National Cultural Policy launched

Yesterday, the Minister for the Arts unveiled Australia’s new National Cultural Policy. There’s unfortunately no transcript for the launch audio at our national broadcaster, but you can read about it at Creative Australia. The intro and core goals:

Creative Australia, the Australian Government’s 2013 national cultural policy, celebrates Australia’s strong, diverse and inclusive culture. It describes the essential role arts and culture play in the life of every Australian and how creativity is central to Australia’s economic and social success: a creative nation is a productive nation.

Creative Australia has five equally important and linked goals at its core:

* Recognise, respect and celebrate the centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to the uniqueness of Australian identity.

* Ensure that government support reflects the diversity of Australia and that all citizens, wherever they live, whatever their background or circumstances, have a right to shape our cultural identity and its expression.

* Support excellence and the special role of artists and their creative collaborators as the source of original work and ideas, including telling Australian stories.

* Strengthen the capacity of the cultural sector to contribute to national life, community wellbeing and the economy.

* Ensure Australian creativity thrives in the digitally enabled 21st century, by supporting innovation, the development of new creative content, knowledge and creative industries.

ArtsHub has a practical summary of the policy here: What will the National Cultural Policy mean for you?

I think the two things I”m most happy about, at a first glance, are the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander centrality, and the cementing of a comprehensive arts education into schools, though this is going to need some sort of funding commitment.

What I’d like added is for every school child to also be able to choose to learn a musical instrument, at least for a certain length of time. I’ve never understood why that’s an out-of-pocket extra. (Mind you, at my child’s public school, dance – done in class groups and in school time – is also an out-of-pocket affair, as is swimming.)

And, of course, there’s the issue that the impending Liberal Federal government may well bleed all the life out of this policy. (After the WA election, I’m feeling pretty blue about all things electoral…)

What do you think of this cultural policy, and of arts education? What’s going on with arts ed in your local public schools?

Categories: arts & entertainment, indigenous

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14 replies

  1. We have to pay for dance – done within school time, swimming which is discounted entry to the local pool (unless you have a season ticket), and band if you choose to participate is $100 for instrument hire plus whatever the private tutor charges. The school P&C subsidises a lot of the costs of running these things so that it is not usually more than $20 a term for dancing and I think it is capped at $30 or $40 for families.
    Lately they have been doing a lot more Aboriginal cultural heritage activities for all of the kids, Uncle Ron has been teaching them to dance which is really wonderful I think.

  2. Kids at my son’s school (public) can learn a variety of instruments during school hours but outside the classroom (so whatever they miss in class, they must make up later). Some of the teachers are Ed Dept supplied, others private. We’ve restricted our son to the cheap Ed Dept ones, so he’s learning the cello, which was also his first choice. The price difference is pretty stark – $140 per year covers instrument hire, fees and teacher costs vs $18 per 15 minute lesson and I think buying your own instrument. I’m pretty sure it’s very similar to what my parents paid when I learned clarinet at high school during the early-mid nineties. He’s also starting in year 3, whereas I never had the opportunity to start until high school, so a huge head start there too.

  3. We pay for the band program – buy/hire your own instrument, $35 per week for lessons and $300 per band per year (the kid is in 4 bands, but we only pay for 3 of them). This is prohibitively expensive for some families.
    The high school he will go to, however, teaches piano for one semester and guitar for another, for all students.
    These are both public schools.

  4. You can be sure of one thing, if a requirement is made that all students have to learn arts, the majority if schools will do a bad job of it. By making an arts curriculum both standard and compulsory, a lot of dumbing down will inevitably occur.

  5. On the whole I am rather unexcited by the prospect of this National Cultural Policy. People make arts in spite of, not because of government; in large part the point of this policy seems to be to make it appear as if Labor is supporting the arts by rebranding old strategies and promoting them with new titles. Support for audiences and artists in the form of grants is nice, but hardly stuff that merits a national strategy; that sort of support has existed for many decades. In reality the creative arts in Australia existed long before this policy was thought of, and will exist long after this policy has been forgotten about. A failure from Labor, IMO.

  6. You can be sure of one thing, if a requirement is made that all students have to learn arts, the majority if schools will do a bad job of it. By making an arts curriculum both standard and compulsory, a lot of dumbing down will inevitably occur.

    TimT, I admit I’m rather hornswoggled by this argument. You could make exactly the same argument for not making maths, literacy, society & environment studies, science, and PE compulsory; for throwing out the entire concept of curriculum. Ok, sure, some people do advocate for that. Why single out arts?

