Arts-Based Education Will Power the Creative Economy

Giving children a fine-arts education is essential to create the kinds of skills necessary for the modern, creative economy, according to UCLA's Anderson Forecast School of Management.

Giving children a fine-arts education is essential to create the kinds of skills necessary for the modern, creative economy, according to UCLA's Anderson Forecast School of Management.

By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs in the United States — a profession that requires a high degree of technical proficiency as well as creative problem-solving skills — but only 400,000 computer scientists trained to fill them. That's a problem the business community is aware of and, with the help of school districts, is keen to solve.

In the nation's second-largest school district — the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) which serves over 650,000 students in nearly 1,000 schools — educators are working with businesses to create a Digital Media and Manufacturing curriculum that emphasizes skills like collaboration, information synthesis, and innovation. The initiative could serve as a model for other districts looking for collaborative partnerships that help stretch tight budgets while providing real-world experience to students.

"Robots and foreign labors will never be able to replace creative people in creating sectors making new and desirable products and services," says UCLA economist William Yu. "Therefore, arts education, which is an investment in our future creative workforce, will become a crucial element in our education system. A resilient economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century will depend on our arts education."

Unfortunately, a recent bias has emerged against arts education in schools across the nation. The use of standardized tests to evaluate student learning, as well as school effectiveness, fails to nurture an arts-based curriculum. Increasingly, what is tested is taught in classrooms, and tests don't measure creative skills effectively. In an era of strained education budgets, tests push the fine arts further toward the margins, putting future economic progress at risk — not to mention a well-rounded education.

International testing expert Andreas Schleicher, director at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), explains why having a humanistic component to student evaluation is absolutely essential. In his Big Think interview, he explains that using a multiplicity of perspectives to understand education will improve student achievement and help meet the demands of the creative economy:

"A humanistic perspective is very important to evaluating educational results. In fact, we need to get away from looking at education with a single perspective. Evaluation can only take part place in a framework of multiple kinds of perspectives. Looking at test data from students is one perspective. Looking at teachers' views on student performance. Looking at other students — it’s this kind of multiplicity of instruments that actually help us improve education."

Read more at Otis Report on the Creative Economy.

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