By Mohamed Bella
By Mohamed Bella
Marrakech – Trying to find the word “art” in the educational system in Morocco is like looking for a needle in a haystack. How such a multicultural country with a rich culture and civilization is trapped in a maze when it comes to including art in its education curriculum is beyond belief. The arts were born in Morocco centuries ago by people who have left an impact on the social structure of Moroccan society. This country, located in the north of Africa with an eclectic mix of people from various backgrounds, has been influenced over a millennia by the art of Muslims, Berbers, Jews, Sub-Saharan Africans, Christians, Phoenicians, Romans, and Andalusians.
Art, inherited from our ancestors and passed on through the years and across generations, surrounds us every second of our daily lives in Morocco. As Moroccan citizens, we live and breathe the immortal heritage that permeates the country in every direction; from south to north and from west to east. The spirit of art is always with us, even though we may be unaware of it.
Art’s soul is there and it will last forever as long as there’s life in the universe. Unfortunately, in recent years, our beloved society has become blind and deaf to this beauty. We have become so busy trying to become someone else that we have lost our own identity as human beings. Arts education has been struggling through a maze.
In Morocco, few schools integrate arts education in their educational curriculum. It is the job of our esteemed government to make an effort to fix this serious problem. Nowadays, the government is working on all areas of education except art. We cannot develop our country unless we develop art. The government, academics, and the private sector have roles to play in the development of art and increasing awareness of the benefits of an arts education.
Arts education is a primary means of developing critical and creative thinking in students. Studies prove that arts education helps students develop various skills such as creativity, imagination, communication, and teamwork. For instance, a report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) titled “Art for Art’s Sake” listed some fundamental points in improving students’ skills. Arts education has a positive impact on the subsets of skills defined as “skills for innovation”: subject-based skills (including non-arts subjects), skills in thinking and creativity, and behavioral and social skills.
Infusing the arts into the school curriculum increases critical thinking. The OECD study says that music education strengthens IQ (intelligence quotient) and academic performance, and may facilitate foreign-language training. Theater education strengthens verbal skills. Visual arts strengthen geometrical reasoning. Drama enhances empathy and emotion regulation. Researchers have also found that artists possess the type of mindsets sought after in the job market, such as observation, persistence, and stretching oneself. Arts graduates are among the most likely to hold highly innovative jobs.
The OECD report clearly expressed the impact of arts education on other non-arts skills and on innovation. The report stated that arts education can play an important role in enhancing performance in non-arts academic subjects such as mathematics, science, reading, and writing, and can strengthen students’ academic motivation, self-confidence, and ability to communicate and co-operate effectively. Rabea Ataya, the CEO of Bayt.com, Middle East’s most established job site, says employers are searching for young people with a good arts education, and they pay them well.
The OECD report also focused on an essential element of the arts being studied outside of school, such as in private music lessons, classes in theater, visual arts, and dance. There can be no doubt that art is a fundamental component to successful learning for children. However, a child’s first exposure to the arts is often through family rituals and traditions, so parents should be aware of all art forms. But parents should not be the only ones who are responsible for children’s art education, but society should provide suitable places for learning art for people in all social classes.
The importance of the arts has been investigated by Daniel Pink in his book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.” Pink describes how the future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers, or creative and holistic “right-brain” thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.
One should be proud that the arts have always been a rich part of the Arab world’s history and culture. Islamic art dating back to the seventh century is still celebrated today for its immense impact on architecture, painting, crafts, and literature. Morocco’s educational curriculum should include the arts, and Morocco should institute after school programs that include the arts.
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