  7. My cynicism is partly rooted in personal experience.
    I went to two main schools, a public school in the country and then a private school in the city for the last two years of my schooling. At the same time I learnt piano from a series of private teachers. I had a good opportunity to compare and contrast.
    The teaching I got from the private piano teachers in all cases was far more rigorous and exacting than that which I got at school. It is true that the schooling in music I received in music classes at the private school was much better in comparison to that which I received in music classes at the public school I had been to before that. All the same, the expectations in the curriculum for music students were clearly far far below those expectations of students of private teachers.
    Indeed we’ve often seen similar arguments about Julia Gillard’s national curriculum, that it involves dumbing down.

  8. My only guess is that TimT might be thinking that there are not enough suitably trained teachers to cover the increase in demand should such study become compulsory? Thus poor or inadequately trained teachers fill the shortfall, and make a hash of it.

  9. Sorry, typed too slowly to be relevant.

  10. I reject the idea that because some private teachers push harder/have higher standards, students who can’t afford them should do completely without. I’d be far more on board with a comprehensive policy to improve support for arts practice and education across the board – the more students who study the arts, the more it’s seen as a standard part of education rather than a private expensive optional extra, the more teachers will become available over time and the more standards will rise. Just because we can’t snap our fingers at a single point in time and fix everything magically at once, doesn’t mean no one should ever try.
    I speak as a parent of a child in a small, median-SES suburban public school, who is getting an excellent and inspiring music education there (better, in my opinion, than the private system we paid $$$ for last year). We are lucky. I’d like that opportunity to be available to all students, because I’ve seen just how much good it does.

  11. Well I certainly wouldn’t say that students in public education should ‘do completely without’, but I think the philosophy of public education is rather different to that of private education, and in particular the sort of private education you get in the one-on-one teacher/student relationship that is common for people who learn a musical instrument.
    In the one case, public education, the idea is that a basic standard education is provided to everyone who uses that system; the usual tendency is for that standard to be made lower to meet the needs of the poorer students, rather than made higher.
    In the other case the system is much more able to respond to the individual needs and talents of students, and the individual talents and abilities of the teachers. They’re different systems with different results.

  12. In public education the idea is to provide a curriculum that can be accessed by all students. The idea is to provide a sufficiently flexible curriculum to meet the needs of all students, from those with intellectual disabilities to those with specific talent in some area. How well that idea is executed is open to debate, and very definitely varies greatly between schools. But as Lauredhel said, just because we aren’t doing it the right way now, doesn’t mean we should stop trying.
    However, given that the vast majority of people who learn an instrument do so with one on one teaching, it is worth asking how much music can be taught in a normal classroom environment. I don’t claim to know the answer to that, but I think it’s a valid question. My suspicion is that it’s possible to learn enough to discover whether or not you’re interested in taking music further, and enough to have a more meaningful understanding of music, which are both worthy aims in my mind, but I have only anecdata to support this.
    The extent to which this argument applies to other arts varies. People do receive private tuition in visual arts, dance, drama and so on, but I don’t know that it’s quite as essential as it seems to be in music. I am however, well out of my area of expertise here. Any more qualified people care to comment?
    As just one further note, the national curriculum has a number of serious issues, but the “dumbing down” accusations come primarily from discrepancies between the states, rather than from some necessary consequence of a broad curriculum. Having said all that, if I was Supreme Dictator, I’d chuck a goodly proportion of all syllabi out the window, but that’s a different rant.

  13. I’m not familiar with the current high school curriculum. When I was at high school, with the dinosaurs, we did a subject in Music in Yrs 7 and 8 where we learnt the basics of reading music, singing (mostly badly), play mainly percussion instruments, and listen to different sorts of music that we might not otherwise be exposed to and a bit of music theory. It was an elective for 9,10,11, and 12. Is this not the case anymore?
    My experience in primary schools is that it depends on whether there is a local music teacher or a school teacher who is also a musician and keen to teach.

  14. Mindy, my high school experience was similar. I also learned an instrument, but that was an elective that was open to a limited number of students (but I don’t think that demand outstripped supply usually).
    My son, on the other hand, is getting music education at primary school, at a more basic level, plus the elective instumental learning. The number who can take instrumental music is limited here too, and demand is higher. They have the kids sign a contract promising they’ll stick it out for at least a year.
    In his music class the whole classroom does, they are learning recorder, which I recall doing at primary school too.

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