Quality now in cultuureducatie

Minister Bussemaker sprak op 13 februari bij de opening van het congres 'Quality now' over cultuureducatie in de Bazel te Amsterdam.

Your majesty, commissioner of the king, madam deputy mayor, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, somewhere, a child will hear the voice of John Lennon for the first time - and be inspired.
Today, somewhere, a child will see a young, talented boy on television play Mendelssohn’s violin concerto - and be mesmerized.
Today, somewhere, a child will walk into a museum and stare at a work of art that was made centuries ago - and be amazed.
Every day, somewhere in the world children are discovering art.
Whether it be a song by The Beatles, a painting by Vermeer or
Jeff Koonz’ Balloon Dog.

We do not know what will trigger the children of today to become the cultural leaders or great artists of tomorrow.
What we can do is give them the opportunities to discover culture and the arts.
And if we can, we must.

Of course, parents have a big part to play in this.
But outside the home, schools are the most important place where kids pick up knowledge and are introduced to new things.
And so teachers and schools have a responsibility when it comes to the quality of education on arts and culture.

This conference is about improving the quality of arts and cultural education and what this means for teaching programs and teachers.
I would like to state my expectations for the outcome of this conference and tell you something about how we in The Netherlands are working at this.
But first let me tell you a story about a Brazilian boy called Lucas Benardo da Silva.

Lucas grew up in one of the favela’s in Sao Paulo.
He had a tough start in life, growing up in poverty, with little chances in life.
But his teachers introduced Lucas and his classmates to music.
All kinds of music, but Lucas was captured by classical.
He pursued the idea of one day playing the violin.
His curiosity and love for the instrument was nurtured by his teachers.
Thanks to a special program by the music academy and the city of Sao Paulo for kids from impoverished backgrounds, Lucas was able to apply.
This is where his talent truly blossomed.
Peter Brunt of the conservatory in Amsterdam first met Lucas during a  cultural exchange program in Sao Paulo.
He was impressed by what he saw.
Both music academies felt Lucas would prosper from an education abroad.
They started to make plans for Lucas.
Last June I was in Sao Paulo on a working visit and saw Lucas play in a master class given by Dutch violinist Tjeerd Top.
I am very glad to be able to say that as of September Lucas shall be studying at the conservatory here in Amsterdam.
It’s stories like these that remind us that very little, if anything, can blossom in isolation.
Lucas was and is surrounded by teachers who nurture his talent and passion.
He was given a fair chance to blossom and he grabbed it with both hands. That’s not luck.
Opportunities like the one given to Lucas can be created.
The first and most important step for Lucas was the day his primary school teacher introduced him to something he had never heard: classical music.
That was the seed.
Cultural education is not just important to discover tomorrow’s talents. Good quality cultural education lays the foundation for an inspired and meaningful life for all children.
It teaches them not just to hear, but also to listen.
And not just to look but to see.
It introduces them to beauty and to otherness.
And it challenges them to be creative and curious.
My ambition is to give all children a chance to stand on such a foundation.

Creating the necessary conditions for a good cultural education for all, is one of the focal points.
We need solid teaching programs and well-trained teachers.
Programs from cultural institutions that meet the needs of schools.
And evaluation methods that let us learn from past experiences.
As experts in the field, you are all aware of this.
But we must also be realistic about what we can achieve.
Schools have many concerns.
Time and know-how being two of the most important.
My hopes for this conference are that we will find solutions and approaches that take these concerns into account.

That we shall use the results of research to support schools and teachers with their tasks.
Realism without pessimism.
There are lots of good examples that we can build on.
Here, in The Netherlands one such example is the program for primary education called Quality in Cultural Education.
On the one hand this program aims to clarify the goals for good quality cultural education on a national level.
This will support teachers and schools and also enable cultural institutions to devise programs that better connect to school activities.
On the other hand it encourages a grass-roots approach to get the support of as many parties as possible.
The state-secretary and I signed an agreement in December with the Dutch union of school boards and 34 councils and 11 provinces.
In this agreement all parties support the importance of good quality cultural education.

They commit themselves to making local bottom up arrangements between schools and cultural institutions such as theatres and museums.
An example of what we are aiming for is the cooperation between 19 cultural heritage organizations in the Hague that are teaching museum lessons to primary school kids.
In the province of Limburg teachers are invited to visit other schools and to share knowledge and expertise with educators of cultural institutions.
Schools, councils, theatres and museums in Eindhoven, Helmond, Tilburg and Den Bosch have worked together and developed a structural cultural program for schools.
And right here in Amsterdam, the city council has asked schools to give at least three hours of art and culture lessons every week.
A wonderful achievement.
I very much hope that today and tomorrow we will hear more of these examples.
And I hope to hear not just the example itself but also the rationale behind it: Why does it work?
It would be great if all of you could take home at least two ideas to improve education in your country.

We must be patient: Good quality cultural education is not something we can achieve overnight.
But we must also be vigilant: Bad cultural education is worse than none at all.
For me the solution lies in acknowledging the fact that the development of children is not something that is limited to one activity or subject.
Connecting the dots between language, mathematics and the arts inspires and supports both teachers and schools.
This demands a long-term approach.
The schools and provinces that the state-secretary and I signed the agreement with back in December have committed themselves for ten years.

The reason for this was that they acknowledged that schools have three important tasks:
One: to contribute to the personal development of the children;
Two: to ensure the transfer of societal assets and cultural attainments;
And three: to prepare children to become contributing and engaging citizens.

To be able to engage with fellow citizens and contribute in a meaningful way to society, people need to be equipped with more than just cognitive learning skills.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In conclusion, I leave you with this:
Whatever policy measures you may discus here, remember that at the heart of it, cultural education must be about planting a seed in a child’s mind.
Let kids be inspired when they listen, mesmerized when they see and amazed when they feel.
And let them be curious.

Thank you.