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Arts Education 2018

May 29, 201929 May 2019

Arts education / Arts participation by young people

People for Education


Michael Gill

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Based on a survey of 1,244 elementary and secondary schools in 70 of Ontario’s 72 school boards, this report highlights the situation of the arts in Ontario schools in 2018. The report notes that “despite the widely recognized importance of arts education, equitable access to arts programs and resources is an ongoing challenge in Ontario”.

Some of the key themes of the report include demographic differences in the availability of arts education in schools, the availability of specialist teachers, and the challenges of finding appropriate spaces in schools for arts classes.

The author used data from Statistics Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Education to look at how factors such as parental education and income levels affect access to the arts in schools. The report finds that, “in small and rural schools, in schools with higher levels of poverty, and in schools with lower levels of parental education”, students are less likely to have access to learning opportunities in the arts. School budgets for the arts range widely (from less than $500 to $100,000), and “schools with high parental education were 10 times more likely to have an arts budget of $5000 or more, as compared to schools with low parental education”.

In terms of specialist teachers, “many principals commented that their schools struggle with a lack of specialists to teach the arts”. The report finds that 46% of elementary schools have a specialist music teacher, either full or part-time, up from 41% in the 2017 survey but “well below the 58% of schools reporting music teachers” in 1998. More specialist teachers and classes are available at the secondary school level: “98% of secondary schools offer a senior (grades 11/12) Visual Arts class, 92% offer a senior Music class, 86% offer a senior Drama class, and 32% offer a senior Dance class”.

In terms of appropriate space, 43% of elementary schools report that they have no specialized spaces for the arts. Among elementary schools that do have arts-specific spaces:

  • 55% have music space
  • 17% have visual arts space
  • 14% have drama space
  • 13% have dance space

Secondary schools are more likely to have dedicated spaces for arts classes: “Virtually all secondary schools (98%) have at least one room designed for instruction in the arts, and 83% report three or more specialized arts rooms”.

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