There has been much emphasis recently on STEM courses (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The popular discourse depicts a rapidly changing digitally disrupted world where the 21st century values the ‘hard’ sciences above all else. This approach to education and curriculum is missing one of the key purposes of education – to be human is to be more than an economic producer.
"To be human is to be more than an economic producer."
- John Montgomery, Head of Curriculum
Some have rightly advocated for the addition of performing arts to the STEM framework, adding an ‘A’ for arts to the acronym and changing it to STEAM. The rationale behind this frames the arts as the creative, innovative glue that connects and actions the hard sciences.
The importance of performing arts in education
The performing arts in education provides students with the opportunity to engage the mind, the body and emotions into a collaborative expression of all that it means to be human. Through study and performance, students explore and present great themes and ideas.
They discover their own voice, grow in confidence and develop empathy and ethical insight into the contradictions and paradoxes of the human condition. Performing arts students grow in understanding of what it means to not only be human, but to be good, noble, honourable, kind and compassionate.
The benefits of studying performing arts
A better curriculum framework to offer as a 21st century focus that highlights the transferable skills the STEM lobby champion is the Four Cs:
1. Critical Reflection
Students gain valuable life skills by learning the importance of feedback, both positive and constructive. The arts also provide a place of solitude, where students can immerse themselves without interference from their environment. This also provides a space for students to engage in self-reflection – a vital skill for life after school.
Performing arts is a discipline that encourages teamwork, whether that is in writing, creating or during the act of performing. Students have the opportunity to engage in creative collaboration, a skill they have limited chance to develop outside of a rehearsal space.
Through creative expression students learn to understand the world in a unique way, preparing them to navigate the challenges after school. There is also great cross-over between performing arts and other disciplines – the creative thinking and study techniques learned during rehearsal can be transferred to all areas of study.
Communication skills can be accelerated through performing arts, as students learn to use verbal and non-verbal techniques in new ways to deliver their message. Some students also find new levels of confidence through performing arts.
The performing arts has arguably championed these core 21st century skills more than any other curriculum area.
A case against STEM
Despite the rhetoric, recent employment figures for university graduates has shown that the hardest area to find employment post university is in the STEM field, with jobs in these domains currently in decline.
Before we rush to pressure and push our sons and daughters out of the arts and into STEM courses, let us think more carefully and listen more attentively to the voices and hearts of our young people. Let us ignite and fan their passions and encourage a broad liberal education that values them as young people – with hearts as well as minds, dreams as well as ambitions.
To discover more about the broad curriculum on offer to boys at The Scots College download our Prospectus.