A Challenge to Education

We need to reform education to meet the needs of children in the new millennium. The current system involves placing children in boxes (called schools) for most of the daylight hours; and once inside these boxes they are divided into batches (according to age) and then placed in cells (called classrooms) from which they are allowed out for short, supervised exercise breaks when the bell rings. Inside the cells they sit in rows, they are not encouraged to interact with each other, they are fed knowledge artificially divided into subject areas. They are required to process texts, course materials and deductive problem-solving activities in set time frames and tested on a regular basis. The process is supervised by a controlling adult warden (called a teacher).

What do children learn from this process? Despite living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth, children learn that school is boring and tragically they learn that learning is not fun. Education, as Sir Ken Robinson (2008) claims, is ‘alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in going to school’.

The education system needs to be turned inside out. Effective learning is interactive, co-operative, learner centered and involves the whole person. Humans are physical, mental and psychological beings. When encouraging our kids to learn we need to recognise and satisfy their ‘whole person’ needs and abilities.  In other words, we need to address physical, mental and psychological as well as purely learning needs. Traditionally learning is confined to the mental world of problem-solving, rule application and artificial contexts. Education needs to unlock the ‘whole-person’ and develop physical, creative, imaginative and emotional responses to learning contexts.

One way of unlocking this potential is through the ‘arts’. The arts (Robinson, 2008) address the idea of aesthetic experience. ‘And aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you are present in the current moment, when you are resonating with the excitement, when you are fully alive. Essentially dramatic arts have the power to liberate the student from the confines of the conventional classroom structure and gives the learner the opportunity to draw on their own experiences and imagination, in creating the material on which the class is based.  These activities draw on the natural ability of every person to imitate, mimic and express him or herself physically.  They are dramatic because they arouse interest by drawing on the unpredictable emotional power generated when emotional memory is triggered by a stimulus and when a person is brought together with others. Great learning happens in groups so the class learn and discover together, all the while feeling part of something larger than themselves and experiencing the support of the group.

One of the main benefits of exploiting the arts in education is to provide an active, stimulating and creative environment in which to develop the children’s learning potential.

To encourage young people to gain confidence, engage in personal development, and to stretch themselves to reach their full potential, Speech Bubbles are sponsoring the “Performing Arts Challenge”. The “Performing Arts Challenge” is a challenge to young learners and schools to create an innovative work of drama that includes song and dance. The drama is then performed at the Performing Arts Challenge Festival.

We are looking for ‘partner’ schools to help us host the festival and participate in the Performing Arts Challenge. In addition to performing at the Festival, learners may enter their performance for the internationally recognised Trinity College Certificate qualifications in drama and performance.

If you agree with us that children can build powerful learning skills through creativity, collaboration and performance then join us to build confident, inquiring and inter-connected learners for the 21st Century.

If you are interested in participating in the Performing Arts Challenge as a ‘partner’ school we are inviting you to register your interest on our web site: http://www.speechbubbles.org/pages/challenge

Smell of Rebellion

The Performing Arts Challenge


About Tom Godfrey

I am an ELT teacher and teacher trainer. I am Director of ITI, Istanbul a training institute in Istanbul. I am also founder of Speech Bubbles theatre which performs musicals to raise money for children and education.
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