Queen's University

Prof works with UN organization to encourage global arts education

[Larry O'Farrell is one of only two UNESCO chairs in arts education worldwide]Larry O'Farrell, UNESCO Chair in Arts and Learning, has worked on writing and disseminating The Seoul Agenda: Goals for the Development of Arts Education.

A year after helping draft an international arts education plan, Larry O’Farrell is working to turn those words into action.

“Specific goals and strategies emerged from last year’s United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference on arts education. The subsequent report known as the Seoul Agenda has been picked up around the world as a rallying point,” says Mr. O’Farrell, a Faculty of Education professor and one of only two UNESCO chairs in arts education worldwide.

The Seoul Agenda has three recommendations:

• Make arts education accessible to all students in order to improve and renew arts education systems around the world.
• Improve the quality of arts education.
• Apply arts education to help resolve important social and economic problems in the world.

Reaching them requires partnerships and collaborations, a key function of the UNESCO chair. Since it was established in 2007, the chair has evolved from its primary focus on collaborations between northern and southern hemisphere countries to include more attention on arts education development at the regional and national levels.

Mr. O’Farrell has encouraged a solid national arts education foundation as head of the Canadian Network of Arts and Learning. Provincial education ministries in Canada stress the importance of arts education for all students, but the policies are not widely implemented at the elementary school level because of a lack of specialist arts teachers.

“We need to find ways to support elementary school teachers. I am convinced one way to do that is for schools to partner with community-based organizations and have more artists work in schools,” he says.

The Queen’s Faculty of Education offers a unique Artist in Community Education program, which Mr. O’Farrell is examining for his research. He is also connected with other research projects including the Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing (AIRS) initiative based at the University of Prince Edward Island and an international project on creativity in arts education, which may result in a book publication in the near future.

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Last updated at 4:16 pm EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
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