Arts in education

Arts in education


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

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I have long wanted to comment on the Jamaica Observer article titled Students urged to pursue subjects in the arts published on Friday May 29, 2015, for several reasons. I graduated from the University of the West Indies with a BSc in computer science, and in my 30s began pursuing my long-lost love for the arts.

While the announcement from the Ministry of Education's permanent secretary, Elaine Foster-Allen, is welcomed and long overdue, I would like to highlight a few things which I am sure may have crossed their minds, but I wanted it to be out in the open.

For us artists, this is extremely good news, because as children, we were not encouraged to do the arts in high school. It was discouraged by parents and teachers. The reasoning was the stereo-type of the starving artist. Everyone was encouraged to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. I would love to say that much has changed since 20 years ago, but it really hasn't.

I was privileged to give a career speech on animation at Campion College for their Career Day, and at first I thought the children lacked interest in the topic as I barely got a reaction from them. But afterwards the guidance counsellor begged me to stay behind. When all the parents left, the kids came flocking back, asking me all sorts of questions regarding a career in the arts. It was as if they were enslaved to careers they didn't want to pursue, but saw the light at the end of the tunnel telling them there is hope.


The guidance counsellor told me that many of the children shared their amazing artwork with him in secrecy as they were ashamed of their talent because it is discouraged. It is treated almost like witchcraft.

Manywho persist and pursue the arts develop complexes that turn them into introverts and make them somewhat difficult to work with in the business world because they are so accustomed to working on their craft in solitude. Many business persons complain that artists are hard to work with, they don't give feedback, they don't communicate, they don't meet deadlines. These are all symptoms of shunning the artist over the years. They have not been encouraged to follow their own path, then are expected to conform to the same process that rejected them.

It is all well and good to encourage students to take up art-based subjects, but at high school age students tend to be influenced mainly by their parents.

I can't help but think the arts are being pushed because the country is over-saturated with professionals with fewjpb prospects so the Government is pushing careers that have been known to lead to self employment, hence the various arts and tech-based initiatives occurring. I am very happy that there will be an entrepreneurship element to this encouragement of the arts, and I hope it is comprehensive in teaching how to run a profitable business. I hope the mistake is not made in thinking that entrepreneurship means management as these are two entirely different disciplines.

Whether we impart business knowledge to artists at an early stage, the biggest problem, I fear, lies with the parents. How do we convince them to make their children pursue art-based subjects? Are we doing enough to educate them on the variety of successful careers that benefit from the arts? Think Industrial Design, App Design, Architectural Pre-visualisation, Motion Picture Visual Effects, Video Games, Video Editing, Animation, Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Interior Design and many more. Is there an effort being made to ensure that persons representing these careers are at each career fair? Are we doing enough to package and export the arts in an impactful and sustainable way? It is wonderful that the arts are being pushed by the ministry of education, but more needs to be done to also show the end game. What are their career prospects?

If you don't convince the persons spending the money on their education, then this will simply be wishful thinking. So please, Mrs. Elaine Foster-Allen, be sure to contact the Jamaica Design Association and the Jamaica Animation Nation Network and include them in your Career Day programmes.

Kevin Jackson is an Animation, Design and Technology Professional. He's also the Public Relations Director of the Jamaica Design Association (JDA). Contact the JDA at

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