A school system overly focused on siloed subjects is one of threats facing the cultural and creative industries
The Cultural and Creative Industries – industries which are based on individual creativity, skill and talent – are the fastest growing industry in the UK. In 2013 it was worth £76.9bn, 5% of the UK economy. According to a British Council report “As Others See Us”, culture and the arts play a central role in attracting visitors and investment from overseas and rank among the top three things British people should be proud of.
However, the report identified a number of barriers to the future development of the industries. The biggest threats identified, of course, were governmental lack of investment and funding and ongoing ‘austerity’ measures. There are concerns that the fragmentation of government policy and strategy means that public spending is not being maximised and used to leverage additional sources of investment.
The report also raised as a major concern the fact that the school system was not focusing on the future of the Cultural and Creative Industries, nor on the wider needs for innovation and growth in the UK. The industry proposed that the government should at the very least widen their focus from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) should include the Arts (STEAM). However, the Commission agreed with the widely shared concerns of many within the creative industries, including Nesta, that policymakers were, to very negative effect, enforcing a siloed subject based curriculum.
“Policymakers are obsessed with a siloed subject-based curriculum and early specialisation in Arts or Science disciplines that ignores and obscures discussion around the future need for all children to enjoy an education that encourages creativity, making and enterprise across the curriculum. We need creative scientists as much as we need artists who understand the property of materials and the affordances of new technology.”
Very low numbers of students in the UK had combined arts and science disciplines in either AS or A levels (figures quoted for 2013). There has been a significant drop in the number of state schools offering arts subjects taught by specialist teachers. Between 2010 and 2015 the number of arts teachers in schools had fallen by 11%, likewise design and technology had 11% fewer teachers and hours of teaching, there was a drop of 8% of drama teachers and a 4% drop in hours, art and design saw 4% fewer teachers and a drop of 6% in teaching hours.
These figures don’t represent the worst-case scenarios. In some schools, subjects have been pulled entirely leading to a much more dramatic drop. This has disproportionately impacted the most disadvantaged students. And on top of this wealthier students were able to do cultural activities outside of school but lack of funding and high cost made them unaffordable for poorer families.
Entrepreneurial and creative skills are vital to success in the coming years, says the report. The UK should be focused on our achievement in these areas, measured though indicators such as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which we currently do not rank highly on.
High test scores in reading, maths and science have been shown to have a negative correlation to the development of entrepreneurial mind-sets and skills. This is something which global competitors, particularly in Asia, are factoring in to their strategies on education. The UK – with its very narrow focus on maths, reading and science – so far has not.
Many countries around the world, Asia in particular, are recreating their school systems to focus on creativity, culture and enterprise. Britain is behind these countries and failing to re-imagine a way of learning to fit for the 21st century. We are failing to ensure that children and young people have the necessary education to support the development of creative, technological or entrepreneurial skills and abilities. The report suggested we may well also be missing out on the other benefits gained through taking part in arts and creative education such as developing capability, building self-esteem and well-being.