Art Education in Australia

By Overall, Mary Jane | School Arts, May 1991 | Go to article overview

Art Education in Australia


Overall, Mary Jane, School Arts


Two questions were in my mind as I began my recent visit to Australia: How does art education "down under" differ from art education in the United States and what is there to learn that will enrich my own teaching skills? As the recipient of the Chromacryl Company's art teacher grant, I had the opportunity to meet with many Australian art educators and artists and to visit elementary and secondary schools throughout the country. I documented my findings on videotape.

To my surprise, Australian schools structure their art curricula very much like their American counterparts. Content and methodology show few differences. There is one exception: art in both the public and private schools is fully matriculated by legislative mandate and has been for sixteen years. The results are astonishing!

Students take art through elementary school. In their second year of high school they can elect to take art as a subject matter major. During their last two years of high school, students spend time preparing for Certificate Examinations. In the art program there are two examinations, a three-hour art history test and the presentation of a major piece of artwork to a board of judges consisting of artists and art educators. While the art history examination is tough and the stress of producing a major work is somewhat strenuous, the results are admirable. Not only is the artwork by Australian high school students comparable to work by American college students, but the students are quite articulate in presenting the theories behind their artistic conclusions.

Because these students begin studying art at an early age, they are well informed and skilled in the field. Their study of art history is supplemented by a variety of programs offered to them by museums. The museums provide lecture tours, a variety of exhibits, and exhibition space for the students' works. The students are encouraged to use professional quality materials and they learn to manipulate and control a variety of media as well as how to integrate ideas into one or several works of art. …

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