Instructional Time and the Place of Aesthetic Education in School Curricula at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century
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Aesthetic education has become a core element of almost all official curricula worldwide, along with language, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences and physical education. While national education systems continue to play a key role in the process of definition, selection and legitimisation of valuable educational knowledge that should be transmitted through school-based learning experiences, in recent decades crossnational comparative and trend analyses tended to highlight the growing standardization of curricular structures around the world due to the influence of global models and transnational actors. Concerning aesthetic education, this is illustrated by the shift from a narrow focus on basic training for acquiring some instrumental skills, as in the case of the traditional drawing lessons introduced in public schools in the nineteenth century, towards a broader approach underlining the goals of fostering creativity, expression, and personal development through ‘arts education’. Why is there such a widespread emphasis placed on aesthetic education across countries and regions? What global and regional patterns can be identified concerning the current position of aesthetic education within school curricula? How can these be understood in light of the issues and debates surrounding aesthetic education today? An exploration of the dataset on curricular time and subjects compiled by the UNESCO International Bureau of Education (IBE) and presented in the last section of this paper confirms that: (i) aesthetic education has become an integral part of the core school curriculum worldwide; (ii) aesthetic subjects are most emphasised in the primary years, and their relative importance decreases in higher grades; and (iii) the more advanced the socio-economic context, the more time is devoted to aesthetic education.