Exploring Creative Arts in South African Schools: Innovative ideas for Old Challenges

The practice of integrating arts originated millennia ago in African cultures where the arts are inherently integrated and subtly interconnected.

In contrast, the western education system separated the arts, focusing more on the differences of each art discipline than the communal attributes of all the arts.

For the past two decades, however, curricula worldwide moved towards an interdisciplinary approach.

Within an educational context, arts integration involves the combination or connections between two or more of the art disciplines. This approach emphasises the subtle influence of one art on another which involves a constant interplay and symbiotic process taking place.

A prevailing political agenda of integrating the arts in South African schools is that it diminishes costs: fewer teacher appointments, less provision of facilities, and simpler timetable management.

Conversely, this diminishes the academic integrity of the arts, leading to the assumption that the arts can be taught by any teacher with a general interest and perhaps a limited skill in one of the arts.

There is a lack of empirical research regarding the integrated presentation of creative arts in a South African context to verify the effectiveness of such curricula. This study therefore explored the experiences of ten creative arts teachers through in-depthinterviews in order to distil best practices through an inductive data analysis process.

Findings revealed several factors influencing the success of integrated arts programmes. Firstly, the school’s vision – whether they view arts for arts’ sake, or arts for the sake of supporting other subjects – impact on the financial and human resources provided for arts disciplines.

Secondly, a support group and regular interaction and collaboration with other educators are deemed highly beneficial. Sharing ideas and collaborating with other educators to provide holistic and hands-on arts experiences to learners led to innovative strategies.

Lastly and most importantly, data analysis indicated that gifted creative arts teachers often do arts integration intuitively and that being an arts educator in itself is an art. Much of the success of integrated arts education therefore relies on the artistry of the educator. By documenting the educational strategies used by expert arts educators, a better understanding of those aspects emerged which could lead to enhanced arts teacher education programmes.

Dorette VERMEULEN, University of Pretoria.

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