Art education is the teaching of painting, design and photography as well as music, drama, dance and crafts. Community-based centers play a key role in non-formal art education and extracurricular activities. These centers may include museums and places of worship.
Arts can be both a formal and non-formal tool of promoting knowledge in various disciplines. Arts are a main subject in contemporary curricula as well as a supplementary educational tool. Therefore, there are two contemporary approaches to art education. Under the integrated approach, art is used for teaching other subjects. Meanwhile, art is also a separate subject.
The first arts school was established in Greece in 400 BCE, and was mentioned in the writings of Plato. During the Renaissance period in Europe, artists underwent formalized training in art studios. At that time, the atelier method was widespread in art education. This approach is a form of art instruction where apprentices learn art techniques at the studio of an experienced artist.
In the United States, art education became an important part of the curriculum thanks to the Picture Study Movement in the 19th century. Class activities focused on the discussion of masterpieces, which often conveyed a moral message. John Dewey (1859 to 1952) played a role in the wider availability of art classes in the country in late 19th century and early 20th century. The number of students who joined an arts class in the United States reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Place for Art in America's Schools report issued by the Getty Center for Education in the Arts (1985) recommended that focus in art education should shift from introducing art as a means of self-expression into presenting it as a body of knowledge related to history and aesthetics.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), music instruction and visual arts instruction was offered by respectively 94 percent and 87 percent of elementary schools in 1999-2000. Dance and drama were available in less than one-third of elementary schools. For public secondary schools, 90 percent of high schools offered music classes, while 93 percent provided visual arts instructions. Dancing classes were available at 14 percent of secondary schools, while drama was taught at 48 percent of schools.
The European Union also recognizes the close relationship between cultural awareness and creativity. EU studies have found that art education is less prominent in school curricula. In most European national systems, art is compulsory in primary school and optional in secondary education.
Other international studies (Sharp and Le M?tais in 2000; Taggart et al 2004) have reported similar findings. The low status of arts results in more relaxed criteria for assessment of students and monitoring of the quality of arts teaching. Research also suggests that time allocated to arts is insufficient.
At an international level, the Arts Education Program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) seeks to promote a common ground of understanding about the key role of art education around the world. It encourages exchange of knowledge and practices. The program's goal is to "anticipate the new needs by according a special place to the teaching of artistic values and subjects in order to encourage creativity, which is a distinctive attribute of the human species. Creativity is our hope." The program pays particular attention to arts apprenticeship and creative activities in school curriculum. It fosters an interdisciplinary approach to teaching arts, which can be used as a method of promoting cultural diversity.
UNESCO outlines two approaches to art education: learning through arts and learning in arts. While the former approach demonstrates how to use artistic expressions and resources as a learning tool, the latter highlights the value of artistic perspectives in their own right. The International Society of Education through Art (ISEA) is a non-governmental organization of UNESCO whose goal is to advance art education around the world.
Research shows that the incorporation of artistic practices into the learning environment ensures better emotional, cognitive and psychological development. These practices also improve students' cultural awareness and tolerance and help them form individual and collective identities. Furthermore, knowledge-based society requires creative and innovative workforce.