Posts Tagged “australia”
The arts play a role in the lives of 98% of the Australian population, according to a new survey, Connecting Australians, released by the Australia Council today. That is, the majority of Australians from all walks of life – different ages, genders, cultures and backgrounds – participate and engage with the arts on some level.
While this figure is consistent with previous surveys, one major change is the national impact of new technologies on the experiencing and making of arts practice. For example, the survey found that 97% of all Australians aged between 15 and 24 engage with the arts online and 81% of Australians overall, up from 49% in 2009 and 73% in 2013. The major areas of engagement are listening to music (97%), reading books (79%) and going to live events (72%).
The latest report is a follow-up to surveys in 2009 and 2013 that tracked the way Australians engage with the arts. The data are derived from a nationally representative sample of 7,537 Australians aged 15 years and over. The researchers also did studies with several focus groups within particular demographics to develop a deeper understanding of community attitudes and values.
Young engaging with the arts
Another important discovery in the survey is that both First Nations people and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are more likely to engage with the arts online (at 90%) relative to the general population (just over 80%).
This online participation compares with 72% of people attending arts events in person. While this might be a problem if fewer people were attending arts events, it appears that many of those experiencing the arts online are in fact new audiences – no doubt the 15-24 age group as noted above. Thus there may not be a reduction in attendance; rather, we are seeing an increase in other forms of participation.
An important change is the recognition by an increased number of people that the arts have a positive impact on their lives. Young people, again, are the group that recognises this most. This effect appears to decrease with age, as do most kinds of arts engagement.
Both aspects of this finding are surprising given that the audience age at particular forms of arts practice such as classical music or opera is older. It would seem from this data that as the population ages, there is less engagement with the arts and those engaging feel less of a positive benefit.
Signs of discontent?
There are some other areas of concern too that seem to reflect broader social disengagement patterns in the Australian population and culture. For example, there is an increased ambivalence towards public funding of the arts from around 13% of the population in 2013 to 25% in 2016 (they answered “neither agree nor disagree” to the statement that the arts should receive public funding).
The percentage of those who think the arts are too expensive has also increased (from 36% to 43%). Likewise, more people think the arts attract people who are somewhat elitist, and more people think the arts aren’t for people “like them”.
The report authors see this changing perception as possibly reflecting a particular framing of the “arts” – that is, the arts are interpreted only as the “high” arts. If this is the case, there is a need for further work around how the arts are defined, as well as more consideration of skewed funding patterns versus broader cultural preferences. The survey shows that this elitist framing is generally age-defined, with younger people seeing the arts from a broader perspective.
More people see the arts as a way of improving cultural understanding and tolerance, with an increase from 36% of the population in 2013 to 64% in 2016. There is also an increase in those who believe the arts are more truly reflective of Australia’s cultural diversity – from 64% in 2013 to 75% in 2016.
The survey demonstrates the changing way that people now engage and participate in the arts. Researcher John Holden has talked at length about this with his framing of three forms of culture – publicly funded, homemade and commercial.
One of the survey researchers notes that the boundaries between art appreciation and art making are increasingly blurred. This is evidence of greater engagement in art making, especially by young people, using platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and Spotify.
Technology has been a democratising force in encouraging and enabling more people to both appreciate and participate in all forms of arts practice. It is likely this will continue and that is good for both arts engagement and how we value arts practices.
The languages children learn in school might not be the most useful for their future.
Photo courtesy of www.shutterstock.com
There are 7,099 known languages in the world today. Choosing which of these to teach our children as a second language is an important decision, but one that may be based more on feelings than facts.
There are several different ways of thinking about what languages we should offer at school. Research suggests that Australian school children may not be studying the right ones.
The world’s most commonly spoken languages
If sheer numbers of speakers is our primary consideration, and we want our children to learn languages that have the most speakers, then – excluding English – the three most commonly spoken languages are Mandarin (898 million), Spanish (437 million) and Arabic (295 million).
The languages of emerging economies
If the focus of language learning is to improve business prospects, then one strategy would be to select those that are spoken in the fastest-growing emerging economies in the world.
At the beginning of the millennium, the four big investment countries were seen to be Brazil, Russia, India and China.
The mood seems to have swung, however, and a recent report of top emerging economies now lists the top three as India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Thus the top three would be Hindi, Indonesian and Malay.
