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20 November 2019

“Why we need to bring art back into schools”

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US rock star Steven Van Zandt says embedding art within school curricula helps reduce student dropout rates

In 2002, the US government passed the No Child Left Behind Act with the aim of improving school-age education. And while it focused on raising student performance in science subjects, it eliminated art’s place within secondary schools’ curricula.

It led to claims that this law has actually significantly affected students' interest in learning and reduced their desire to complete all school grades, as many of them were not interested in science and mathematics.

And as US rock star Steven Van Zandt - who is in Doha to speak at the WISE Summit 2019, which is taking place from November 19-21 at Qatar National Convention Center – says: "It is very important to support and encourage students to pursue their secondary education, because dropping out of education increases illiteracy and unemployment, and may lead some students to deviant behaviors such as theft or drug abuse.

“This means there is an urgent need to include the arts in the educational curriculum, to attract students to study other subjects."

For 14 years, Van Zandt has been working on writing a curriculum on the history of arts, and he has been focusing on making this curriculum suitable for all students at all levels. Last year, the US began to include this curriculum in all schools.

During his visit to Qatar Music Academy, a member of Qatar Foundation, Van Zandt – a member of US rock legend Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band – emphasized the importance of integrating art into education systems at all levels.

“We have more than 25,000 teachers in the US who are now teaching the history of art,” he explained. “Through this initiative, we are working to add ‘A’ to ‘STEM’, and seeing it become ‘STEAM’ by teaching the students art alongside science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“This initiative aims to preserve the art as part of the education system, find new ways of attracting children to education, and addressing student dropout from schools.

“Today's children are busy with technology, their mobile phones and many other things that may distract them from education. The arts will help students be more open to studying other subjects, such as mathematics and engineering. "

During his visit to Qatar Music Academy, Van Zandt spoke of his admiration for what the academy offers to its students. “It is great to see children learning music,” he said. “Learning music helps children get out of the isolation imposed on them by modern technology".

“The cultural diversity in Qatar is great – I’ve noticed this since I came to Doha – and it’s also evident in the music I’ve heard today from the children at the academy, which has varied between Eastern and Western music.”

The WISE Summit 2019 – organized by QF’s global education initiative WISE – is hosting more than 3,000 teachers, decision-makers, and experts from more than 100 countries, for plenary sessions and dialogue focused on building the future of education.

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