Barbados: Don’t ignore the arts

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There’s concern that not enough attention is being paid to the development of the arts as an avenue for the Caribbean’s economic development, Marie-Claire Williams reports in Barbados Today.

Theatre Arts Coordinator of the Barbados Community College Yvonne Weekes made known her concern during this week’s inaugural CSEC/CAPE conference at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.

“In 2016 our Caribbean governments are concerned about diversifying their economies as well as building sustainable creative ecologies. Yet one of the major planks of this approach, the training and education of arts teachers, is constantly overlooked,” she said.

“We who are here know what needs to be done. It is more than just passing exams. It is about soothing the souls of our students, nurturing their love of creative expression, recognizing their ability to configure, and deconstruct texts and symbols, in order to recreate and perhaps make new. And in this process we may introduce, and we want to produce, dancers and actors and filmmakers and so on,” Weekes added.

Principal of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts Dr Nicholeen DeGrasse-Johnson called for more research into the arts, arguing that its development will help students become well-rounded individuals and assets to the region’s workforce.

“The responsibility for improving arts education in schools rests first in the lap of institutions of higher education, noting that the future of arts in schools will be profoundly affected by the content of teacher-preparation programmes. Many programmes in the region that prepare art specialists lack foundation in arts education research.

“It should be noted that arts-based theorists, aesthetic education . . . , are absent from textbooks that deal with foundations of education,” DeGrasse-Johnson said.

She also pointed to a need to reconstruct “the theoretical vision of educational practice that is informed by the arts”.

DeGrasse-Johnson highlighted the example of Jamaica, which has instituted policies and frameworks, which according to her, indicates that the island’s decision makers have understood the need for arts and culture to drive human resource development.

“Since pre-independence, government officials have consistently mandated that we need to empower our people by enabling them to know who they are,” she said.

The conference is being held  under the theme Transforming Society Through the Arts. (MCW)

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