools. At primary level, 8 in every 10 students went on an arts-related visit, while in secondary schools 6 in every 10 students did so. The most frequent are theatre-related visits, attended by 5 in every 10 secondary students and 7 in every 10 primary students.
Media related visits at secondary and primary levels were attended by 5 and 7 in every 10 students respectively, making this the third most popular activity for schools.
However, when excluding visits to the cinema for simply watching films, Film, TV& Radio-related visits are sparse, averaging between 0 and 1 in every 10 students in both secondary and primary levels.
Creative Business Services (CBS): This is the least visited area of activity by schools. On average, 2 in every 10 students went on a CBS-related visit in Secondary school, whilst the number of visits in primary level rounds up to zero.
The most active year: In secondary level, Form 4 classes made the highest number of visits related to the creative economy, with an average of 3 visits. In primary, Years 5 and 6 made the highest number of visits with an average of 4 visits each.