Those who are familiar with the work and experiments of Dr. Cizek, the father of Child Art will unhesitatingly agree that Art Education of the Adolescent or Art Education at the Secondary School level is a great necessity.
Art Education during adolescence helps a child to have a better mental balance and also equips him for better appreciation of Art and, last but not the least, gives him a sound basic training which helps him a great deal if he takes up art as a career.
One should not however forget the fact that to achieve all these, Art Education in the secondary schools has to be very well planned and organised. To make things as precise as possible, I shall discuss three aspects of Art Education at the secondary school level, and also scrutinise each aspect, to find out the drawbacks in the existing system and how to eliminate them and introduce a better system.
The three aspects are “Active Participation”, “Environment” and “Organised Observation”.
Active participation means the practice of drawing, painting and graphics by the child. This is the first step towards making a child art minded. School authorities, however, should bear in mind that a department or at least a room set apart for art work will have to be provided, if any appreciable result in fostering the love of art in children through drawing and painting is expected. This point cannot be overemphasised. We all know that it is ridiculous to have a practical chemistry lesson in an ordinary class room. The same applies to a practical art lesson also. The lack of interest shown by many schools towards this issue is alarming. I do not intend quoting statistics here to criticise anybody; but the fact remains that in the whole of South India, where students at the secondary school level can take up a bifurcated course in art and where authorities arc seriously thinking about the possibility of introducing advanced studies in art and art appreciation (pre-university course), there are only three secondary schools which can boast of art departments.
Next comes the question of having the right type of teachers for teaching art. H the idea is to develop our young boys and girls into citizens who will show a refined appreciation and understanding of fine arts, we must have art teachers who are not merely professional painters, but also inspiring teachers capable of planning and organising art activities in schools. In India we still do not have a proper institution for training art teachers. The Drawing Teachers’ Examination conducted by the Department of Industries or professional art schools in some of the States is backdated and obsolete. It has so far produced only draughtsmen who are neither teachers nor artists and to expect them to instil in the children the love of art will be asking for too much. In American schools and universities, students can take up art as a major subject with other subsidiary subjects like History, English, etc. Most of the students who graduate from the Universities as Art Majors make very good art teachers or professional decorators. The scope of the training is so extensive, that it often produces artists of great merit.
Before we can plan things on such a big scale, the professional art schools and a few of the public schools having well-equipped art Departments, should be approached to start a two years’ refresher course in practical art and art appreciation for those teachers in secondary schools who may be teaching other subjects, but who are talented in art and who show certain amount of refinement in art appreciation.
In most of our schools the environment is certainly not conducive to the better understanding and appreciation of art. We cannot expect children who grow up with cheap prints and pictures cut out of commercial calendars to develop any love for the works of Michaelangelo, Raphael, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso or appreciation of the Ajanta and Bagh Frescoes, the Mughal and Rajput miniatures or the magnificent bronzes of South India.
It is true that during the past few years the Lalit Kala Akadami in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and also the Publications Division of the Government of India have brought about a few good albums and portfolios of works of art, which make excellent material for creating the right type of art environment in schools. The fact however cannot be ignored that a great deal more can still be achieved by proper planning. I still do not have information about any agency—Government or otherwise, which is selling large photographs of our great wealth of art and architecture at a reasonable price. Replicas in plaster of Paris of good bronzes and bas reliefs in public collections, can be made available to schools without much difficulty. Availability of material for building up the right environment is an essential part of the Art Education of the adolescent. This needs careful planning by a Committee of specialists.
Schools within the limits of big cities have the advantage of taking their children to periodical exhibitions of paintings. Organisers of these exhibitions should be requested by the school authorities to arrange simple talks to introduce the exhibitions to school children. Visits to museums and art galleries should be encouraged. Some provision for loan of exhibitions or of small collection of paintings for the isolated schools should be made. Film strips and films, for audiovisual aids can be used to great advantage in secondary schools. These have a profound effect on children, especially when they are followed by discussions initiated by the art-master. A committee should be formed to look into the possibilities of making films and film strips on our Art, Sculpture and Architecture, both old and contemporary, keeping in mind that these will be used in schools for children and are not for commercial exhibition.
Lately, a large number of our schools are getting more and more interested in Educational excursions. For the first time tourist offices started by the Government are supplying information about places of interest and travel facilities. The Railway Board is allowing several concessions to groups of students going on educational tours. This is a very healthy sign indeed. One however feels that many of these excursions end up merely as picnic trips.
Properly organised excursion tours to places like Madura, Mahabalipuram, Chidambaram, Hampe, Ajanta, Ellora, Bagh caves, Nalanda etc., could be a thrilling artistic experience to the children and will certainly go a long way in shaping their minds for better appreciation of art and culture.
School authorities in our new and growing country should not lose sight of the fact that Art Education, which plays a vital part in making children ‘complete human beings,’ can no longer be left in the hands of people who refuse to get out of the rut of teaching drawing in the old fashioned way. The approach has to be recast with a progressive outlook, always keeping in mind that Art in schools does not merely aim at developing skill of the children; its real aim is ‘self expression’ through a fascinating medium.