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Evaluating Education Programmes in Arts Organisations

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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As in other parts of the world, government cutbacks to arts programs in the school curriculum in England are contributing to a push for arts organizations to supplement arts education in English schools. This study aims to assess the procedures used by arts organizations to evaluate their educational programs. The author argues that arts organizations should be able to offer schools “striking and illuminating alternatives” to officially prescribed curricula. (Malcolm Ross, Vol 5 No 1)

The study reports the results of two phases of research, a case study of a theatre with a strong commitment to its education program and survey information from eleven other established arts organizations of varying types across England. Although looking for examples of ‘good practice’ in the evaluation of education programs, the research reveals how problematic these education programs can be, due to the varying qualifications, resources and experience that educators possess, lack of records of the artists involved in educational activities and ultimately no common understanding of “what is meant by ‘education’ in the context of an arts organization”. The study concludes that arts organizations are not clear about their educational role and have not received clear guidance from funding agencies in this regard.

While the study does not come up with a definitive solution to the challenge facing the arts in schools, it makes a strong case for “rigorous and informed debate about the role of professional artist and arts organization in education”. The report also provides building blocks for both arts funders and organizations to engage in this debate. Finally, the report provides a framework of questions about the role of arts organizations in education.

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