Going Dutch could be the answer

30th May 1997 at 01:00
Speakers from smaller countries charted a way forward for the arts in education. Marjo van Hoorn of the National Institute for Arts and Education in the Netherlands, said low participation in the arts by young people started attracting the attention of Dutch politicians after the number of visitors to museums began to fall. They then looked for ways to put arts high on the agenda.

The institute was founded by the Dutch Ministry of the Arts in 1984. It funds 250 local and regional arts centres and acts as a broker for education and the arts. It studies what arts provision is available, what is needed and what is suitable, then publishes an arts guide which is sent to schools. It also puts information on a CD-Rom and a databank, through which schools can book a concert or exhibition direct.

Dutch policy focuses on primary schools. About 60 education officers work there of whom 10 work in the secondary sector. An "art menu" of workshops and visits is provided for primaries, which details a coherent programme of what is on offer. Each class is entitled to at least two visits a year to different types of arts organisations, which prevents visits being random. In 1993-94, education officers organised a million visits to arts organisations by primary pupils.

The national institute offers a three-year subsidy for the primary programme, which is then taken over by the local authority.

At secondary level, there is no arts menu. The Netherlands has a core curriculum, which makes timetabling difficult. Instead of arts companies coming to schools, students go outside. They choose visits from a customised programme which the education officer has devised with school managers. Every year 15 and 16-year-olds go on a "cultural mystery tour" of museums and theatres.

In Amsterdam, schools reduce teaching periods by five minutes to create space for arts education.

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