The languages for travel
English remains firmly at the top of the list of languages useful for travel (spoken in 106 different countries). Other than English, the languages spoken in the highest number of countries are Arabic (57), French (53) and Spanish (31). This is the only list on which French, a popular choice with Australian students, is included in the top three.
The languages of Australia’s trade partners
Australia’s top two-way trading partners are China, Japan, the US and South Korea. Excluding the US – a predominantly English-speaking country – the top three second languages from a bilateral trade perspective would be Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.
The languages of other Australians
Another way to consider importance is to think about the languages most commonly spoken as second languages where we live. This can be measured at various levels. The top three second languages in Australia are Mandarin, Italian and Arabic.
Comparing ‘the best’ with what Australian school children actually learn
So how does our list of possible “best” second languages line up with the languages that are actually studied in Australian schools?
Of the ten “best languages” we have identified on our various lists, seven are in the top ten languages studied in Australian schools. However, three – Hindi, Malay and Korean – are not studied widely. And three of the most commonly studied languages in Australia – German, Greek, and Vietnamese – are not on any of the top three lists.
Why the difference?
There are a number of historical reasons that may explain this disparity between the two lists.
Greek and German, for instance, were historically important second languages in Australia. Now the communities that speak these languages in Australia are much smaller in number in comparison with communities that speak Mandarin and Arabic. Our languages education has not kept up with changes in demography.
Japanese is another interesting case in point. It is the most commonly studied language in Australia. The push for Japanese in schools began in the late 1970s, gaining momentum with strong government funding in the 1980s. During the years that have followed, South Korea has moved up into the fourth position in bilateral trade.
Despite government funding in 2008 to promote learning Korean, along with Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian, this has not resulted in strong numbers studying Korean at schools in Australia. Again, languages education seems to be having trouble keeping up.
Who decides what languages to offer?
In Australia, each state has jurisdiction over which languages to offer in their schools, and so the regulations differ slightly.
In Queensland, for example, the Department of Education and Training instructs principals to make decisions about the choice of language, in consultation with their school communities.
Part of the complexity around making these decisions is that it takes many years to train school teachers who are capable of teaching languages. Therefore it is difficult to respond quickly to changes in demand for different languages to be taught at schools.
Some innovative strategies
One innovative Australian project addresses this issue by recruiting elderly migrant language tutors with local school students, meeting the need for competent language tutors, and having the added bonus of providing these migrants with the opportunity to feel they are making meaningful contributions to their new communities.
Another project which began in the US uses digital technology to pair up students as peer tutors: each student is a fluent speaker of the language the other is trying to learn. The effectiveness of this and other digital strategies have not yet been fully investigated in the Australian school context.
Where to from here?
Given the rapid changes in the status of languages across the globe, it is critically important to regularly review the languages that are offered and promoted to students at schools and to explore innovative approaches to these languages.
In this way, we can maximise the opportunities for children to learn languages that will be of practical advantage to them into the future.
Correction: This article was updated on 27 March to change the word used to describe the language spoken in Malaysia from “Malaysian” to “Malay”. This is the term used by the UN, and it was seen to be more accurate.
Tania Geyer, Collaborator
My present work is imagining what Ocean would look like as a human. How would she move and exist? how would she respond to her guardian? The works are in black and white and ironically describe the essence of her power and character.
Having lived near the shoreline in Sydney, and now here in Redcliffe, I have a heightened knowing that my work must stimulate a deeper connection between the ocean and the public – to strengthen a greater understanding and capacity for personal reaction.
(For full-size photos, please click on image to enable the lightbox)
Australian artist Tania Geyer believes that being an artist is the most important thing she can do with her life.
She sees herself as an emerging artist. “I am emerging from what I “think” I should do, to following what I “know” I should do.” She has been an artist since she was a child, university educated in design and working in a creative direction. She has embraced “moving forward to the authenticity of working as an artist is nothing but humbling in its power.”
“Art is the first language of our world. Our earth understands visuals without didactic language. It speaks to our spirit and bypasses commercial media clutter. And so when I sit in my studio painting, drawing, sculpting, making or using media – I have an urgency to strengthen what I speak when I speak it.” You find more of Tania’s work by following her on social media: Facebook or Instagram.