Disengaged students…

There’s been a much-talked-about study done by the Grattan Institute that 40% of Australian students are disengaged in the classroom. Not all of them are being disruptive, but often just drifting off, apparently. And this makes them up to two years behind where they should be with their learning. (If you haven’t read it you can go here…)

I have heard all sorts of discussions about this report on the air-waves. There have been discussions about how teachers need to make lessons more engaging. (It’s always up to the teachers, isn’t it?). Teachers need more training and mentorship for older teachers. (See my previous comment again.) I’ve heard from politicians that this is a terrible statistic. (Well, they are right. It is.)

What I haven’t heard is something that goes like this….

Over the last ten years or so, there has been less and less emphasis placed on the creative arts in the school learning process. The new Edubuzzword is STEM. All about literacy and numeracy. Bit of science too. As one principal put it to me once ‘I’m here in the business of getting children to read. Not getting them to be musicians.’ So most lessons in schools, most days focus on reading and writing and maths. (I’m going to climb on my soapbox and talk about music programs, because that’s what I know. But that’s not to say that visual art and drama doesn’t do the same thing.)

Children who participate in regular, interactive music classes read better. Yep, there’s been studies done. Google it if you don’t believe me. But that’s it, in a nutshell. They also speak better, concentrate more, have better motor skills and better mental health. ALL of the things I’ve mentioned allow children to re-engage with schooling. I see this EVERY DAY I teach. Mostly with boys, or children who struggle with conventional learning.

So why isn’t this being discussed? Why isn’t music and visual art and drama being brought back into the curriculum? I can remember the lessons I loved at school. And they were not maths and English (until year 11 when I had a phenomenal English teacher – but she taught us in a very unconventional way. I’ve not seen anyone else like it…). They were music and drama. And then science. What did you love the most?

Here’s what I see…. I see kids walk into music classes and they are dopey. They are tired. They’ve been sitting at a desk for a long time. They’ve worked as hard as they can. And then they sing, or drum. They smile and laugh. They learn – actively, noisily, as a team. And then they go back into class, and they are invigorated. And isn’t that what we are after here?

So why isn’t this being talked about? Why isn’t this being shouted about?