Overall development

Role of art and design in enhancing the quality of education

How learning art and design helps children

Art is a visual means of communication. It is a diverse range of human activities which produces works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.

Learning art gives children a window to the rich and interesting world of their own history and culture, as well as those of other people. Art is the media through which ideas and information are often delivered visually and children learn how to analyse and judge the meaning of images and how to use them to communicate their own ideas.

‘As more and more business leaders are coming to realise, rote memorisation and multiple choice answers do not adequately prepare students for the global marketplace,’ says Leilani Lattin Duke, director of the Getty Education Institute for the Arts. ‘Art is a subject that encourages children to think critically, solve problems creatively, make evaluations, work within groups, and appreciate different points of view. These skills are particularly suited to the complex challenges of the contemporary workplace.’

Art and design education enhance the spatial judgment and the ability to visualise with the mind’s eye. There are evidences from brain research, which indicate that engagement in fine arts is beneficial for the educational process. The domain of arts helps to develop neural systems that produce a broad spectrum of benefits, ranging from fine motor skills to creativity and also improved emotional balance.

Every brain that learns to observe when it is young grows visual neurons that other brains lack and this is why we have a common misconception that drawing is an inborn talent. It is true that the drawing brain is different, but that difference has been learned and the brain has developed in response to being needed in particular ways. When this happens at a young age for a child, the child appears to have an inherent talent. We now know that adult brains can also grow new neurons and foster new talents, but it is slower and more difficult.

Difference between art and design

Artists and designers both create visual compositions using a shared knowledge base, but their reasons for doing so are entirely different. An artist starts with a blank canvas and produces a work of art that expresses his view or opinion or feelings. They create the art to share that feeling with others, to allow the viewers to relate to it, learn from it, be inspired by it, or interpret it.

Design is there to fill a need. Unlike an artist, a designer sets out to solve a problem – how to effectively communicate a message, how to make a product more ergonomic and efficient and aesthetically pleasing, how to fulfil needs given the resources. A designer motivates the audience to do something: buy a product, use a service or product, visit a location, and learn certain information. The most successful designs are those that motivate their consumers most to carry out a task.

Various aspects that are benefitted by learning art and design:

  1. Motor skill development: Many of the motions involved in making art, such as holding a paintbrush or scribbling with a crayon, are essential to the growth of fine motor skills in young children.
  2. Visual learning: Drawing, sculpting with clay and threading beads on a string, all help to develop visual-spatial skills.
  3. Language development: For very young children, creating art or just talking about it provides opportunities to learn words for colours, shapes and actions. Children often use drawings to tell stories.
  4. Decision making: According to a report by ‘Americans for the Arts’, art education strengthens problem-solving and critical thinking skills. The experience of making decisions and choices in the course of creating art carries over into other parts of life. ‘If they are exploring and thinking and experimenting and trying out new ideas, then creativity has a chance to blossom,’ says MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books on children’s art education.
  5. Inventiveness: When kids are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they develop a sense of observation, imagination, design, innovation and invention that will be important in their adult lives.
  6. Creative thinking skills: Children also learn some great thinking skills by working from imagination, from inventing, from designing, and so on. Some children love to design houses, machines, boats, cars, etc. Many children love to illustrate imagined stories. Imagination is excellent for development of their creative thinking ability. Drawing not only provides the basis for other creative activities – like painting, sculpturing and printmaking – but it also help children in reading, writing and understanding especially mathematics, science and geography. There is a deep connection between drawing and geometric shapes and measurements.
  7. Social development: The National Urban Alliance for Effective Education claims ‘arts education enable children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences.’ Art activities help children gain the tools necessary for understanding human experience, adapting to and respecting others’ ways of working and thinking, developing creative problem-solving skills, and communicating thoughts and ideas in a variety of ways. It aids in the development of self-esteem, self-discipline, cooperation, and self-motivation.

Apart from having classes assigned for art and design, it can be woven throughout the curriculum for a richly textured educational experience.

Award-winning art educator Mary Parks, a teacher in Naperville in US, advocates art centres in the classroom as a ‘neat way’ to integrate the arts throughout the curriculum while meeting the needs of tactile and visual learners. Integrating art education into the curriculum also provides opportunities for students whose visual skills are stronger than their verbal abilities.

‘All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.’

— Albert Einstein

‘The aim of art education in the public schools is not to make more professional artists but to teach people to live happier, fuller lives; to extract more out of their experience, whatever that experience may be.’

— Grant Wood, “Art in the Daily Life of the Child”


Newquist, Colleen (1997); ‘Picture This: Art Every Day!’ – Education World. Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson002.shtml

Duvall, Addison; ‘Design Vs Art – The Difference And Why It Matters’ – Filed in Web Design. Retrieved from: http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/design-vs-art/

Mulder-Slater, Andrea; ‘Why is art education important?’ – KinderArt.com Retrieved from: http://www.kinderart.com/artspeak/important.shtml

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