The first part of this article appeared on Friday.
In the classroom, as a Drama teacher, I like to act on Edward Bond methodology, where Site and Cathexis are used to prompt the pupil to explore a theme creatively, think outside the box and form one’s own judgment. This has led me to opportunities of working with classes of so-called problem children and work on plays like the Shakespearean Tragedies and the Greek Classics. It has led me to engage them on a level where other educators failed.
More powerful and more cultural than Drama-In-Education, is Theatre-In-Education. Sadly, most of our schools treat this as a common outing. As shown over and over again, Theatre-In-Education is a unique tool where pupils are exposed to Culture and to Theatre in an atmosphere that is conducive to their education and development. To this effect, the Drama Unit, for example, creates at least one project per year group per year. I have been involved in many of these and most times it has been a joy to discuss topics and situations with pupils, to get them to improvise on given sites and to watch them come up with their own conclusions.
An important factor of Theatre-In-Education is exactly that. We do not deliver messages. The educator, or facilitator, is not a postman. What we do is enable. This involves acting, it involves thinking creatively and critically, it involves formation of the child’s train of thought. This is why it is important for teachers in Theate-in-Education to be trained how to guide children to seek their own valid conclusions and even given space to try them in class.
To quote the DICE Consortium, pupils doing this kind of Drama Education:
- are assessed more highly by their teachers in all aspects,
- feel more confident in reading and understanding tasks,
- feel more confident in communication,
- are more likely to feel that they are creative,
- like going to school more,
- enjoy school activities more,
- are better at problem solving,
- are better at coping with stress,
- are significantly more tolerant towards both minorities and foreigners,
- are more active citizens,
- show more interest in voting at any level,
- show more interest in participating in public issues,
- are more empathic: they have concern for others,
- are more able to change their perspective,
- are more innovative and entrepreneurial,
- show more dedication towards their future and have more plans,
- are much more willing to participate in any genre of arts and culture, and not just performing arts, but also writing, making music, films, handicrafts, and attending all sorts of arts and cultural activities,
- spend more time in school, more time reading, doing housework, playing, talking, and spend more time with family members and taking care of younger brothers and sisters. In contrast, they spend less time watching TV or playing computer games,
- do more for their families, are more likely to have a part-time job and spend more time being creative either alone or in a group. They go to the theatre, exhibitions and museums, and the cinema, and go hiking and biking more often,
- are more likely to be a central character in class,
- have a better sense of humour,
- feel better at home.
The DICE Consortium goes on to specify that Theatre-In-Education and Drama-In-Education “also significantly support the targets of the most relevant EU level documents, such as the Europe 2020 strategy.” Therefore, raising citizens with educational Theatre and Drama will result in:
- rise in the employment rate,
- reduction in the number of early school leavers,
- raising the overall quality of all levels of education and training,
- stronger synergy between culture and education,
- more active citizens,
- citizens being more sympathetic towards cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue,
- more innovative, creative and competitive citizens.
This contrasts greatly with the vision whereby Drama in schools is just a subject to try to create actors out of pupils. Or to use Drama merely as relief time for the class teacher, when teachers can make much use of the situations that arise. Worse than this, some time ago it was suggested that we create Arts teachers to teach Drama, Music and Art as one subject. The reasoning behind this was that there are not enough teachers to give weekly lessons in these subjects but if the teachers of these subjects were tasked to teach all three disciplines, then we could have weekly lessons of Arts. Needless to say, this is a terrible scenario created by those who have no experience in teaching or in the named subjects. It merely creates the illusion that children are receiving an Arts Education where, in real practice, they are in fact only being indoctrinated in information about these disciplines.
Whereas the Drama Unit of Malta is not the only body that can impart such an education, it is at an advantage in that it is made of professional educators who are also performers and who are conversant in these theories and have worked on them for years. Sure, it needs more teachers, but they have to be well trained teachers in how to use Drama and Theatre in Education, otherwise we would just be increasing the number of teachers just for its own sake. The Drama Unit’s importance and its work, in this sense, cannot be ignored.