Ministerial Statement by Minister Lee Boon Yang in Parliament:Announcement on The Arts School

13/03/2004

Announcement on the Arts School

The Renaissance City Project

The RCP aimed to establish Singapore as a city for the arts and to provide cultural ballast for nation building. Its main thrust was to develop the software to complement new and existing cultural infrastructure. The budget was deployed for talent and audience development to create a vibrant arts and culture scene, and also to support internationalization of our arts and cultural practitioners.

2.     To this end, MITA and NAC initiated new grant and training schemes to boost the professionalism and capabilities of our top arts companies. NAC enhanced its arts education programme and launched an arts marketing and outreach programme. To stimulate interest, key festivals, competition and arts events were upgraded or created such as the Singapore Arts Festival, Museum Fest and the Arts Mart. For internationalisation, we assisted Singapore artists and performers to gain international exposure.

3.     Mr Chairman, RCP has brought about a 26% increase in the number of arts groups (from 435 to 549), and a 25% increase in the number of cultural events in Singapore (from 4127 to 5158) over the last four- years. A survey also showed that the percentage of our population who attended arts events rose from 15% to 27%. In 2002, there were more than 1 million attendees at arts events. Last year, there was a slight dip because of the disruptions caused by SARS. But it is clear that our arts audience has grown dramatically. More importantly, RCP has deepened the interest, appreciation and understanding of our arts audiences.

4.     RCP has also boosted the standing and appreciation of our arts talents and their works at home and abroad. For example, Singapore artists have been invited to participate in the Venice Biennale, Germany's Documenta, Shanghai's Arts Festival and the SDT had performed at the Cervantino Festival in Mexico.

5.     The RCP has certainly helped to make our arts scene more fun and vibrant. It has contributed to making Singapore a more interesting and attractive place to live and work, both for our people and international visitors and talents.

Creative Talents

6.     The challenge is to go beyond these achievements. Last year, the Economic Review Committee identified the creative industries as a new and promising sector of our economy. MITA's vision is both to broaden and deepen our cultural assets and to grow the contribution of the Creative Industries from current 3% of our GDP to 6% in 2012. To achieve this vision, Singapore will need many creative talents, including people talented in the performing and visual arts, design, creative media and IT.

Pre-Tertiary Arts School

7.     Today, our young creative talents can pursue degree programmes in the arts related disciplines at our tertiary institutions. NUS offers degree programmes in music, theatre studies, architecture and industrial design. NTU offers a degree programme in mass communications, and will soon start offering design and media programmes. The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts provide diploma and degree courses in the arts. Polytechnics also offer arts, design and media diploma courses.

8.     However, there is a gap at the pre-tertiary level. Currently, students with an interest in the arts can take arts or music electives at "O" and "A" levels. But, this is only available at a few selected secondary schools and JCs. Often the students face a conflict between their arts and academic commitments. There is no dedicated development path for those who have interest and show early promise in the arts. In 2002, the Committee on Reviewing JC and Secondary School Education recommended that independent schools specialising in sports, maths, science and the arts would enhance our education landscape. Last year, the Remaking Singapore Committee recommended the setting up of an arts school at secondary level. MITA followed up by appointing a Committee to study the desirability and feasibility of a pre-tertiary arts school.

9.     Mr Chairman, the Committee has concluded its study and given me a thorough briefing on its findings and recommendations. The Committee concluded that a pre-tertiary arts school was desirable and feasible. It has recommended that MITA establish an Independent Arts School for students between the ages of 13 and 18. Mr Chairman, I am pleased to announce that MITA agrees with the Committee's recommendation to set up an Independent Arts School to nurture our young talents who have a passion for the arts.

Recommendations

10.     I will summarise the Committee's key recommendations. But first let me point out that in its study, the Committee consulted groups of students, parents, principals, teachers, artists and creative professionals, and other stakeholders.

11.     On curriculum content, the Committee recommended an integrated 6-year arts and academic programme for 13 to 18-year-olds. The School will offer a range of academic subjects, including mathematics, sciences, languages, literature and the humanities. So it is not just about arts. Together with the academic subjects, students will be exposed to the various art forms to inculcate a multidisciplinary understanding of the arts. They will then focus on at least one art specialty in either visual arts, dance, theatre or music. Given Singapore's multi-cultural society and Asian heritage, the students will also have the opportunity for cross-cultural learning. The School will be staffed by well qualified and experienced teachers, particularly those with teaching expertise in the arts.

12.     The Committee recommended that the Arts School provide learning outside the classroom. The students should have the opportunity to learn from artists and other creative professionals and to participate in projects and performances. These activities will enable students to learn the commercial aspects of the arts and creative industries.

13.     The Committee recommended that students graduate from the arts school with an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. The Committee was of the view that the IB offers a flexible curriculum emphasizing critical thinking, breadth of knowledge and inter-cultural understanding that best suits both arts and academic learning. The IB diploma is a widely recognised qualification for university admission. The Arts School graduates will be able to apply for admission to NUS and NTU, and overseas universities. For example Harvard University and other Ivy League universities accept the IB diploma. Graduates who choose to further their studies outside the arts would also be able to do so with their IB diploma.

14.     The Committee recommended that the Arts School be "permeable" with mainstream schools. This means that students of the Arts School who subsequently choose not to pursue arts specialization can rejoin a mainstream school. Conversely, secondary students from mainstream schools could apply to the arts school and be admitted if they fulfil the academic and artistic requirements.

15.     Finally, the Committee recommended that the arts school be located in the arts district because of the synergy between the school and the rich resources already available there. These include the new National Library and new Drama Centre, the new NAFA, LaSalle and SMU campuses, Singapore Art Museum and Asian Civilisations Museum. In addition, NAC houses many arts groups under the Arts Housing Scheme within the district. The school will benefit greatly from the proximity to the artists and institutions. We envisage their interaction and artistic collaboration will spark off a buzz.

Conclusion

16.     Mr Chairman, my Ministry agrees with the Committee's recommendation that MITA set up an arts school. We will carefully study its detailed recommendations on the character, features and funding of the school. We note the recommended target to establish the school in 2007. We will release the full report of the Committee later this month and set up an implementation task force.

17.     Mr Chairman, I believe this is a significant step to strengthen the arts education in Singapore. The Arts School will offer an additional option for our students to approach artistic and creative careers. It will groom talents for our arts, culture and creative industries. The Arts School will add diversity to our education landscape and offer young Singaporeans who are artistically talented a new pathway to develop and achieve their full potential. I am confident that the Arts School will contribute to the next phase of our social, cultural and economic development.