By Lucy Clements & Emma Wright
Today we’re talking about the benefits of a dramatic education. And no, we’re not referring to the time Lucy’s primary school art teacher dated the music teacher. Nor are we talking about teaching young people to be professional performers, as a career in the arts is not for everyone. What we are talking about today is something much bigger, and that is the ability of drama studies to teach and develop life skills.
We all know that the world is changing. So how can we teach the next generation to keep up and adapt to the unpredictable, technology driven future? The Australian Government, LinkedIn, Forbes and PwC Australia have all published lists of the skills that they believe are going to be critical for employees to possess in the future. Combing through these lists (and many more), we see these words repeated and claiming the top spots again and again:
· Creativity & innovation
· Critical thinking and problem-solving
· Adaptability and flexibility
And we don’t know about you, but this is not the skillset we were taught in high school Mathematics.
The amazing Sir Ken Robinson, who tragically passed in late August, is another advocate for the benefits of a creative education. His Ted Talk on the topic of “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” is from 2007, though it could be argued it is even more relevant now, over a decade later. Watch it yourself here.
One of the great points he makes in this talk is to do with how we undervalue the subjects that do encourage and teach these fundamental skill sets; visual art, dance and drama. This needs to change.
And if you’re still not convinced, let’s take it back to a personal level.
“I was lucky enough to attend a performing arts high school, where I would partake in drama classes four times a week from the age of 13. From the very beginning drama was my favourite subject – I loved that it was so social and would allow us to get up and have fun on our feet, instead of sitting behind desks. Plus, my long-term engagement in drama taught me to be a confident public speaker, and I saw the benefits of this throughout all my classes.
In year 11 and 12 I chose to take on a healthy variety of subjects – Maths, Literature, Biology, Visual Art and Drama. My continued commitment to the Arts in these upper years drastically improved my general enjoyment of school and my engagement in classes all round – even the ones I was enjoying less, like Maths. In my graduating year I placed third in my school, with an ATAR in the high 90s. I still attribute that success to being allowed to engage in subjects I was passionate about and found joy in – something I could not have replicated if I had been doing core “academic” subjects only.”
“I entered the field almost by accident – it was my elder sister who was supposed to be signing up for the local drama theatre. But I tagged along to her audition, and once she’d gone in, I weaselled myself into the room where I performed what I’m sure must’ve been an exhilarating rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star… complete with hand gestures, carefully choreographed. My sister was enrolled by my parents to improve her self-confidence, which she did, whereas theatre to me was like a magnet, and I was pulled in. Youth drama programs are so valuable, and develop so much more than a performance skill set – it’s about connecting with yourself, connecting with others, connecting with the world around us, and coming together to work in unison whilst allowing our creative, unique selves to come out and shine.
I wasn’t given the same opportunities to connect with drama within school as Lucy, but I still certainly felt the same academic benefits from my extracurricular engagement. I would go on to be accepted into Bond University at the age of 15, and would graduate two years later with a Bachelor of Film and Television. I very much attribute my ability to have done this at such a young age to the work ethic, emotional intelligence, and collaboration skills gained through years of participation in the performing arts.”
Of course we have both gone on to have careers in the Arts, but we are surrounded by people with the same origin story who have gone on to have careers in law, science and healthcare. Check out our blog series “How Youth Drama Changed My Life” for many more examples of this.
So yes – teaching English, Science, History and Mathematics in schools is fundamental. But if we want to really give the next generation the best chance at becoming creative and innovative thinkers, we need to add the Arts to that list. Drama classes are opportunities for young people to lead with their own original ideas, challenging them to communicate clearly and think critically. They will work cohesively in groups, learning to listen actively, adapt quickly and problem solve collaboratively. The Arts can no longer be undervalued. We must learn to see them as the necessity that they are, the key to allowing young people to develop wholly and eventually take on and lead a world that we, at the moment, can hardly imagine.