Between the 12th and 14th February 2014, some 150 education policy experts met in Amsterdam to discuss the current questions of art education in schools in the C21st, and share their experiences. Hungary was represented by Ms. Lucia KÁKONYI from the Hungarian Institute for Educational Research and Development.
The main topic of the conference was the development and assessment of 21st century skills in art education in schools. The program was preceded by study visits in institutions in Amsterdam, so that participants could familiarise themselves with educational support activities of these institutes. In the Stedeljik Museum, dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design, 21st century museum pedagogy has a highlighted role. Several groups within the museum (museum guides, volunteers and peer educators) work on initiating dialogue with visiting groups and encouraging questioning, so that participants recreate the artworks through their own experiences and gain an insight into the process of the creation of art. Another important project of the Stedeljik Museum is a fairy tale novel, authored by a popular Danish fairy tale writer. The main characters of the book are formed after parts of a well-known artwork, who leave their frame, and explore the Museum. Through their adventures, they present the Museum, art and creation to their young readers.
The conference was opened on the 13th February by Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, founder of the Children Make Music movement, and a dedicated supporter of arts.
In his keynote speech, Stephan Vincent-Lancrin, senior analyst and project leader of the OECD, stated that in order to educate innovative youth who would be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the development of three groups of skills are absolutely necessary: technical skills (know-how), social skills (self-confidence, energy, perseverance, passion, leadership, cooperation and communication) and mental and creative skills (critical thinking, observation, curiosity, understanding of connections and creativity). These skills are of pivotal importance in everyday life and on the job market alike.
The results of an OECD study about the effects of arts education show that the mathematical and literacy skills of students learning arts subjects are higher than that of their peers who do not study arts. Uniquely from all branches of the arts, studying classical music is the only one which positively affects intelligence, study results and verbal skills (although these latter can also be improved by drama classes). A potential reason for this are accompanying factors: learning takes place in a face-to-face situation with an adult, and systematic practice is absolutely necessary. There is also a clear connection between mathematics and visual arts and dance (for example in the area of geometrical thinking). Overall, arts strengthen emotional and social competences, and arts education in schools should improve technical skills, understanding of forms of art, and develop creativity, perseverance and self-control during the learning process.
Talking about integrated arts education, Lode Vermeersch, senior researcher of the Catholic University of Leuven and the Vrije University, demonstrated the assets and disadvantages of fully integrated, partly integrated and distinct disciplinary curricula.
The conference mirrored the change of paradigm in art education which is also taking place in Hungary, and provided an opportunity for learning, sharing of experiences, building contacts and networking.