There is a growing body of good practice and research on arts education across Europe. But in times of increasing pressure on public finances and recurring debates about the role of the state and priorities in education the development of arts and cultural education finds itself at a critical juncture.
Simultaneously, the very concept of Europe is in crisis. There appears to be a breakdown in understanding and support for Europe itself, a crisis which is also largely cultural. Is it possible that cultural education has the capacity to play a major role in developing our understanding of the value of Europe? Does the fact that most initiatives happen on a national scale and that European wide exchange and communication between the relevant stakeholders is limited reduce the capacity of cultural education to develop a stronger sense of European identity?
New Alliances are necessary to reflect what form of strategic interventions could improve the reach and quality of arts and cultural education and what interventions would strengthen Europe and lead towards a stronger shared identity.
Therefore the German foundation Stiftung Mercator has commissioned the German Federation for Arts Education and Cultural Learning (BKJ) and the UK-based international Foundation Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) to develop a set of proposals for strengthening the reach and quality of arts and cultural education in Europe and to see what lessons from elsewhere in Europe could be used for the development of cultural education more generally. The project will explore what resources are needed to support the development of arts education practice in Europe. It will address questions such as:
- Could the evidence and knowledge be made available more effectively to support those wishing to develop new programmes and approaches?
- What additional evidence is required to make the case convincing?
- How can we persuade national, regional and local governments to invest in and nurture this vital area of work?
- How can this strengthen the development of young people’s identity within Europe?
- How could existing resources best be directed? What are the examples of best practice?
- What are the deficits and missing links?
To help answer these questions, BKJ and CCE will consult with representatives of major private foundations, civil society organisations, artists and creative practitioners, researchers, and policy makers. The focus will be on identifying practical measures rather than engaging in further theoretical debate. Furthermore, while it is understood that arts and cultural education remain the responsibility of the EU’s Members States, rather than the EU Commission itself, the process is intended to explore the extent to which there exists a common understanding of the issues and a shared view of what measures would address the problems identified. So, in developing a ‘European’ approach, this project does not intend to question where responsibility lies for addressing the problems. Rather it recognises that the challenges and needs of arts and cultural education across Europe have much in common and therefore a more co-ordinated European approach would help Member States achieve their ambitions.
The consultations started in autumn 2014 and are still going on. A draft report will be discussed at a joint conference of invitees of the project participants and members of INRAE as well as ACEnet. This Polylogue III – Improving the quality and reach of arts and cultural education will take place from 17 to 20 May 2015 at Wildbad Kreuth, Germany.