Deadline for arts instructors' training up

Those who conduct school workshops subsidised by the National Arts Council have to brush up their teaching skills by year end

Paper Monkey Theatre conducting a performance at a kindergarten last year as part of the NAC-Arts Education Programme.
Paper Monkey Theatre conducting a performance at a kindergarten last year as part of the NAC-Arts Education Programme.PHOTO: PAPER MONKEY THEATRE

An almost four-year deadline for arts practitioners to receive training in teaching skills is coming up and some artists are rushing to meet the deadline.

Arts instructors who conduct school workshops that are subsidised by the National Arts Council (NAC) have until the end of this year to receive training if they want to continue holding classes in schools for the next two years.

So far, more than 500 arts instructors have taken the training course and 200 are expected to do so this year. To cater to the last-minute rush, the arts council has added a few more runs of the course.

Arts practitioners and arts groups that The Straits Times interviewed are supportive of the arts council's efforts to raise the bar for arts education and help arts instructors improve their teaching skills.

Still, for some practitioners with busy rehearsal and performance schedules, committing to a 40-hour course, which is the minimum requirement, has been challenging.

The arts council's director for arts and youth, Mr Kenneth Kwok, says the initiative stems from feedback from arts instructors and schools, who felt that the students' arts education would be enhanced if an instructor, besides having expertise in the art form, also has skills to teach in a classroom setting.

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    This move is among a slew of developments that the arts council is rolling out this year, including the Children's Arts Centre at the Goodman Arts Centre, which is slated for a soft launch in December.

    The arts council will also be releasing the National Population Survey on the Arts later this year. It provides a snapshot of the public's attitudes and perceptions towards arts and cultural activities and aims to help stakeholders in the arts industry plan their programmes.

    The arts council's director for arts and communities Chua Ai Liang says it is doing more for arts volunteers because they "have been an invaluable resource and bedrock of support for the arts industry" and it hopes to grow the pool of volunteers.

    Arts volunteers can look forward to training and regular engagement sessions, as well as an online search portal for volunteering opportunities in the arts.

    Additionally, new volunteers will receive orientation sessions to get an overview of the arts scene and its volunteering needs.

    The arts council is also in the process of appointing a partner to pilot a children's arts centre at the Goodman Arts Centre.

    It aims to provide children aged 12 and younger a place for artistic experimentation, exploration and access to age-appropriate, high quality offerings across different art forms.

The new requirement to receive training applies only to arts practitioners who wish to conduct workshops. Those who perform or give talks to a large cohort of students, or who host arts excursions, are exempt from the requirement.

Arts workshop instructors who have pedagogical training such as a bachelor's degree in education or a certificate in teaching the arts can apply for exemption from the training. Additionally, the requirement does not extend to arts instructors for non-NAC supported arts programmes in schools, such as co-curricular activities and enrichment programmes.

It is for arts practitioners taking part in the NAC-Arts Education Programme, which makes available to schools about 800 arts activities across genres such as dance, music, theatre, visual arts and the literary arts, at a subsidised cost each year.

These activities are offered by about 240 artists and arts groups.

The programme is refreshed every two years, through an open call for activities. Providers and the applications are assessed by a panel of professional artists and arts educators.

Arts workshop instructors who do not meet the pedagogical skills requirement by this year will not be accepted for the next round of programmes, which are offered from next year to 2018.

If they fulfil the requirement by the next open call in 2018, they are eligible to apply for the 2019 to 2020 programme.

The requirement was first made known to arts instructors in 2013 through briefings, e-mail and the arts council's website.

The council also partnered NIE International, a continuing education and training institution, to introduce two courses - a 240-hour diploma in arts education and an abridged module of 40 hours - to equip instructors with pedagogical skills such as classroom management and lesson planning and evaluation.

Those who complete the course receive a 90 per cent subsidy on course fees and pay about $500 for the diploma course and $100 for the basic module.

Mr Kenny Chng, 35, general manager of the theatre group Paper Monkey Theatre, which offers activities through the NAC-Arts Education Programme, welcomes the initiative.

He says the training will help its instructors be more confident when presenting their craft. But so far, only a handful of its 16 instructors, who are freelancers, will receive the required training by this year.

He says: "Most of them are hesitant to commit to a regular course as it may jeopardise the limited time they have for rehearsals and performances. But we are still encouraging them to attend the basic module training."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2016, with the headline 'Deadline for arts instructors' training up '. Print Edition | Subscribe