How are the Arts of academic value?

“Art is identical with a state of capacity to make, involving a true course of reasoning.” (Aristotle)

Art is not about coloring in, Music is not just jamming and Drama is not about being a tree any more than Geography is just learning capital cities.

Occasionally people fail to remember that the Arts are of immense academic value and equally demanding cognitively as any other subject. In Greek society it was thought that civilization reached its peak when its citizens were able to make, appreciate and engage in the Arts; thereby developing a greater intellectual and emotional sensitivity and effective productivity to living in Greek society. Arts were the medium through which politicians communicated their message of democracy and higher level thinking to the masses.

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The Arts

700BC: A Greek Amphitheatre would seat around 50,000 spectators where theatre was used to promote socio-political understanding amongst its citizens.






Within our SIS Arts programme rigorous critical study and analysis of traditions, techniques, practitioners and practices, which have shaped our world and humanity, is essential. Students deconstruct the vision and creative articulation of facts, concepts, messages, thoughts and emotions proffered to us an audience. This is often done through the study of professional artists and opportunities are offered throughout MYP & DP Arts to do this. The opportunities this year include the DP Theatre group going to London to work with professional theatre companies and critique West End productions, DP Music visiting Teatro Cervantes in Malaga to critique a varied programme of music by the Malaga Symphony Orchestra and M4/5 & DP Art being invited to a range of lectures from Art experts from NADFAS. These are not passive experiences and the students will be required to absorb, analyze and respond to the factual and exploratory input.


DP Theatre students waiting for their ISTA workshops to begin in London (October 2016)

Studying Arts through an academic lens continues to push our students to think creatively and as a result the subject itself can become empowering and exhilarating. It is rewarding to see students question, construct answers and find solutions as they progress through their education.  Our street art exhibition outside the Music Room showcases M5 students´ response to “ Artwork in a public place has power”.  Students responded to societal issues and created artworks that show a profound connection with issues that concern them, from US election results to body image issues. One of the key influences of this creative exploration was the M5/DP Arts trip to Malaga where students deconstructed and analyzed work exhibited by both renowned artists in museums and by edgy graffiti artists on the Malaga streets themselves.


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Student graffiti on Music Shed

The Arts are all encompassing. For this reason the field of study necessitates a thorough understanding of the context and stimulus that promoted the ideology or work. To fully grasp the significance of a piece of Art work and its desired impact it is crucial to have a solid grasp of the influencing factors. Students of the Arts might also have to study history, geography, demographics, economics, politics and philosophy just to deconstruct one image or moment on stage.  Consider how Stanislavki´s revolutionary theatrical form of Naturalism was a bi-product of the ideology that drove the Communist collectives in Russia or how Victorian Melodrama became popular due industrialization and mass migration to cities in the early 1900s. The evolution of different genres of music in many countries has been a reaction to social, political and philosophical changes with many composers choosing to send revolutionary messages to the people through their work, such as Shostakovitch’s struggles against oppression in Stalinist Russia or the Mbaqanga music of  South Africa which aimed to provide a fusion of black and white music in a then segregated country.

Once the relevance of these contributing factors to the creation of any single piece of Art work, practice or theory have been considered students are required to evaluate its relevance and interpret its significance. Knowing is not enough as students are simultaneously challenged to extend their deeper thinking and analytical skills.

Theory of Knowledge has been put at the core of the IB Diploma curriculum to prompt students to explore ways of knowing.  What the IB would like to suggest is that there is no one right way of knowing. Pretty much everything is open to interpretation. In the Arts there is nothing finite about the potential for cognitive development and inquiry. There is no checklist of facts to learn and no end to the path down which your intellectual response to a piece of work can take you. What is more there are no right answers!

LAMDA, ABRSM and Trinity Rock School

At SIS we provide students in Secondary with the option of taking drama examinations with LAMDA (London Academy of Dramatic Arts.) These exams are incredibly demanding and the award itself is recognized to a degree that it can add points to a UK UCAS entry equivalent to an extra A level. Students are not only required to perform to the UK visiting examiner to an exemplary level but also demonstrate their theoretical understanding of Theatre as an academic study.

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Ella and Paloma (M5) in final rehearsals for their Bronze award LAMDA examination


The same is true for the ABRSM exams and for Trinity Rock School exams theory and performance exams which take place very regularly and involve students of all ages. Once a student obtains a certain level they are entitled to UCAS points in the same way as the LAMDA exams. It is also a very valuable qualification to have on any application or at a later date, CV. These exams require the students to show a very high level of competent performance, attention to detail, commitment and interaction with an audience, which are skills that will stand them in very good stead for life.

Christine Barling

Leader of Learning SIS Arts

DP Theatre & MYP Drama

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