Reducing high school art from five to three will limit student choice and “water down” their learning, say teachers and artists.
Under the reform proposal, NCEA levels 2 and 3 in painting, printmaking and sculpture will be combined into a single visual arts subject, and photography will be expanded to include moving images.
A the petition has been launched oppose the combination of topics, with critics saying they will limit options for gifted students, those of Maori and Pasifika descent, speakers of other languages, refugees and neural-diverse learners.
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A Ministry of Education (MoE) working paper says “the number of students in the discipline as a whole is low, and those taking more of a visual art subject even smaller”.
However, he also acknowledges that “combining three subjects into one seems to conflict with the goal of having more opportunities to specialize and deepen knowledge and skills at NCEA levels 2 and 3. “.
Esther Hansen teaches art in Auckland Pukekohe High School and is co-coordinator of the Gifted and Talented program.
She started the petition to stop the proposed “collapse” from five subjects to three, which she said is a “misunderstanding of the visual arts”.
“I firmly believe that we should keep five subjects,” she said. “Practical visual arts develop skills that cannot be achieved in essays. Practical skills are so essential.
While she welcomes the introduction of Maori arts, she believes that this should not come at the expense of existing subjects.
“In no other area are you removing topics to make this happen.”
The matter is currently open for consultation, but the Ministry of Education survey is “skewed enough to get the result they want,” she said.
Alexis Neal is a working artist specializing in printmaking and weaving. She also teaches at Auckland’s Browne School of the Arts and says the proposed reforms are “really problematic”.
“Diluting an art subject doesn’t give options to the next generation,” she said.
“We are not all academics. Often, children have learning difficulties and art is where their voice can be heard.
“A lot of our Maori and Pacific Islander children engage and learn throughout the creative process and that’s what the arts do for a lot of people. ”
Steve Lovett, who works as a support teacher at Auckland University and previously taught at the visual art school at Manukau Institute of Technology, said the immediate consequence would be that students entering higher education “will have even less experience in artistic creation.”
“The proposed changes to the NCEA may incorporate some rather uncomfortable notions that militate against students from lower deciles,” he said.
This would lead to the introduction of an “uncomfortable classist notion” in education.
“Anyone in a position to contribute to this discussion needs to step in now because the changes are really important. They will have huge implications for students.
the NCEA Change Program has seven goals, including making the NCEA more accessible, providing equal status to mātauranga Māori, and strengthening literacy and numeracy requirements and assessments.
Ellen MacGregor-Reid, assistant secretary for early learning and student achievement at the Education Department, said they “are currently looking at a list of NCEA level 2 and 3 subjects.”
“Decisions have yet to be made on what topics will be available, and we are seeking comments until August 13,” she said.
Regarding the petition, she said, “It is great that New Zealand’s creative communities are engaging in this process and (we) will consider any comments received.”