Teach art to kids nuture future artists

There are no CBSC-prescribed rules for hiring the right teachers for art.

It is that time of the year when college admissions are the highest on the agenda of not only students and their parents but the entire extended family is enlisted to find if the bua of the uncle of the muhbola bhai of the neighbour’s grandmother can help secure a college seat for them. Okay, I exaggerate, but you get the picture, right?

I have been approached by hapless parents who either don’t have the financial wherewithal to send their children to expensive colleges abroad to help them, but given the current scenario, I doubt if anyone can actually be helped. The worst affected are Delhiwallas themselves. I feel there should be some rule like the rule for schools to admit children within a certain kilometres so should colleges give first preference to meritorious residents of Delhi and then students from other states should get admission.

This reverie led me into pastures I feel very strongly about: Art education or rather the lack of it in India. It begins at the school level — unfortunately there are no CBSC-prescribed rules for hiring the right teachers for art. Most schools don’t think twice before hiring a commercial artist to teach art in schools. Invariably an unsuccessful commercial artist is the one who takes up school jobs. The fact is that a school must have a fine artist in place who will have the sensitivity for art and the ability to share his or her love for art with young and impressionable minds.

Same is the case with other streams of the arts like dance, music and theatre. Even the more art-sensitive schools don’t have a theatre teacher. Either the dance or music teachers double up for theatre or ballets are the norm. Since no particular dance forms are being taught anyway, what is needed is a dance teacher who has an overview of other forms — which is such a tall order anyway that one can understand why the correct teachers are just not available. This is why it is imperative that regular workshops with professional performers, dancers and musicians are put in practice. These could even be handled by the ministry of culture, given that they support so many dance repertories this can easily be put in place. In fact, every term there should be professional artists who do workshops with the teachers and students to improve the pedagogy and infuse new perspectives in teaching of art.

“Art history should be a subject option taught from Class six onwards when the CBSC-prescribed books are introduced. Otherwise, how do you hope to get art-sensitised adults? In fact, the arts students are the ones who are floundering the most in any career counselling at the college and school level. In the absence of proper guidance, is it any surprise that we as a society are so de-sensitised to our arts,” opines S. R. Gohri who retired as head of the art department of the St Thomas’ School in New Delhi.

The school is known for its fabulous arts programme and Mr Gohri continues to be a consultant to the school and runs an ambitious recycling unit with the students.

“Regular visits to art galleries and museums should be a mandatory part of the curriculum from Class 5 onwards. In Europe, it is so wonderful to see children being taken around by parents, but here there are hardly people who think it is worth their while to go themselves, let alone take their children,” says Arup Biswas, the art teacher of Salwan Public School.

Inter-school art competitions are essentially what the children are invariably participating in as part of the arts promotion. In fact, it would be so much nicer if additionally schools could join in for art appreciation courses. Once in a while, a good teacher might even find avenues for showcasing the students’ work outside the school circuit like Poonam Kohli the former art teacher of G D Goenka School did a few times, but it needs a more sustained approach that involves the school, the students and the parents, not to forget the art community too, which needs to support and involve young potential artists to help change perspectives about art creation and consumption.

There are obvious lacunae in the absence of proper texts not available for many areas. The books in place talk about the classical forms of painting like the Mughal paintings and Rajput paintings, etc. No contemporary forms are even touched, which could open many predictable cans of worms! Mr Gohri gives out notes to students to help them get an overview about European art and the various periods. But then such teachers are understandably a rare breed. It needs to be made a norm rather than dependent on the seriousness of individual teachers.

It is one thing to say that we care about our culture. We need to raise the next generations to not only believe that but also be aware of our culture to be proud of it and care for it. For it is my conviction that for the future artist, art collector, art impresario, curator, dancer, musician, theatre person, the seed must be implanted at the school level itself for it to take root and flower later. The gestation might take long, but it will be meaningful and fruitful.

Dr Alka Raghuvanshi is an art writer, curator and artist and can be contacted on

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