Crafting the Future: An Innovative Framework for Arts and Culture Education

Theodora Terracina
UNESCO World Conference on Culture and Arts Education, Abu Dhabi | Image Credit: Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania in Abu Dhabi

Hosted in the heart of the United Arab Emirates, the UNESCO World Conference on Culture and Arts Education provided a space for close to 1,000 participants of culture and education stakeholders to assemble and discuss a new global framework. Between February 13th and 15th, 90 ministers and approximately 125 representatives of UNESCO Member States, NGOs, UN agencies, policy members, and experts in academia gathered in Abu Dhabi, engaging in thematic sessions and sidelined events to envision a future for education. This conference heightened the emphasis on global collaboration in expanding diversified educational goals. The initiative covered critical discussions amongst the neighboring parties by adopting a draft framework in which delegates unanimously agreed upon culturally and artistically enabling education within the academic and professional world. 

UNESCO, the United Nations specialized agency on education, science, and culture, aims to promote global international cooperation and safety through these means. Hosting a conference of this kind to build upon the Road Map for Arts Education and the Seoul Agenda: Goals for Arts Education, established in 2010, the delegates of this world conference highlighted the imperative nature that cultural and arts education brings to society. Assenting that such education contributes to the “full development of the human personality”, as stated by Rapporteur Ms. Park, president of Korean Arts and Culture Education Services, the numerous participants agreed that there should be accessibility to all without hindrance or discrimination. For two days, covering two thematic sessions, the inclusive assembly aimed at underscoring the fluid and imperative nature of arts and culture education ended the conference with an interdisciplinary framework and roadmap. 

Emphasizing and Embracing Cultural Diversity 

The conference delegates began their discussions by ensuring that cultural education is the bedrock and foundation for all our shared societies and, therefore, not a luxury or a privilege but a necessity with which equitable access should be available. With the intent of creating more sustainable, peaceful communities in mind, this framework calls on international cooperation to place art and culture at the forefront of all educational settings. Honoring the diverse cultural identities of the parties present, the aims of creating this inclusive ecosystem are realized in the framework’s expanded definition and understanding of “culture” to incorporate built, natural, and living cultural heritage and expressions.

Transforming Practices 

Building upon the most recent developments in our history – the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, armed conflict, natural disasters, digital transformation, and the “unprecedented human mobility” – the collective realization to reinvest and rethink educational practices was evident. Understanding that the utilization of culture and arts is necessary for reaching global diplomacy and sustainable development goals (SDGs) as it promotes inclusion, civic engagement, and imagination, a concrete plan for committed infrastructure was deemed necessary. Drawing upon the UNESCO Framework from March of 2021, this draft framework established five strategic goals for promoting lifelong and life-wide learning. 

The United Arab Emirates Co-Chair, H.E. Sheikh Salem Al Qassimi, addressed the audience | Image Credit: Aletihad News
  1. Inclusivity, Accessibility, and Equity in Culture and Arts Education 

As the first strategic goal, the framework dedicates its efforts to ensuring that access to cultural and artistic experiences and expressions is, first and foremost, to the well-being of societies. A significant focus on removing all barriers to accessing such education comes from the need to decolonize and democratize learning, ensuring that obstacles to learning, such as bias, prejudice, and various other vulnerabilities about economic, ethnic, or social conditions, are remedied. Making an astute remark concerning new digital technologies and AI now made available to us, this first goal states that educators and teachers should have all permission to have broad access to any means helpful for all individuals to be equipped with cultural and artistic education. Ultimately, calling stark attention to appreciating cultural diversity is thought to be the way forward for quality education, healing, and reconciliation. 

  1. Quality, Contextual, and Long-Lasting Learning in Culture and Arts Education

Building upon access and inclusivity to education comes the second goal of guaranteeing that such education fits into the mold of promoting human rights, cross-cultural dialogue, and transcending global boundaries. This involves addressing gaps in learning across varying societies and finding the means to ensure that quality education is provided in these regards. Whether this pertains to introducing apprenticeships, peer learning, professional skills development, or community learning – all should be made available to safeguard and advance cultural diversity. 

  1. Appreciation for Cultural Diversity and the Capacity for Critical Engagement

Emphasizing, yet again, the dynamic and rich diversity in culture, the third goal highlights how culture and the understanding of differing ones are tools for individuals to develop their critical knowledge and engagement. It builds the bridge for interrupting harmful stereotypes and actively contributes to free expression, social responsibility, and democratic participation. 

  1. Skills to Shape a Resilient, Just, and Sustainable Future

While stating the importance of arts and cultural education, this goal begins to explore how it should come into play. Beginning in early childhood, there should be a stress on nurturing creativity, which naturally will develop other subjects, such as STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), as well as social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. 

  1. Formalization and Valorization of Culture and Arts Education Ecosystem 

Lastly, the fifth goal certifies arts and culture’s role in the curriculum, focusing on planning and implementing such in education. To create a developed and holistic system of learning, the idea of formalizing culture and arts educational systems would be made possible by certifying its skills and the promise that professionals place an inherent value and dedication to its development.

Members and representatives of the conference gathered in Abu Dhabi | Image Credit UNESCO

Methods of Implementation 

Following up with dedicated sections to address all means of implementation and follow from legislation and policy-making, plans for teachers and educators to evaluate both learning experiences as well as environments, including digital technologies and AI, to monitoring follow-up, reviews, and assessments, the framework takes into consideration all methods of implementation. First outlined is the assurance that the change and execution come from a transformation of policies at the governance level, where systematic change efforts are made to integrate culture and arts education at the formal and informal public levels.

Secondly, learning environments and experiences transform from developing learning spaces. This includes museums, libraries, specialized schools, galleries, cities and municipalities, memorial sites, and natural heritage sites, where those who have lived experiences – artists, practitioners, and professionals – can exhibit and introduce their knowledge. Leading to concrete measures for teachers and educators to take in diversifying the field, one of the leading suggestions and goals is to heighten investment in revising teacher education and improving their status, working conditions, and training to be qualified in arts and cultural education that reaches a certain caliber.

Finally, the plans for financing, research assessment, and monitoring follow-up and review establish definitive goals that hold this framework and the member countries in agreement to an assured standard. Expanding national, regional, and international finances through partnerships creates vast policies and curricula for standardized education. 

As UNESCO makes the concerted effort to recognize culture and arts education as a goal to be accomplished, it expects Member States and Associate Members to abide by the monitoring process and support the implementation of this framework. 

For More Information, Please Read or Watch the Following:

Azoulay, Audrey. “UNESCO member states adopt a global framework to strengthen Culture and Arts education.

Youtube. UNESCO World Conference on Culture and Arts Education

UNESCO. UNESCO Draft Framework for Culture and Arts Education.

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Crafting the Future: An I…

by Theodora Terracina time to read: 5 min