Arts and Culture: The Necessity of Education

04 2017 | Issue 20
Text/Lai Chou In

It is known to many that the UK is one of the countries where creative industries are pioneered. As statistics reveal, ever since the concept of creative industries was put forward in 1997, the sector has grown, amounting to a value of £84 billion by 2014, an equivalent of productivity at £9.6 million per hour, accounting for 5.2% of the overall GDP. Other than policy support, the growth of the relevant industries is also reliant on the scope of education. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in resources invested in the local creative arts to promote a more diversified economy, but where does the human talent for creative arts come from? In this issue, we met with the representatives of Millennium Secondary School and Macao Polytechnic Institute, who reveal to us the current outlooks for Macao’s creative industry in terms of secondary, tertiary and further education. We also talked with Bob Lei Hou Keong from Todot Design Studio to find out about the prospects for those engaged in this sector.


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Millennium Secondary School: Education Beyond the Classroom


Jeni Ip Ka Leng, a Form Three senior high school student, had once withdrawn from her studies because of her poor grades. Depressed with her experience at school, she almost decided to give up her studies altogether, and lost her interest in fine art, a subject she was passionate about. However, having enrolled at Millennium Secondary School last year, she resumed her practice of painting, and two of her artworks were successfully sold at the charity auction of “6075 Macao Hotel Art Fair” last year. Speaking of her experiences, she explained: “There are far more arts programmes here offered to the students. It has helped me regain my confidence in painting, and made me realise that my creative work is appreciated by the others too.”


At Millennium Secondary School, there are many other students who have undergone similar journeys as Ip. Unlike traditional schools, it offers a curriculum targeting mature students (i.e. proper secondary education programmes to students above the age of 16), as well as vocational programmes. Ken Choi Weng Tat, Assistant Principal, explained that in addition to Socio-cultural programmes for senior high school curriculum, they started offering arts programmes some five years ago, to complement the growth of creative industries in Macao. These programmes are designed to prepare students for university education, while at the same time encourage them to explore their artistic potential.


Guy Wong Tak Ian, Head Teacher of Arts Subjects, told us that the study hours for core, compulsory subjects (e.g. Chinese, English and Math) and for art subjects are at a ratio of 6:4. In this discipline, the primary subjects are ceramics, painting, filmmaking and music. Not only do these subjects equip students with the essential foundational knowledge, they also highlight the application of art. “We hope to make students understand that other than artistic appreciation, a painting can have many aspects to it, and it can extend to different forms and products. For example, other than its aesthetic value, photography can also be used in commercial purposes.”


Each year, Millennium Secondary School offers many opportunities to its students to take part in arts and cultural competitions and activities both inside and outside school. These include talent tournaments, “School Campus Fun”, “Macao City Fringe Festival” and “Parade Through Macao, Latin City”. For example, in the past three years, Io Weng Sum, a young, talented artist who works as an arts tutor at Millennium Secondary School, has brought the students to take part in Tap Siac Craft Market organised by the government. Each year, she would handpick a few outstanding items made by the students to be sold at the fair, pointing out: “If the art pieces made in the classroom can turn into household items, students will be very motivated to create.”  She also encouraged some students to help out at the fair, so that they can learn to appreciate the art of communicating and interacting with the others.


In the classroom, Io focuses on stimulating their interest in the creative process: “Not all the students are keen to learn about the more technical aspects of the craft, and so if I focus too much on those, they will easily lose interest. It will make the subject more entertaining if I can encourage them to think on their own,” she said. Recently, she taught the students how to create “Zentangle”, which is more engaged with thematic expression than traditional drawing. In this way, she can bring in a form that engages with students of different abilities.


Other than various arts and cultural activities, the government has also launched many projects targeting primary and secondary school in recent years, helping students to learn about creative arts from an early age. These projects such as “Art Education Snowball Project”, “Macao Arts Festival Outreach Programme on Campus” are strongly supported by many primary and secondary schools. The government has also set up a Youth Art Gallery in Tap Siac to offer them space to showcase their talents and to host various exhibitions. Endorsing these projects, Wong Tak Ian told us that their students enjoyed taking part in some of these exhibitions. In fact, some of their works were even sought after by the public. “These exhibitions help to make the whole art-making process more complete. Through these activities, the students set themselves to creating art of quality, and appreciate the lasting value of creative work.”


Besides, it is also inspiring for students to interact with professional art practitioners, a process that sheds light on how arts and culture operate in the real world. He remarked that at Millennium Secondary School, they would often invite art practitioners to offer thematic workshops. Sometimes, they would also organise tours to visit arts and cultural bodies and enterprises. In May this year, they plan to have a school trip to Shiwan, Guangdong to learn more about ceramics making.


Indeed, activities such as outbound trips benefit the teachers as much as the students. In their recent art tour to the Mainland, Choi was impressed to see that the local educational sector maintains a close relationship with the arts and cultural enterprises there. In this way, the enterprises can contribute to the resources in education, while the schools can also nurture the talent that is needed for developing arts and culture. He felt that this interactive model spells out new possibilities for Macao. Choi said: “We are against a passive form of education, and hope that our students can truly discover their talent to serve the society.”