The skills students will need to be successful in the 21st century develop quite naturally from the study of the arts. Educational theorist Eliot Eisner has outlined important lessons the arts offer in “Ten Lessons the Arts Teach” from his book The Arts and the Creation of Mind. Using Eisner’s work as a starting point, the following pages illustrate how these lessons match up with those 21st century skills delineated by NCREL’s enGauge project and how they both are woven into the Visual Arts program at the American School of Bombay.

On the following pages you will also find a snapshot of the guiding principles which make up the framework of our continually evolving curriculum. Samples of teacher and student generated material are provided to show how the theoretical becomes practical. Also included are quotes taken from various internal surveys which show how students perceive the program.

Not everything here is original in conception. We have borrowed and adapted best practices from wherever we have found them. A special debt is owed to the International Baccalaureate Program for structure and the Everett Public School District in Washington State for their approach towards assessment.

Of course, good teaching is predicated on human interaction and goes beyond the theoretical structures that guide us. The excitement of student-teacher relationships at ASB is only hinted at here and many intangibles are missing. It is hoped that this website might encourage sharing and dialogue about how the arts lead the way in preparing students for the future.

The information and examples here are from our High School and Middle School programs. Elementary examples coming soon.

In February of 2008, the American School of Bombay hosted a conference on using laptops in schools. "ASB Unplugged" brought educators from all over the world together to hear expert speakers on the implementation of technology in the classroom, view our one-to-one laptop program in action and discuss preparing students for the 21st century. Dr. Scott McLeod gave a keynote address titled, "Kickstarting Schools for the 21st Century" which outlined the "transformative potential of digital technologies."

During this conference my art classes were working on creating some models for building facades they had designed in the "kitsch architecture" style. That day the students in my classes were completely engaged (admittedly not always the case) and I believe it was because they were figuring out how to make something tangible and being authentically creative. They were collaborating, exploring multiple approaches, solving various engineering problems, creating individual and innovative visual solutions and learning that quality results take time and concentration. In short, using $2.00 worth of cardboard, an exacto knife and a glue gun, these students were also learning about and using the mindset necessary for success in the 21st century. Digital technology provides us with powerful tools but it is this mindset, in conjunction with the potential of digital technologies, that will be a formidable force.

I believe that thoughtfully designed arts courses, by their nature, have the potential to lead the way in preparing students for the future. As curriculum design changes to focus on these 21st century skills, the way the arts courses weave history, theory and authentic practice into their structure needs to be reexamined.  These courses, too often and increasingly marginalized in schools, could emerge as the model we are looking for in our pursuit of a relevant and authentic curriculum.  We need to have the vision to look beyond the narrow view of the arts classes as providers of “elective” knowledge and realize that the skills learned here are applicable, relevant, and broad in scope. Similarly we must be careful not to let the excitement generated by technology monopolize our discussion of progressive ideas and distract our focus from our ultimate goal - to help develop young people equipped with the minds and hearts necessary to face the future.

Brian Reverman, Visual Arts Teacher, American School of Bombay

21st Century Connections
Route 21 - Building 21st Century Skills
Curriki - Global Education Learning Community
Dangerouly Irrevelvant
Gateway to 21st Century Skills
Big Ideas - Exploring the Essential Questions of Education
Tony Wagner on The Global Education Gap
Other Art Ed Related Sites
Quick guide to our approach to curriculum design in the Visual Arts