Short-Term Effects of Compulsory Multidisciplinary Secondary School Arts Education on Cultural Participation in the Netherlands

By Damen, Marie-Louise; Nagel, Ineke et al. | Studies in Art Education, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Short-Term Effects of Compulsory Multidisciplinary Secondary School Arts Education on Cultural Participation in the Netherlands


Damen, Marie-Louise, Nagel, Ineke, Haanstra, Folkert, Studies in Art Education


A process of cultural divergence between generations has emerged in the Netherlands. The interest in conventional culture (museums, classical music, opera, and theater) shows a stabilization or even an upward trend in generations born before 1960 and a downward trend in the generations born after 1 960. The younger generations increasingly focus on popular culture, such as pop music, films, games, DJ and VJ events, etc. This is not a Dutch phenomenon only; some other European countries, especially Great Britain, show the same cultural divergence (De Haan & Van den Broek, 2003). Also, in the United States, attendance rates show an aging authence for high culture art forms (Dimaggio & Mukhtar, 2004; National Endowment for the Arts, 2009).

The waning interestamongyoungergenerations has been attributed to factors such as changes in socialization in family and schools, upward mobility of lower social classes, individualization, the breaking down of traditional cultural hierarchies, and the rise of youth culture together with a growing media consumption (e.g., Janssen, 2005). Because the dominance of socialization in popular culture will have lasting effects during a person's lifetime, it is not to be expected that the younger generations will (re)turn to high art preferences when reaching middle age. And even though the days are gone that Dutch cultural policy was only based on stimulating participation in high culture, the decline of attendance rates of younger generation at publicly subsidized arts institutions (museums, concert halls, theaters) became a concern for the government. In the long run, a lack of public interest will threaten the legitimization of governmental support for the arts and the arts institutions.

Therefore, policy makers thought measures should be taken to increase interest in the arts among youth. They considered arts education at school to be most suited to stimulate cultural activities and to evoke more positive attitudes towards art. Therefore, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science Introduced in 1999 a new form of compulsory arts education in the secondary school system, directly aimed at stimulating participation in art and cultural activities. The course is called 'CKV (in Dutch: 'Culturele en Kunstzinnige Vorming', which can be translated as 'Cultural and Artistic Education'). CKV is compulsory for all students at the middle and higher levels of secondary education.

The general goal of CKV is that students learn to make a motivated choice of cultural activities that are meaningful to them. This is done on the basis of participation in cultural practices (e.g., studio art, dancing, singing, acting) and reporting and reflecting on the cultural activities in an 'arts portfolio.'The CKV examination program states that the cultural activities should be of a 'generally recognized quality' but also that they should reflect the students' own interests. The broad formulation of the examination program allows schools much freedom to determine the contents and organization of the course. Between the extremes of schools at which students choose all cultural activities themselves and schools at which teachers decide what activities will be attended, the large majority favors a limited freedom of students' choice. They aim for a balanced choice between different art disciplines and genres.

CKV differs radically from traditional types of arts education in secondary school such as drawing and music. The new course strongly emphasizes attendance at cultural events such as exhibitions, movies, concerts, dance performances, and plays. Depending on the level of secondary education (middle or higher), students have to participate in at least six to ten cultural activities during the course. To compensate for the costs of these activities, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science provides students with credit slips worth about 22 Euros, as well as a discount card for theaters, art museums, cinemas, and other cultural institutions. …

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