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Canada/ 8.3 Arts and cultural education  

8.3.1 Institutional overview

Childhood experience and education are increasingly recognised as important determinants of later arts and cultural practices. However, Canada has tended to separate culture (concurrently federal and provincial) and education (restricted to the provinces at the primary and secondary levels). This separation may have had the unwanted impact of placing certain limits on government spending in culture and retarding the emergence of a consensus on standardised curricula for the arts, history, literature and culture in Canada. Other issues include the digital divide between rural and urban student access to home computers and educational software and between male and female users put to using computers including programming and desktop publishing. Some examples of recent reports include: Music Education: State of the Union Benchmarks Study (Coalition for Music Education in Canada (2005) and English-language Canadian Literature in High Schools and Arts Schools in Ontario (2004). 

Several federal cultural institutions operate outreach programmes with schools and youth:

  • National Arts Centre (NAC): the NAC Orchestra offers student matinee concerts for all grades that connect to the school curriculum for music. The NAC offers a "Musicians in the Schools" programme designed to bring musicians to the schools to perform and instruct;
  • National Gallery of Canada (NGC): the NGC has designed an on-line school programme to assist teachers in planning class visits to the Gallery and to support the teaching of visual arts education. On-site student programmes include guided visits and studio activities;
  • Canadian Museum of Civilisation (CMC): the CMC offers interactive programmes on themes modelled on the school curricula in Ontario and Quebec such as bringing a guide-interpreter to the classroom for a curriculum-related workshop;
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM): has an extensive outreach and education programme for student and teachers;
  • Similar programmes exist at the Canadian War Museum (CWM), the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN), the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (CMCP) and the Canadian Aviation Museum (CAM); and
  • The CBC / Radio-Canada operate CBC Learning which allows teachers, post-secondary teachers, school boards and corporate training departments to review lessons, watch excerpts and purchase Canadian educational video and audio content online. The new website is
  • As part of the Canadian Culture Online Strategy, the Department of Canadian Heritage created as Canada's cultural portal which, inter alia, contains abundant information on arts and education in Canada.

The government of Canada partners with arts organisations and other governments through initiatives and organisations such as:

  • SchoolNet: operated by Industry Canada in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, the educational community and private sector to connect all Canadian schools and libraries to the Internet;
  • National Arts and Youth Demonstration Project: the Department of Canadian Heritage supported a multi-year pilot study (2001-2004) on the impacts of after-school arts programmes on youth-at-risk from low income families at five centres across the country: Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and a rural town in Ontario. 183 children between 10 and 15 years of age participated in structured arts instruction, largely theatre-based programmes twice a week over a nine-month period. Many of the participants were from diverse cultural and ethnic groups. The report found that the children showed statistically significant improvement in programme participation and enjoyment, arts skills development, task completion, and pro-social skills. It also found that the children showed a decrease in conduct problems but that this change was not significantly different from age-related changes experienced by a control group of children. The report showed a decrease in the emotional problems outcome of the participants when compared to a control group. In addition, compared with other children, arts programme participants did not experience the same increase in emotional problems as they progressed through their teen years. Benefits to participation included: increased confidence, improved interpersonal skills, conflict resolution skills, problem-solving skills, and skills acquisition in arts activities. Among parents, a more positive community feeling was demonstrated;
  • EDUAction: EDUAction is a six-volume series of teaching materials on Canada including a volume on Arts Education. The EDUAction series is produced by the Canadian Studies Programme in the Department of Canadian Heritage;
  • Federal cultural institutions: the National Arts Centre (NAC) provides learning kits for elementary school teachers, conducts workshops for students in theatre and produces arts appreciation concerts by the NAC Orchestra. The Canada Council for the Arts and the National Film Board promote cultural learning while the Book Publishing Industry Development Programme in the Department of Canadian Heritage provides subsidies to educational publishers among other publishers in Canada. The two national training programmes in the arts and film also constitute important sources of educational support;
  • Other Canadian initiatives in arts and education: these include ArtsSmarts, Learning through the Arts, the Arts Network for Children and Youth, the Media Awareness Network and the National Symposium on Arts Education (see below). Some provincial governments are also getting involved in arts education in a significant way. DCH, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Association of Public Arts Funders and provincial governments have formed a research project partnership scanning and detailing case studies of arts and education across Canada; and
  • National Arts and Learning Symposium (May 2007): In addition to the University of Ottawa and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the Symposium's partners included Queen's University, Ontario's Ministry of Education (Direction des politiques et programmes d'éducation en langue française), the Ontario Arts Council, Canadian Public Arts Funders (CPAF), the Arts Network for Children & Youth (ANCY), ArtsSmarts, and Learning through the Arts. The aims of the Ottawa Symposium were to build creative capacity in Canadian arts and learning and strengthen bridges between all interested stakeholders. Inspired by the first UNESCO World Conference on Arts Education in Lisbon (2006), Canadian participants discussed work for the next World Conference on Arts Education, to be held in Seoul, Korea in 2010. A second domestic symposium will be held in Kingston in 2008. The Symposium was structured around the four major themes of the Lisbon conference:
  • advocacy for arts education: the value of cultural and artistic creativity in post-industrial economies and focused on themes related to the global context and our need for the art;
  • impact of arts education: artistic education demonstrates a special impact on social cohesion, respect for cultural diversity, non-violence, cultural heritage appreciation, improved learning achievement, conflict resolution, teamwork, creative thinking, and artistic creativity;
  • strategies for promoting arts education policies: issues relating to funding, bridging the gaps, creating partnerships, supporting lifelong learning, and the need to narrow the gap between planned policies and delivery in arts education, as well as linking arts education efforts to the global Education for All initiative; and
  • teacher training: the need for quality arts education in the schools and other sectors, basic teaching qualifications to teach arts subjects, and defining the role of community practitioners and artists in the educational process.

Chapter published: 24-11-2008

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