Use the arts to nurture young reflective thinkers

Introducing a "high-quality yet affordable" arts education programme in pre-schools is a great idea (Pre-school education in the arts piloted at My First Skool; May 6).

What does such a programme look like and how are we to measure whether a high-quality programme is in operation?

The language of the arts belongs to young children.

Children naturally express themselves through symbolic representations embedded in the visual and performing arts, such as pretend play (drama), and art-making, such as drawing.

They explore meanings through movements and symbols to construct their own understanding of things and happenings.

In our enthusiasm to provide arts experiences and exposure to pre-schoolers, let us remember that there is also a lot that artists and teachers can learn from young children who are naturally curious and possess unique perspectives that even some adult artists strive to emulate.

In addition to having an affordable arts education programme that is fun, creative, enjoyable and integrated, we also need to nurture young reflective thinkers.

The children should learn to value diverse perspectives and develop a strong sense of empathy that goes beyond self-interest in showcasing one's creative endeavour, to teamwork and collaboration, respect and care for others.

Through the arts, we can nurture culturally sensitive children to understand and learn about people whose cultural background is different from theirs.

The arts is about the self and others, more than just innovation and creativity.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Use the arts to nurture young reflective thinkers'. Print Edition | Subscribe