UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Ang, Winston Wee Kern
Columbia University Teachers College
Sullivan, Graeme
Page numbers of theses: 
Year of completion: 
Country of Research Data: 
Singapore, Australia, USA
This study investigates the theoretical incongruence between art learning, which thrives on expression, exploration and learner-centered pedagogy, and a competitive learning environment that is framed by practices such as academic streaming/tracking, ranking, and standardized national examination. At issue is how public school students negotiate the tension between meeting systemic expectations imposed by a competitive education system and making personal and meaningful decisions that nurture their individual passions and proclivities. From a policy-making perspective, this research examines how concepts of meritocracy, social functionalism, pragmatism, and instrumentalism are interpreted at the level of public school policy and practice. Through a multi-dimensional, nested approach using document analysis, visual analysis and interview analysis, this research examines both reactive (interviews) and non-reactive data (news articles, government communiqu├ęs and images). The analysis is structured around a three-tiered procedure of constant comparison and triangulation. Some data were gathered on site in Singapore and examined locally. Emerging issues were critiqued in relation to literature in the field. Analysis revealed three areas of concerns. First, there is a need for the Singapore education system to reexamine the way academic accountability and merit are defined and assessed. The findings of this study advocate a ground-up, dialogic, evaluative process that is centered upon the mediation of academic expectations based on the unique contribution of individual students. Second, this research revealed that under the pressure to compete for academic merits, students and teachers tend to develop a dualistic and end-goal mindset toward teaching and learning that is characterized by the use of test-based strategies of teaching and learning to ensure success in examinations. Such methods, though effective in the short run in addressing examination needs, are particularly limiting to students' long term learning potential. Third, this research revealed that art education has substantial potential to (re)inform education policymaking. A proposed 'exhibitive' pedagogical framework is presented that favors a student and process centered evaluative framework that thrives on the input of peer learning and assessment involving teachers, students, parents, and the public.
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