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UNESCO World Conference on Arts Education to assure wider cultural literacy

Korea will host the 2nd World Conference of Arts Education in Seoul from May 25 to 28. The four-day conference, which will take place at COEX Convention and Exhibition Center in Gangnam-gu district, is expected to attract some 2,000 government officials, cultural experts, artists, educators, and NGO workers from 193 nations.

Why such a grand meeting for arts education? First, the world is fast moving from an industrial society to an information-based one, where creativity stands as a core value. Arts education is one way to help an individual enhance creativity through the development of personality, adaptability and talents, as well as mental and physical health.

Another reason for the growing significance of arts education can be attributed to technological development around the world through internet, cell phones and other high-tech gadgets. As the world draws different people closer to each other, arts education has emerged as a means to learn to get along with and tolerate each other, promote reconciliation and harmonize better. This is what UNESCO, under the framework of “Education for All” and “Quality Education Campaign,” strives to enhance in the existing education systems. 2010 is also the UNESCO-designated International year of the Rapprochement of cultures.

At the first such conference held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2006, participants discussed the main concepts of art education, how best to approach the matter, mapping out its dimensions, education of teachers and artists, how it should be treated on a school/municipal or government level and more.

If the first conference touched on the possibility of international cooperation in the field of arts education, the second conference in Korea seeks to evaluate the previous roadmap and come up with more detailed strategies to be declared to the world.

Korea was chosen as the next hosting nation the following year in 2007, in recognition of promoting arts education as one of its major agenda items since 2000. Eager to prepare, Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Arts and Education, together with UNESCO and other related organizations have come together to form a pan-governmental partnership to encourage participation of other diverse organizations and institutes.

At the four-day conference in May, a total of 26 workshops will discuss art education both in and out of school, how best to respond to different audiences according to age, race and region; how to bring out cooperation between intra- and inter-governmental partnerships, between public and private sectors, between school and communities and between teachers and artists; how arts education can empower less privileged groups; dealing with digitalization; and how the arts can heal society as a means of therapy, social cohesion, building peace and protecting the environment.

Round table meetings and encounter with NGOs also follow up. Separately there will be a youth forum for young people from different continents to exchange opinions on diverse issues. On the final day there will be presentations of final reports covering how to evaluate and document the outcomes of art education, building information gateways and studying the interaction between theory and practice.

Korea held a preliminary meeting for the successful hosting of the conference last Monday (Jan. 18) where some 150 government officials and related experts gathered to reconfirm the value of arts education and exchange ideas for the conference. At the meeting the officials agreed to strongly recommend to many local experts including NGOs, teachers and students that they participate in the conference workshops.

During the meeting the organizing committee set up three “Network Forums.” The first forum will be held in Gwangju in February, the second in Busan in March and the third in Seoul in April. The first forum will discuss social roles of culture and art institutions, the second the significance of artistic traditions in arts education and how to restore them, and the third will look at the relationship between digital media and arts education. 

The organizing committee for the conference also plans to showcase exemplary cases of local arts education and recommend overseas scholars to make on-the-spot visits.

For more information:
UNESCO World Conference on Arts Education (Korean, English, French)

By Kim Hee-sung Staff Writer

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