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Dutch Report Says Digitalization is Reducing Focus on Arts

New research conducted in the Netherlands revealed that Children’s artwork has declined significantly in quality and complexity over the past two decades.

Facilitated by the Dutch school inspectorate, the study focused on 11 and 12-year-old children and sought to measure the effectiveness of art education, including drawing, music, theater and dance.

A reduction in the quality of student’s work was detected in the areas of drawing and music.

Similar trends are occurring in the United States and might have broader consequences for the future success of students, according to The Atlantic.

According to The Conversation, “drawing can be incorporated into learning in many ways, including visual mapping, reflective thinking, organizing and presenting information, and a way of communication that can transcend language barriers.”

The Dutch researchers cited multiple factors that contributed to their findings, such as the reduction in the number of hours spent on art education in primary school, as well as fewer specialized art teachers.

Societal shifts and technological advances were also provided as factors.

Rafael van Crimpen, the head of Breitner Academie in Amsterdam, told Dutchnews.nl that an increased use of digital technology in schools is coming at the expense of art and creativity.

“Children draw better if they have more time for it,” van Crimpen said. “Education is changing with the times and that is reflected in their drawings. And of course, digitalization plays a part.”

Folkert Haanstra, an arts-education professor and an adviser of the Dutch study, contends that the impact of digitalization is most obvious outside of the classroom, where children are spending more time using technology than drawing, and therefore have less practice with the latter.

“Moreover,” he said, “the quality of the digital images they can make on electronic devices is probably more satisfying and look more professional than the drawings they can make by hand.”

The use of technology in the classroom has also diminished the focus on handmade art.

in 1998, researchers Shirley Brice Heath and Elisabeth Soep noted that “when school budgets shrink and employment opportunities demand knowledge of technology and related skills, the arts slip easily into optional or eliminated subjects of study.”

Arts instruction has been slowly disappearing from U.S. classrooms for decades. According to a 1993 New York Times report, “Arts education, long dismissed as a frill, is disappearing from the lives of many students — particularly poor urban students.

“Even though artists and educators argue that children without art are as ignorant as children without math, their pleas have gone unheard as schools have struggled with budget cuts,” the report said.

As digital experiences continue to overshadow art instruction in the classroom, more could be at stake than crayon pictures posted on the refrigerator.

In his 1923 article, “A Brief History of Art Education in the United States,” W.G. Whitford wrote, “Without art there is an incompleteness that nothing can overcome. Through correlation and efficient cooperation, artwork becomes ‘a helping hand, a kind of connecting link that binds all subjects to it and makes every study at school more interesting and valuable.’”